Last weekend I visited one of North Devon’s premier surf spots where one landowner has a monopoly on parking. A decade or so ago, parking charges were reasonable and in the winter, non-existent. Since then, however, with the growth in surfing, the landowner has struck it rich. Parking charges escalate through the summer and you have to arrive in the dark to get a ‘free’ surf – even in winter. The car park can be pretty full in February.
No doubt the landowner would say s/he has to maintain the car park and facilities. In this case that seems minimal – the cafe on the site must be a goldmine itself and the toilets are basic. By 9.30 in the morning I estimated that £200 had been taken in parking charges.
This is an issue in this part of the UK and contrasts with the situation in the rest of Europe where parking often seems to be controlled by the local Council and is free. Maybe this is an example of why the UK is different (inferior) to the rest of Europe. It’s effectively an access charge that surfers have little chance to avoid paying (unless you cycle to the beach).
But it got me thinking about whether its a reasonable price to pay for a surf. I car-shared with a friend to get to the beach, paid £6 and between us we caught about 30 waves in our 2 hour session. That’s 20p per wave, which seems a reasonable amount to pay, compared with say, a £50 ticket to see a Premiership football match (55p/minute). After each wave, I started trying to work out how much I’d pay for another one like that. Inevitably the better waves were worth more than the rubbish ones. But the total value added up to a lot more than my half of the parking charge.
While it’s still an affront that a lucky landowner should be able to make a fortune for doing little (hey – that’s capitalism, folks), it struck me that paying for access to surf could still represent good value depending on wave count and degree of stoke.