Surfers Against Sewage is carrying out a survey asking British surfers about their spending habits on their surfing habit. This is vital information needed to help persuade decision-makers that waves are worth protecting and improving. Unfortunately, in a capitalist world (especially at the moment), it is difficult to make any other reason for ‘valuing’ a natural resource stick.
SAS have already commissioned a report that estimated that surfing is worth £64m to the economy of the SW England every year and the new survey will help to reach a value for the rest of the UK. However, of course it can’t capture the whole value of the surfing experience which is about so much more than the cost of a car park ticket or a pasty.
Surfing undoubtedly has the power to boost a local economy. I’ve just been to Portugal where just one beach hosted 4 surf schools with about 25 pupils in the water each day – that’s about 10 000 euros per week spent on surf lessons alone, never mind the ‘extras’ spent in bars, cafes, hotels etc. The surf school that my wife and daughter used – Global (great, by the way) – operate all year round and see tourism – and surf tourism especially – as one of the few rays of light in the Portuguese economy.
But does relying on surfonomics have a downside? In the last few days, it has been reported that nearly £500m has been wiped off the value of Billabong as its 13 (thirteen!) brands have been hit by falling sales. This begs the question whether the spending on actual surfing has peaked. Or is it more to do with the non-surfing world (at last) getting disenchanted with the surfer look and moving away from the surfing brands who have been exploiting surfing’s ‘coolness’ and minting it for the last few years? My hunch is that it’s the latter and that surfing will remain more popular than it has ever been, but the brands will not be so ‘mainstream’.
Just because Billabong is less valuable does not mean that surf breaks are less valuable. So go on, fill in the survey.