Surf-O-Nomics?

posted by / News / October 15, 2008

Did you know that 40 percent of visitors to Mundaka are surfers? And that visiting surfers inject more than $4.5 million into the local economy? Well, you do now, thanks to a “surfonomics” report that was commissioned by the Save The Waves Coalition. SURFING spoke to STWC executive director Dean LaTourrette to get the inside word on the report. And find out if Mundaka should be cancelled next year or not.

SURFING: HOW DID THE SAVE THE WAVES COALITION ORIGINATE?

Dean LaTourrette: Save The Waves was originally founded around a fight that our founder, Will Henry, engaged in to save some waves on the island of Madeira, off the coast of Portugal. He traveled there a lot and there were a couple of developments that were going to be put right in the middle of some surf breaks. In the wake of those protests, he started getting requests from all over the world for help with saving different surf breaks. He decided to form a formal organization which is the Save The Waves Coalition. A group of us helped to form the original board of directors and it grew from there. Our mission is to protect and preserve surfing coastline around the world.

HOW DID THE ‘SURFONOMICS’ STUDIES COME ABOUT?

The surfonomics program came about because we’re increasingly trying to find more proactive ways to educate and generate awareness about the value of our surfing coastline.

THAT’S PROBABLY BETTER THAN SCRAMBLING TO ACTION WHEN SOME NEW DEVELOPMENT COMES UP…

Exactly, we get messages all the time, from people all around the world saying “Our spot’s about to be destroyed by a development or jetty.” Most of the time it’s a losing battle by the time we get involved in a situation like that. So we’re looking at proactive programs that can really help before it gets to that stage. People around the world can make the case that they’ve got this great asset that needs to be protected and surfonomics is a big part of the evidence for that case. Mundaka was our first study, and we thought it was an interesting example because the wave had actually been lost for a season and a half during 2005 and part of 2006, which was the result of dredging the river to get a ship out.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO CONDUCT THE STUDY?

We started the project about a year and a half ago. We’re very excited about the results. Although the numbers aren’t as dramatic as somewhere like Trestles or the Superbank, when you look at the size of the local population, a village of 1900 people, on a per capita basis the numbers are pretty dramatic.

WHAT METHODS WERE USED TO GATHER INFORMATION FOR THE STUDY?

We thought there was going to be a lot more data available than there actually was. Governments don’t track a lot of data about surf tourism yet. A few places are starting to like Costa Rica and Indonesia but most regions don’t keep that kind of data. When you look at Mundaka which is a pretty rural area in northern Spain, they didn’t even have good general tourism data. We got a couple of things from them but nothing specific to surfing, so we had to rethink how we were going to do it. So we ended up doing a series of surveys of both individuals and businesses throughout the surf season. And we talked to Billabong, got their idea of numbers as well. And they helped with the surveys and helped advertise the idea of doing the study so that was really good of them to do for us.

THERE’S BEEN TALK OF GETTING RID OF THE MUNDAKA STOP ON TOUR. DID THIS AFFECT THE RESULTS OF THE STUDY?

The study was never meant to be specific to a place that had a contest. We wanted it to be applicable whether there was a tour event there or not. It’s interesting timing because of the talk of potentially not holding the contest anymore, I didn’t want the ASP or Billabong, to be like “Oh, here’s this study, but by the way we’re not having the event anymore.” So it’s a tricky situation. But I hope the contest stays, they finally got good surf, which helps. But it’s a bit of a fickle spot and it’s always going to be a difficult place to hold a contest. On the other hand, I just saw some of those barrels on the ‘net and they looked pretty good. It’s just a matter of the inconsistency I think, but yeah I hope the contest stays.

WHAT’S THE OVERALL EFFECT YOU’RE AIMING FOR WITH THE STUDY?

It gives the opportunity for the ASP or big companies to get involved in the protection of the dream tour. It’s a great opportunity for them to also take a more proactive role and realize that we can’t take these places for granted. Mundaka’s a really important case because I don’t think people realize how fragile these spots are. Then it’s like “Whoops! We dredged too deep! And we’ve just killed the wave and the contest for a couple of years.” That’s a perfect example of how delicate these spots are from an environmental point of view.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER PROJECTS YOU GUYS ARE WORKING ON?

Our next surfonomics study is going to be on Maverick’s and the surrounding economy. We’re doing that in conjunction with the Stanford University’s Center for Eco-Tourism and Sustainable Development. They’re really excited. They’ve never done a surfing related study and Maverick’s is obviously a world-renowned wave and area so it should be a cool study and there should be a lot of support behind it on a lot of levels.

The other bigger, more ambitious study we’re undertaking is our World Wave Sites program, which is a global enshrinement and protection program for select surfing locations around the world a la UNESCO world heritage sites. We’re going to give different waves a special designation under this program and the Mundaka’s and Mavericks of the world will be on the list. And we’ll have the surfonomics studies and environmental data to back us up.

Summary of Key Findings:
1) At higher visitation levels, surfing and the wave at Mundaka has an estimated positive economic impact of up to $4.5 million per year to the local economy – in a town of approximately 1,{{{900}}} people.*

2) Surfing at Mundaka adds up to $1.5 million in annual personal income to the local population, and supports up to 95 jobs.*

3) A majority of survey respondents claimed they would no longer visit Mundaka if the wave there were significantly degraded.

4) Local businesses estimated that up to 40% of their customers are surfers or surf spectators, and that the loss of business due to the degradation of the wave and the cancellation of the Billabong Pro contest could be as high as 50%.**

* – Based on visitation levels of 40,000 per year.
** – Based on informal interviews with local businesses.

www.SaveTheWaves.org

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

Leave a Reply