What do you think of when you hear the word "surfers"? Some opinions are mixed, but the stereotype of beach bums who still ride waves all day and party all night still persists. However, surfing has come a long way in the past century, from a unique subculture to a market worth €13.2 Billion. Besides big business, surfing's impact on society can be demonstrated through environmentally conscious non profits like Surfrider foundation. Also, surfing has transformed once sleepy fishing villages like Mundaka, Spain to world class tourist destinations. Finally, surfing has created many worthwhile charities like Life Rolls On.
A Booming Market
Surfing was once a pastime reserved for royal Hawaiians and only became part of western society in the late 19th century. Eventually, surfing made its way to California, Hawaii and then Australia. Since then, surfing's technology has drastically changed from heavy wooden boards, to lightweight epoxy surfboards, and includes everything in between. A visionary named Hobie Alter, played a key role in bringing surf culture to the masses.
Hobie Alter lived and started his first surf shop in Dana Point, CA. Hobie Alter started developing commercially polyurethane foam surfboard blanks, instead of the typically used balsa material. He wasn't the first person to do this, as others like Dave Sweet from Santa Monica, CA had meticulously toiled to perfect the foam blank since the early 1950's. However, Hobie was a superior marketer and had had three molds up and running by 1958, which accelerated sales at an unforeseen rate. Alter's company became the industry leader and sold up to 6,500 boards annually during the mid-'60s.
Surfing's impact can also be shown through sports such as skateboarding. In the 1950's, surfers were bored when the waves were flat and created primitive skateboards with old roller skate wheels leading to "side walk surfing". Many other surf shops including Hobie's started manufacturing skateboards and surf apparel, laying the foundation for the surf industry. In fact, Hobie's surf shops can been found throughout Southern California. Other popular retail shops like Jack's, Becker, and Billabong mass marketed surf apparel, distributed them to the masses, turning a sleepy subculture into the mainstream.
Surfing's impact on society can also be demonstrated through the Surfrider foundation. The Surf Rider Foundation positively influences the environment by hosting beach cleanups, educational events, and saving world class surf breaks like Trestles, CA. One of its greatest victories was saving Trestles, a world class surf break, from a toll road. Developers had intentions of building a six lane toll road through San Onofre state park, which would have polluted this surf spot. The toll road would have also irreversibly damaged the sand flow, causing Trestles to lose its high quality surf.
Surfing's technology has come a long way, with Eco-friendly products being introduced. Some Eco friendly products include re-purposed surfboards and bags. For example, Rareform takes old billboards, recycles them to make bags, backpacks and other accessories. Other environmentally friendly products include Eco Flex surfboards and fins. Eco-Flex surfboards are constructed with recycled foam core, a plant-based epoxy, natural fiber reinforcements, bamboo and re-purposed Fins. These materials are roughly 70% plant- based and recycled waste- stream materials, making boards last much longer than standard issue Poly boards. This translates to more surfing, more savings and avoiding taking your disposable polyurethane board to the trash after a year.
Many remote areas have been discovered as premier surf destinations. For example, many areas in South America, such as Chicama, Peru have seen an influx of tourists. In turn, this has brought in revenue and created local jobs through surf hotels, shops, and contests. Chicama's waves break for 2 Kilometers (1.25 Miles) making it famously known as the longest left in the world. Due to this, Chicama hosts many surf contests such as the ASP Pro Junior. The ASP is an international organization dedicated to profession surfing and its tour includes surf breaks around the world.
Surfing also influences real estate prices in coastal areas. According to a study by Jason Scorse, homes next to surf breaks are valued approximately €106,000 more than a similar house just a mile away. With high real estate prices in coastal California, this translates to huge money. Property tax is approximately one-and-a-half percent in California, which might not seem like a large percentage. Many homes are worth millions of dollars, leading to millions of dollars in tax revenue.
What good would this list be if charities were excluded? Surfing's impact on society includes charities such as Life Rolls on and Surfers Healing. Life Rolls on is dedicated to helping physically handicapped people learn to surf and was founded by Los Angeles native, Jesse Billauer, in the early 2000's. Jesse was an aspiring pro surfer, but hit his head on a sandbar, rendering him a quadriplegic for life. Doctors told him he would never surf again, but Jesse was determined, despite his condition. Currently, he loves to surf in prone position using a wavejet surfboard. Jesse has defied the odds and has even surfed large waves at the Banzai Pipeline as well as at Cloudbreak, Fiji.
Another significant non profit is Surfers Healing, an organization that holds surf camps for children with autism. Israel and Danielle Paskowitz, founded Surfers Healing for their autistic son, Isaiah. Israel is the son of legendary surfer "Doc" Paskowitz and grew up surfing around the world in a bus with his family, He uses his passion to introduce surfing to more than 4,500 kids and their families yearly throughout the nation. Surfers Healing is especially known for its slogan "One child, one family, one day at the beach."
Surfers can be stereo-typically perceived as beach bums who surf all day, but surfing has greatly influenced society. Surfing used to be a rebellious subculture that has grown into a billion dollar industry which includes all types of people. Surfing has also positively impacted the environment, brought tourist dollars to various regions, and encouraged the creation of charitable organizations. How else has surfing positively impacted society? Please tell us below!