Save The Waves Coalition

+ Surfonomics +

Surfonomics is the fashionable term for conducting economic valuation studies for specific surf spots and coastal communities. Using the’ travel-cost method’ and obtaining direct expenditure data from local and visiting surfers.  Surfonomics demonstrates the economic value that a surf break brings to a local community. 

Using the academic framework of natural resource economics, Surfonomics studies have a strong conservation value by providing policymakers with economic data in support of coastal protection.

Pristine coastline and quality surfing waves have an enormous social and economic value – a value that is often underestimated by political leaders and businesspeople. Save The Waves’ Surfonomics studies are helping to change that.

(All $ amounts in US Dollars)

Mundaka, Spain (2008)

Photo: Will Henry

~ Methodology: Expenditure analysis of surfers

~ Daily Expenditure: Average surf tourist spends $120 /day

~ Annual Economic Contribution: $1- 4.5 million dollars annually from surf tourism

In the nascent field of Surfonomics, Save The Waves Coalition commissioned one of the first expenditure analysis studies on surfing.  This study researched the economic impact that the surf break in Mundaka, Spain has on the local economy through surf tourism.  Surfonomics partners Oregon State University’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, and Autonoma University of Madrid,  discovered that surf tourism contributes a range of $1.1 to $4.5 million US dollars annually to the local economy.

The average surf tourist in Mundaka, Spain spends approximately $120 a day while visiting the area with the intention of surfing. The average stay for surf tourism in Mundaka includes four days of surfing, three different times a year.  This paper also points to the fact that each year Mundaka hosts the Billabong Pro Surf Contest which brings tourists from all around Europe to watch some of the best surfing in the world.  Contests have been shown to bring high amounts of expenditure dollars to local economies in very short amount of time. 

The conservation value of this paper was sparked by a coastal development project of the river adjacent to the wave at Mundaka.  Dredging of the river negatively altered the wave, which has luckily since recovered from the project.  The importance of demonstrating the value of the wave to the local economy is paramount to preventing great waves from being destroyed.  

For more information, please access the report here.

Maverick's, California (2009)  

Photo: Will Henry

~ Methodolgy: Travel cost method (value includes surfers and non-surfers’ consumer surplus)

~ Daily Consumer Surplus: Average visitor received $57 /day in consumer surplu

~ Annual Visitors: 421,431 annual visitors

~ Annual Economic Contribution: $24 million dollars annually

Save The Waves initiated a joint study in conjunction with the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) at Stanford University and the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, on the economic value of Maverick's. This study utilized progressive travel cost models to calculate the value of the wave and area to visitors traveling either to surf or watch the surfers at Maverick's in Half Moon Bay.

Instead of calculating direct expenditure, this study calculated the consumer surplus, (the difference between what the consumer is willing to pay and what the consumer actually paid), of surf tourists visiting Mavericks.  This study found that the average visitor received $57 in consumer surplus per trip to Mavericks.  In other words, the visitor received $57 in additional value that was received from either surfing or watching the wave.  With an estimated 421,431 visitors annually, the net economic value of the wave Maverick's is about $24 million dollars. 

For more information, please access the report here.

Uluwatu, Bali (2013)  

Photo: Justin Wright

~ Methodology: Expenditure analysis of surfer and non-surfers

~ Daily Expenditure: Average surf tourist spends $150 /day

~ Annual Visitors: 240,000 annual visitors

~ Annual Economic Contribution: $35 million dollars annually

Starting in June 2013, Save The Waves teamed with Conservation International, the Center For The Blue Economy, and Project Clean Uluwatu to initiate an economic valuation study based on the direct expenditures of surfing tourists at Uluwatu in Bali, Indonesia.  The goal of this study was to gather data to support local management of the marine and coastal resources of Uluwatu and the Bukit Peninsula.  After a high and low season quantitative survey, it was found that Uluwatu contributes about $35 million US dollars a year to the local economy of Uluwatu, Bali.  Throughout the different seasons, the average visitor spends about $150 a day and about 240,000 people a year visit the surf break Uluwatu at Suluban Beach. 

Conservation International Indonesia and Save The Waves Coalition also added a qualitative aspect to the economic valuation to assess user satisfaction of travelers to the Uluwatu area.  Conservation International plans to use this information to inform the Indonesian Government on how to best manage the pending Marine Managed Area around the Bukit Peninsula.  The large economic contribution of $35 million annually will be used to engage government in funding more projects for solid and liquid waste management systems around the area.

For more information, please access the report here.

Pichilemu, Chile (2014) 

Photos: Nicolas Recordon

~ Methodology: Expenditure analysis of surfers

~ Daily Expenditure: Average surf tourist spends $186 /day

~ Annual Economic Contribution: $2 - 8 million dollars annually

In our most recent project, Save the Waves Coalition conducted a Surfonomics study in Pichilemu, Chile, commissioned by the Provincial Department of the Interior Cardenal Caro.  Pichilemu is considered Chile’s “surf city,” with an economy dependent on surfing and surf tourism. The project included three surf zones in Pichilemu; La Puntilla, Infiernillo, and the newly approved World Surfing Resere at Punta de Lobos. Because this area faces coastal access issues,  unregulated coastal development, and a lack of waste management infrastructure, this study’s aim is to inform decision-makers of the economic contribution that surfing has on the region, and underscore the need for increased coastal protection.    

Our research discovered that visiting surfers in Pichilemu, Chile spend an average of $186 US dollars a day while visiting Pichilemu.  Based on a conservative estimated range of 10,000-40,000 surfers a year, tourist surfer expenditure contributes about $2-8 million dollars annually directly into the local economy of "surf city." These statistics are buttressing the efforts of the World Surfing Reserve of Punta de Lobos to halt coastal development projects and preserve the pristine marine environment in perpetuity.

For more information, please access the report here.

Huanchaco, Peru (2013/2014) – Results TBD

Photo: James Vybiral

~Daily Expenditure:

~Annual Visitors:

~Annual Total Economic Contribution:

 In August 2013, Save The Waves Coalition, The Center For The Blue Economy (Monterey Institute of International Studies), and Desarrollo y Gestión Costera initiated a year-long Surfonomics study in the coastal community of Huanchaco, Peru. The economic valuation of the Huanchaco coastline and waves will provide empirical economic data to quantify the dollar value of surfing in Huanchaco and also provide policymakers with data to support the protection of the coastline.  The data produced from this study will reinforce the inherent value in protecting the Huanchaco World Surfing Reserve.

San Miguel, Baja Norte, Mexico (2014) – Results TBD

Photo: Engranes

~Methodology: Expenditure analysis of local and visiting surfers.

~Daily Expenditure:

~Annual Vistors:

~Annual Total Economic Contribution:

On June 17, 2014 Save the Waves inaugurated the sixth World Surfing Reserve La Bahia de Todos Santos at the iconic wave of San Miguel.  As a river-mouth wave that depends on a healthy watershed, Save the Waves has partnered with Pronature-Oeste, a local conservation organization in Ensenada, to permanently protect 6 kilometers of the river as Baja California’s first state park. 

To support this effort and understand the economic value of surfing and San Miguel, a surfonomics study was launched through a partnership with the Center for the Blue Economy at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.  This study is unique in that it will estimate the economic contribution of surfing at San Miguel by tourist surfers while also capturing the economic contribution of local surfers and surf schools that operate in the area.  This holistic and dynamic approach will put a dollar value on the wave of San Miguel while also providing a total economic value of surfing for the entire region of Ensenada.

With results expected in January 2015, Save the Waves will present this data to local government officials in order to impart the economic argument for permanent state park protection of San Miguel.

Sign the petition here to voice support for the state park.

Surfed in Ensenada? Take the survey here.