Movement to attach dollar value to waves is growing
What's the Intrinsic value in a wave? Chad Nelsen digs in to find out
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 6 September, 2012 : - - In March, Chad Nelsen, 42, completed a doctorate of environmental science at UCLA, where he studied the economics of surfing. Surfonomics is an offshoot of natural resource economics that seeks to quantify the worth of waves, both in terms of their value to surfers and businesses and their non-market value — or how much people would be willing to pay not to lose them.
“The assumption is often that surfing is worth zero dollars,” said Nelsen, environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation. “It’s taken for granted. It’s not perceived as being a viable and important source of economics, particularly with decision makers in coastal zone management that we’re talking to all the time.”
To prove there is intrinsic value in a wave, Nelsen started at the beginning. A report he produced last August tabulates the number of surfers in the country and how much money they shell out for the privilege of riding the waves. After surveying more than 5,000 surfers, Nelsen concluded that about 3.3 million people in the country surf 108 times a year, drive an average of 10 miles per session and contribute at least $2 billion to the U.S. economy annually.
“The report is to demonstrate that, hey, there’s a lot of surfers in the U.S. They go to the beach a lot, and they spend a lot of money in these communities,” Nelsen said. “Therefore, you should take their interests seriously.”
In part, the survey is an effort to shake the stereotype of the shaggy stoner who lives out of a van and doesn’t contribute to society. Nelsen calls that misconception “the Spicoli virus” in reference to Sean Penn’s iconic surfer-slacker character from the 1982 movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” The median surfer these days is 34 and pulls in more than $75,000 a year, according to Nelsen’s study.
“Even 10 years ago, the posture was one of trying to dismiss the arguments of these ‘crazy surfers,’ ” said Michael Walther, a coastal engineer in Florida whose research persuaded officials in Monmouth County, N.J., to rethink a beach renourishment plan that would have buried a surf break at Sandy Hook in 2001.
Building proposals for a new harbor in Los Angeles, a cruise ship terminal in Australia, a factory in Mexico or a jetty in France don’t account for potential damage to surf breaks that bolster nearby communities with tourism dollars. When surfers have spoken up, Nelsen said, their arguments have tended to be passionate but abstract and lacking a concrete link between the building, the break and the local economy. Meanwhile, the argument of real estate developers is more easily couched in economic terms: job creation, revenue and growth.
A simple case study: A world-class surf break at Madeira, an island off the coast of Portugal, suffered a damaging blow when the government installed a seawall in the 1990s. The idea was to defend cliffs against erosion to prepare the area for tourism infrastructure. U.S.-based Save The Waves Coalition objected, saying the wall would make surfing more dangerous. The seawall was built, and surfers stopped visiting en masse. Save The Waves Founder Will Henry thinks that they lost the fight because they weren’t properly equipped
Read the full article by Gregory Thomas at The Washington Post
Source: Washington Post
Author: Gregory Thomas / WP
Tags: Industry, Wave Value, Economics of Surfing