Surf Town In El Salvador Steers Towards Bitcoin-Based Economy
They're also rich in intangible assets. Photo: Billabong/Duncan McFarlane

Surf Town In El Salvador Steers Towards Bitcoin-Based Economy

Using cryptocurrency to fund the Salvadoran Olympic Surf Team.

Words by Jack Mutschler

A small village in El Salvador, known as El Zonte, has developed a functional economic ecosystem that runs on Bitcoin. With a population of roughly 3,000 people, most residents of El Zonte are unbanked. The local businesses do not meet the regulations needed to accept credit cards, making them dependent on cash.

As a small village with exceptional local waves, the economy has always benefited from visiting surfers. When travel restrictions from COVID-19 arose, El Zonte’s profits from tourism took a severe blow. Luckily, one frequent visitor of the area made an anonymous donation in the form of Bitcoin. The unidentified holder purchased the cryptocurrency years ago for a price of $0.10per coin, stored it on a hard drive, and put it to the side.

At the time of writing this, Bitcoin’s current value is at $49,720.30. The anonymous donor agreed to give the money to the village under the condition that the currency not be cashed out. Through this demand, the Bitcoin Beach initiative took form.

bitcoin beach
Photo by Bitcoin Beach

Since 2019, El Zonte locals have integrated Bitcoin into their daily life, using it for almost all purchases. You can purchase everything from electric bills to coffee in the community with Bitcoin.

While a common issue with bitcoin is the slow processing of networks and substantial fees incurred while moving it around, Strike has simplified the process. The company utilizes Bitcoin’s Lightning Network, making the transfer immediate and as seamless as Venmo or CashApp.

Just how successful has the operation been? The once struggling area is now functioning well enough to host two events for the 2021 ISA Games at La Bocana and El Sunzal. As the last round of Olympic qualifiers, the events will fill the five remaining spots for men and seven for women.

Bitcoin has also helped El Salvador fund their National team and map out a training facility. On March 19, 2021, the Men’s and Women’s Salvadoran surf teams signed their first-ever paid contracts. These contracts, funded by the Bitcoin Beach initiative, make them the only national sports team funded solely by Bitcoin.

The training facility will be in dedication to Kathryn Diaz, the 22-year-old Salvadoran surfer who tragically died after being struck by lightning in March. The Bitcoin Beach initiative is looking to raise 10 Bitcoin ( about $500-600k) to secure the land, build out the facility, and maintain a budget for ongoing maintenance. They will donate any remaining funds to the Katy Diaz ESA Surf Travel & Training Program.

If you pitched a crypto-dependent economy five years ago, you would have been written off as crazy. Today, El Salvador proves that cryptocurrency is an legitimate virtual asset. Once a complete gamble, Bitcoin now funds national sports teams, offers new channels for relief, and integrates its way into daily transactions.

Bitcoin is not the future; it’s the present.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

The Strange Intimacy Of An Almost Empty Lineup

Misc: Just the two of us.

Oct 26, 2021

Did Australian Surfing Just Get Its Mongrel Back?

Connor O'Leary may be the nicest guy in pro surfing, but his recent win revived…

Oct 26, 2021

Koa Smith Pleas For WSL 2022 Ultimate Surfer Wildcards After Zeke Lau Officially Qualifies Via CS

"The Ultimate Surfer wildcards are floating around up in the air, up for grabs."

Oct 26, 2021

Inside The Thai Factory Where Your Surfboard Might Have Been Made

“It sort of made me frightened for the Australian surfboard industry.”

Oct 25, 2021


“The Most Spooked Out I’ve Felt In A Very Long Time”

The Coopers Pacific Pale Ale Odyssey heads to the Indian Ocean.

Oct 25, 2021

Morgan Maassen Talks Creative Processes & The Production Of His Latest Work, ‘Goddesses’

A serene portrait of three Polynesian sisters pushing their surfing to the limits.

Oct 25, 2021

The Picasso Of Social Media Surf Skits Reveals The Tear-Shed Moment He Confronted Girlfriend With Outrageous Stab Highway Hairdo

Mckenzie Bowden had to quarantine in the doghouse.

Oct 25, 2021


Unlocked For All: Asher Pacey In ‘No Straight Lines’

He draws many lines — and, as promised, none of them are straight.

Oct 25, 2021

Are We Due For Another Perfect Wave Discovery?

Short answer: yeah.

Oct 24, 2021


Watch: Another Young Talent Springs Out Of Florianópolis

Wallace Vasco bleeds undeniable shades of Yago Dora.

Oct 23, 2021

The Challenger Series Rankings Just Got a Savage Shake-up

Brisa Hennessy and Connor O'Leary win the Quik/Roxy Pro France

Oct 23, 2021

What’s Your Favorite Song + Surf Section Pairing Of All Time?

An exercise in unabashed subjectivity.

Oct 23, 2021

If One Deceased Surfbrand Deserved Resuscitating It’s Most Certainly Gotcha

Surf Core Heritage not thought up in a focus group.

Oct 22, 2021

Stab Podcast: How Many Waves Counts As A Session?

Conspiracy theories, wildcard fiascos, and an inception-like surf sin.

Oct 22, 2021

‘Drive-Thru’ Team Buys Rights Back To Iconic Surf Series, Plans To Start Filming In November

Benji Weatherly explains how he, Donavon Frankenreiter, Greg Browning, and Taylor Steele plan to take…

Oct 22, 2021

Watch: Episode 3 of Stab Highway Presented By Monster Energy

Pick your haircut: The sundial, the side-mohawk, the reverse mohawk, or the backside-half-moon-frontside-birds-nest.

Oct 22, 2021

“If You Want To Succeed, Put Your Soul On The Line”

Jake ‘Snake’ Paterson, Pipe master, back-to-back J-bay winner, and super coach reflects on lessons learned…

Oct 21, 2021

The WSL Wildcard Fiasco Is Officially Here

A petition is circulating for the WSL to change its double-qualifier rule, and has allegedly…

Oct 21, 2021