Stab Magazine | The Fastest Growing Surf Breaks In The World

The Fastest Growing Surf Breaks In The World

Feeling crowded? Blame the economy. 

Words by stab

Surfers in West Oz, you can thank greedy government officials for the crowds. From 1992 through 2013, Western Australia was home to nine of the ten fastest growing surf breaks in Australia. The once quiet outback has turned into a marketing opportunity with very real economic benefits…especially for those with a vested interest in tourism dollars.

A recently published study looked at 5,000 surf breaks in 146 countries around the world and discovered that high-quality surf can boost local economic growth by 2.2 percentage points a year. The study, co-authored by Sam Wills, an economist and lecturer at the University of Sydney, reveals the link between good surf and a booming economy. That may “justify” why North Point perfection was beamed into every surf fans computer last week.

“We conducted four sets of experiments, and they all confirm that good waves significantly increase growth, particularly after recent discoveries and during El Niño years,” said Wills. 

The study shows that when surfers land in obscure, wave-rich locations, the masses aren’t far behind. “Surfers are the trendsetters, then the other tourists follow,” says Tarik Senhaji, director-general of the Moroccan Sovereign Wealth Fund, who’s cited in Wills’ study.

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Wills was on a surf trip to Taghazout in Morocco when he had his ah-ha moment. Just trying to escape the congestion of Sydney, he figured North Africa was remote enough to fall off the grid for a few weeks. When he finally touched down the reality of landing in the epicentre of Moroccan surfing hit him like a tonne of camel.

When he returned to the University of Sydney, Wills endeavoured to research the economics of surf discovery. Initially, he used satellite images of nighttime light emissions from areas near surf breaks as a proxy for economic growth. He then dug deeper, analysing a myriad of data from 1992 to 2013. What he found was that, besides the West Oz surf boom, Costa Rica, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam and New Zealand ranked among the five fastest-growing surf countries. Costa Rica was the clear winner (or loser depending on your perspective), with Playa Langosta, Playa Guiones and Nosara all in the top 10 fastest growing surf breaks in the world. West Oz also had three breaks in the top ten with Yallingup, Isolators and Rabbits finishing eighth, ninth and tenth, respectfully. 

There are an estimated 35 million surfers in the world and counting. Wills cites Taghazout, Byron Bay, Jeffreys Bay and Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka as prime examples of the effect surfing has on local economies over time. All of them started as small, quiet surf towns and are now full-blown tourist hubs.

The flip side is that when waves die so do economies. Wills notes that places like Jardim do Mar off the coast of Portugal and Mundaka, Spain, have seen their economies contract as their waves have been degraded by development in recent years.
Wills also found that the impact of surf breaks in developing countries is greater than in more stable countries. Skeleton Bay in Namibia as an ideal example. The wave was first discovered in 2008 and has since captured the hearts and minds of tube-hungry surfers.

“Since the break was found the surfing world – amateur and professional alike – has descended into the desert to ride the relentlessly grinding waves,” said Wills. 

The moral of the story? Not posting your favourite secret spot on Instagram might be a good place to start.

Top 10 Fastest Growing Surf Breaks from 1992-2013:
10. Express Point, VIC
9. Smiths Beach, WA
8. Smiths Reef, WA
7. Mouse Traps, WA
6. Supertubes, WA
5. Yallingup, WA
4. Palestines, WA
3. Rabbits, WA
2. Isolators, WA
1. Yallingup (shorebreak), WA

The World
10. Rabbits, Australia (WA)
9. Isolators, Australia (WA)
8. Yallingup, Australia (WA)
7. Playa Guiones, Costa Rica
6. Playa Langosta, Costa Rica 
5. Omaha, New Zealand
4. Dark Reef, Vietnam
3. Shabandar, Malaysia
2. Yacila, Peru
1. Nosara, Costa Rica



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