Monday, February 16, 2009

How many surf sessions?

Earlier I posted on how many surfers there are in the US. This is a follow up about how often they surf. The same 2001 marine recreational survey used in that previous post also estimated how many visits to the beach surfers made in a year.

As the graphic above illustrates, there were a total of about 76.5 million surf visits in the US in 2000.

This means that surfers averaged about 22 surf sessions per year.

The top states for annual surf sessions were Hawaii, California, Florida, and North Carolina. The number of days of participation (visits) for the top five states could not be estimated because there was an insufficient sample size per state after the top 4.

At Trestles (a top quality wave with a avid local surf population), survey respondents reported an average annual visitation of 109 visits/year.

A study on surfer illness in Oregon found that surfers averaged 77 surf visits per year.

If I had to guess, I would say that you'd find that the average number of annual surf sessions is bimodal - there is a large number of surfers who average 5-15 days per year and then there are more avid groups along the coasts that average closer to 70-150 visits a year. More information on the behavior of surfers is needed to figure this out. Hopefully, the Surf First surfer survey will help us start to answer this question and others.

How many surfers?

I have been asked repeatedly, "How many surfers are there in [name a state or country]".

This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. There is only one study that I know of that counts surfers for the US - a 2000 NOAA recreational survey.

Without getting into the debate about what constitutes a surfer, here are some stats for the U.S. from that study:

There are about 3.3 million people who surfed in 2000.

The top 6 states are illustrated above: California, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey and Texas.

Here's a table of all states that they found surfers:

All of this info is based on a report called the "Current Participation Patterns in Marine Recreation". It was published in 2001 - see reference below. The stats are generated based on a phone survey of 50,000 homes in the US. This is the only published report on recreational surfing participation that I am aware of.

Surfing has boomed boomed since 2000 so it will be interesting to see what we find upon publication of the next marine recreation report.

This tells us how many surfers there are. A more interesting question, one that is critical to understanding the economics of surfing, is, "How many times did they surf?". Stay tuned for that answer.

You can read the whole report here:

Leeworthy, V. R. and P. C. Wiley (2001). Current Participation Patterns in Marine Recreation, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Special Projects. National Survey on Recreation and the Environment 2000: 53.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Intercepting Surfers

This is a graphical representation of typical surfing and beach going attendance patterns over a day for many places in the world. Surfers tend to visit the beach in the mornings and evening - when conditions are best and they are not at work. On the other hand beachgoing tends to happen mostly in the middle of the day. Surfers also tend to visit the beach throughout the week or when conditions are good, where as beach going more typically occurs on the weekends.

Understanding this pattern is very important when considering the economics of beach going.

Many studies on the economics of beach going rely on intercept surveys to collect their data. Intercept surveys that take place in person at a site and interview visitors while they are at the beach. It is also during this time that many attendance counts are conducted to estimate how many visitors use the beach in a given day or year.

These surveys are often conducted in the middle of the day when beach going is at its maximum. In these cases a large portion of the surf visitation may be missed. This will lead to an underestimate of the overall use of the beach and also disproportionately miss surfer visits.

This could have many implications about the value of the beach and its management.

When calculating the lost value associated with the American Trader oil spill, Chapman and Hanemann avoided this pitfall by surveying beach visitors from 6 AM to 6 PM and found that at some Orange County beaches surfers made up 10-20% of the beach visits. This is one of the only studies on beach economics that specifically made an effort to survey early and late to capture surfers.

We found a similar patter at Trestles.