24 Aug, 2016

How Much is a Wave Worth?

24 Aug, 2016

The idea of assigning a dollar value to a surf spot is relatively new. Surfrider CEO Chad Nelson started ‘Surfonomics’ in 2002, which tackled this subject in hopes to protect existing surf spots by proving to local governments how much money they bring into the local economy.

Photo: Ha'a Keaulana

Makaha Beach on Oahu, Photo: Ha’a Keaulana

Oxford University just published a fascinating new article titled “Natural Assets: Surfing a wave of economic growth”. This new study goes a step further, analyzing the increase in economic activity brought on by quality surfing waves, measured in the form of: population growth, night time light intensity (which is indicative of GDP and urban classification/poverty levels), and political stability (ease of doing business).

“Surfing waves contribute $51.2 billion globally each year to economic activity in their surrounding 50km… Average contribution of $18-25 million per wave per year.”

The study was based on underdeveloped areas in which a new surf spot was discovered, but the same trends can be observed anywhere in the world. In developed areas, real estate prices are a great indicator of the same phenomenon. At present, factors like views and beach access are considered in real estate value, but non-market factors like actual wave quality (good wave vs just a beach) are not. Perhaps they should be?

“This is true for both naturally occurring waves and artificially constructed waves – be they onshore artificial reefs or onshore wave pools.”

The world's first surf park in Wales, UK

The world’s first surf park in Wales, UK

Their findings apply to not only natural waves, but artificial ones as well. This is big news for future real estate and development projects: the concept that adding a wave pool could have quantifiable financial ramifications.

Humans have been making wave pools for over 100 years, however the latest push to find economically viable wave pools has only just begun. While Wavegarden is leading the race to build profitable, world class wave pools, several other technologies are emerging as well (KSwaveco, Surf Loch, and a couple more on the way), painting a bright picture for the future of this fledgling industry.

Wavegarden Night SessionWhat this means is now developers can add an amenity that not only increases economic activity and surrounding property value, but is also profitable in itself. The golf course has long been the anchor amenity in housing communities and resorts, but most courses struggle to turn a profit, especially now that participation by younger generations has dropped off. A wave pool is smaller in footprint, much more profitable, more environmentally friendly, carries broader attraction, all while providing fun and safe exercise for the whole family, day and night.

Surf Snowdonia, the world’s first surf park opened in Wales in 2015, featuring a Wavegarden surf lagoon. In their first season of operations their surf lagoon was at 97% average capacity.