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How Are People Getting to and Spending in Surf Parks? Part 2.

This month, over two parts, I’ve been exploring how people are getting to surf parks, how many others they are traveling with, how long they are staying, how much they are spending, and what they are spending on. We’ve been looking at data collected in 2022 and 2023 over two separate surveys (see part one for the demographic breakdown of the survey populations). In this article, we’ll look at what surf park visitors are spending their money on and how much they are spending. 

Spending at surf parks like Alaïa Bay

What are visitors spending their money on at surf parks?

While surf sessions are the item most commonly purchased by surf park visitors, there are many other revenue streams available to surf park operators. Figure 1 below is based on 2023 data collected from 10,000 Surfline users and shows the percentage of actual surf park visitors that made purchases in each category, including the total sample of surf park users and the sample broken down by skill level and last surf park visited.

Figure1. Surf Park Category Purchases

That surf sessions are so dominant likely reflects the relative infancy of the surf park industry and illustrates enormous opportunities to increase revenues through alternative goods and services. It may also indicate a bias in the sample towards active surfers as opposed to those who visit surf parks for reasons in addition to surfing. Interestingly, the WSL Surf Ranch showed less than 40% of visitors purchasing surf sessions. This likely reflects spectators at Surf Ranch events and a relatively large proportion of corporate events in which individual visitors are not paying for their surf session, but rather a corporate account is footing the bill.

An analysis of our 2022 data showed that 57% of beginners are somewhat likely or extremely likely to rent a wetsuit if temperatures demand it, as opposed to 11% of advanced surfers. Many absolute beginners do not have their own equipment, so this data spread makes sense. The results are different with surfboard rental. Over 20% of more experienced user groups are ‘somewhat likely’ to rent a surfboard, likely because some surf parks keep fleets of high performance surfboards from popular brands that might be appealing for more experienced surfers to experiment with beyond their own usual quiver of surfboards (the average surfer owns four surfboards). 

Table 1 shows average responses across the different user groups (the non-surf park users and surf park user groups were not statistically significantly different to the ‘all’ category and were omitted as a result) to a five point Likert Scale where 1 = extremely unlikely, 2 = somewhat unlikely 3 = neutral, 4 = somewhat likely, and 5 = extremely likely. A number above three suggests that the user group in question agrees with the statement they have been asked to react to, and in this context, indicates that the participation group is more likely than not, on average, to want to rent the item. 

Table 1.  Likelihood of Rentals Across User Groups 2022

RENTAL ITEMAllBeginnerIntermediateExperiencedAdvancedWomen
WETSUIT2.23.42.52.01.72.8
SURFBOARD2.74.03.22.52.23.4

Scale:  1 = extremely unlikely, 2 = somewhat likely, 3 = neutral, 4 = somewhat likely, 5 = extremely likely

While the surf session is the item that most surfers spend money on, FnB is also significant. Results vary between surf parks, and it is not surprising that those with longer dwell times tend to see a greater likelihood of spending on lodging, retail and FnB.

How much are visitors spending at surf parks?

The 2022 Surf Park Central survey yielded the first data on average daily spend at surf parks and found the average to be US$290 with beginners spending less, while advanced surfers and women spent considerably more.

Table 2. Average Daily Surf Park Spending

SURF PARK USERS 2022AVERAGE DAILY SPEND AT SURF PARKS
All Participants$290
Beginners$220
Intermediate$270
Experienced$280
Advanced$380
Female$350

The 2023 survey asked 534 respondents who had visited a surf park what their total spend on their last visit was. This was cross-referenced with the last surf park they had visited, and the four surf parks with sufficient representation in the survey are presented along with the totals across all surf parks in Figure 2 below. 

Figure 2. Total Spend on Last Surf Park Visit

The average daily spend across all surf parks was approximately $275. Visitors had the lowest daily spend at The Wave Bristol, while Waco Surf and WSL Surf Ranch had the highest average spend – both of which generally involve stays of more than a day. WSL Surf Ranch also had a significant proportion of visitors who did not purchase surf sessions (62%), perhaps watching a competition, surfing as part of a corporate experience where surf sessions were paid for, or non-surfing companions. Nonetheless, 45% of Surf Ranch visitors spent more than US$1000 on their last visit. 

Maximizing Revenue and Dwell Times

The success of a surf park development is dependent on its revenue stream. As this data shows, first and foremost, people heading to a surf park are focused on surfing. However, the numbers show an opportunity beyond the waves to make money. These opportunities include rentals, lodging, and food and beverage. In the case of accommodations or restaurants, surf parks increase their dwell times of having guests on site and the likelihood of additional spending beyond a surf session. Surf parks should focus on diversifying their offerings to maximize their revenue. 

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