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Who is Going to Surf Parks, How are They Getting There, How Long are They Staying?

traveling for surf parks

By Jess Ponting

This month, over two parts, I want to explore 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. I’m going to combine data gathered in 2022 and 2023. 

In Part 1 this week, we’ll explore the attributes of the two survey populations and their surf park visitation patterns and intentions. In Part 2, we’ll drill down into spending patterns across demographics and different surf parks. More detailed analyses and cross tabulations are available in the 2023 Surf Park Consumer Trends Report and in upcoming reports and papers available to Surf Park Central Insiders members.

Survey Participant Characteristics. 2022 & 2023 

Surf Park Central conducted the 2022 study with a sample size of 1,028. The attributes of the sample are summarized in the table below.

Table 1. Attributes of 2022 Survey Participants

ATTRIBUTE2022 Participant Characteristics
SAMPLE SIZE1028
GENDER BREAKDOWN90%M – 10%F
AVERAGE YEARS SURFING11-15
% BEGINNER8%
% INTERMEDIATE25%
% EXPERIENCED54%
% ADVANCED14%
AVERAGE AGE35-44
AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD $$100k – $150k
AVERAGE #SURFBORARDS4
WOULD USE A SURF PARK99%
% SURF PARK USER33%

The 2023 survey was conducted in partnership with Surfline and sampled 10,000 Surfline users. The sample size is impressive. However, some tradeoffs are required to reach this level of responses. For example, some demographic identifiers for individual respondents (e.g. gender, income) are not recorded or available for cross tabulation. 

The 2023 survey found that 22% of all respondents had used a surf park, though this varied by region and appears correlated with access to surf parks. ​​For example, UK surfers (a relatively small population with access to two surf parks at the time of sampling) lead the way, with 42% of respondents from the UK having used a surf park, followed by 28% of Australian respondents. 

Surfers who have visited a surf park in the past have tended to revisit at least once in the last 12 months (73% globally) with some regional variation – see the figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Number of surf park visits in past twelve months

Looking ahead (see figure 2 below), of the surfers who have previously used a surf park, 48% were “likely” or “very likely” to visit again in the next twelve months while only 15% of participants who have not previously used a surf park said they were “likely” or “very likely” to visit in the next twelve months. This may reflect the difficulty of access for those who have not yet visited a surf park, and/or it may indicate that those who have used a surf park had an experience of sufficient quality to cause them to repeatedly seek out additional surf park experiences.

Figure 2. Likelihood of visiting a surf park in the next 12 months.

Surf park visitors tend to be intermediate (22% of intermediates have visited a surf park) or advanced (28% of advanced surfers have visited a surf park), have more than five years of experience in the sport, and surf quite frequently outside of surf parks. Beginners are either using surf parks less than their more experienced peers, using Surfline less than their more experienced peers, or both.

How are visitors getting to surf parks?

Surfers are, on average, traveling multiple hours with one or more other people to reach their target surf park.  31% are taking at least one flight to reach a park, more than any other category of travel (see figure 3 below). There are significant differences between regions and surf parks visited.

Figure 3. One Way Travel Time to Last Surf Park Visited

Who are they traveling with?

In our 2022 study, participants indicated that they would bring 2.9 friends and/or family with them to visit a surf park, but that only 2.4 of these companions would be taking lessons. Beginners are less likely to bring as many people, perhaps because they don’t have an established network of surfing peers to travel with. 

Figure 4. Likely Number of Travel Companions

Advanced and experienced surfers, and non-surf park users are likely to visit with 3.2, 3, and 3 companions respectively, as opposed to beginners and intermediates who average 2.3 and 2.7 companions. The likely number of companions who would be surfing is very flat across all user groups at 2.4, except for beginners, who averaged statistically significantly lower at 2.2 companions.

Figure 5. Number of Travel Companions on Last Visit

According to our 2023 survey (which asked about actual past behavior rather than expected future behavior), 75% of visitors bring a companion, and 43% bring two or more.

Figure 6. Dwell Time on Last Visit

Average dwell time across all surf park visitors is in the 3-4 hour range, though there are very significant differences between surf parks. These differences are likely mostly a product of proximity to markets and business models. In general, the more highly skilled the surfer, the longer they tend to dwell. We will make the breakdowns by skill and surf park available in future reports.

Figure 7. Onsite Accommodation Preferences

Roughly 70% of each user group would be extremely likely or somewhat likely to stay onsite when taking a vacation to a surf park. Most participants had a preference for staying in a lodge (limited number of rooms, kitchen facilities rather than a restaurant), followed by a hotel and a self-contained villa.

Conclusion

The numbers show that building a surf park comes with a fairly decent guarantee of surfers willing to travel to that destination. On top of that, they’re bringing friends and family with them. These responses are good news for the surf park industry.

Next up, I’ll take a closer look at spending habits. We know that people want to get in the door to surf parks, but at what price?

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