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4 ways that venues can capitalise on the growing surf market

FlowRider’s Shelby Myrman explores how attractions can authentically get in on the trend

Opinion
surf market

The surf industry is growing. Here’s how players in the attractions industry can capitalize on the surf lifestyle and market without ostracizing themselves from the core audience they aim to reach.

Consumer interest in surfing is at an all-time high, with the surf industry projected to reach $5.47B by 2028. And while major players like Universal and Lego have started to capitalize on this growing trend, surf as a sport is greatly underutilized in the attractions industry, given the high consumer interest.

The growth of the sport and lifestyle

The sport of surfing began to gain notoriety in the 1950s throughout California, Hawaii and Australia. By the 1970s there were already hundreds of thousands of surfers.

Man-surfing

While it began as a disorganized sport and culture, it has evolved into much more. Surf teams now live along any coast and the sport even made its debut in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Surfing is a particularly unique sport in that its corresponding lifestyle really appeals to anyone and everyone. Non-surfers enjoy the beach references, the relaxed culture, and even the ultra-specific lingo.

In Southern California or in the Midwest United States, people love to tout surf lifestyle brands. For example, O’Neill, Billabong, and Quiksilver. The recent growth of the lifestyle and the surf market is even more evident. According to the ActionWatch Retail Panel, 45% of surf lifestyle brands more than doubled their sales between 2020 and 2021. In fact, 95% of surf lifestyle brands experienced growth.

Reach and accessibility

Both the sport of surfing and the lifestyle are global. Where there are waves, whether it’s California, Indonesia, or even the UK, there are surfers.

While the lifestyle of surfing has had inland reach as evidenced by these lifestyle brands, now the sport can live inland as well. And with an industry already worth billions of dollars despite the anchor sport being dependent on a consumer’s distance to the ocean, imagine the potential as surfing becomes more accessible.

WhiteWater Endless Surf

Surf fanatics have worked for years to make inland surfing a possibility. Now, the sport can be accessible regardless of distance from the ocean. Surf pools and deep flow stationary waves bring the sport to not only experienced surfers away from the ocean but also those people inland who have been experiencing the lifestyle and longing to try the sport. Now they have the chance to wear their surf gear and call themselves surfers.

Surf pools vs. rapid surf waves

Venues that truly want to utilize the sport of surfing and get into the surf market have two fantastic and fairly new attractions options: deep flow stationary waves and surf pools.

Deep flow stationary waves, like FlowSurf by FlowRider, Inc., are the man-made version of river waves or rapid surfing. Guests use a surfboard to carve over a deep, nonstop flow of water. With generally smaller footprints and lower costs than a surf pool, these are a great way to for smaller players or compact venues to deliver a surf experience to their guests.

WhiteWater FlowSurf_

Marshall Myrman, president of FlowRider, Inc. says of their new deep flow wave, FlowSurf:

“This is a completely new way to experience surfing. We love ocean surfing, but this removes the grueling parts like paddling, wave selection, and popping up. All you’re left with is the most fun part of surfing—carving FlowSurf’s buttery-smooth flow of water.”

Surf lagoons, like the ones powered by FlowRider’s sister company, Endless Surf, are excellent for venues aiming to deliver an experience that’s even more realistic than ocean surfing.

Surf-specific wave pools fit a variety of venues, like attractions, mixed-use real estate, master-planned communities, and sports park developments. Adding an incredible feat of engineering like a surf lagoon immediately elevates venues from average to iconic.

Clement Ginestet, a lead engineer at Endless Surf, says:

“It’s our vision for everyone to experience the indescribable feeling of catching a wave, however far from the ocean they may be. The Endless Surf experience is as close to ocean authenticity as wave pools get.”

4 ways to properly incorporate surfing into your venue

Inland surfing provides an entirely new landscape in which major players in the attractions industry can see great ROI by providing people with access to a sport they already love, even without having tried it.

Depending on the venue, new surfers who haven’t had the chance to master their skills due to their lack of ocean access will likely make up a decent portion of the audience. Due to the nature of the preestablished surf culture, the core audience of surfers can smell inauthenticity from a mile away; they even have a word for inauthentic surfers, “kooks,” and even the newbies know this is a bad thing.

FlowRider FlowSurf Venue Rendering

So, when entering the surf market, it is important to pay homage to the sport and lifestyle correctly to appeal to both newbies and seasoned surfers.

Here are four ways to ensure your venue hits the mark with surf-culture authenticity:

Recognize that what you’re offering is different from ocean surfing

Whether your venue has a surf pool or a deep flow stationary wave, it’s important to respect that the relationship surfers have with the ocean goes beyond just catching a wave.

The unpredictability of the waves, the wildlife, and even the sand or reefs all contribute to the ocean surfing experience. Noting that most surfers in your venue will have great reverence for the ocean and making efforts to donate to or volunteer with ocean conservation groups will likely go a long way with the core audience.

Lean into the controlled aspects of the experience

As mentioned above, inland surfing is different from ocean surfing, but that can be a great thing.

Getting barrelled is an experience many surfers seek above all else. However, it takes a perfect combination of conditions that most surfers only experience once in a blue moon, depending on location. Choosing a surf pool that can tailor waves to the exact experience guests seek will have surfers flocking from the ocean to your venue.

FlowRider FlowSurf Rendering

For deep flow waves, the big difference is that rides on ocean waves tend to be short. Riding a wave for even 30 seconds would be considered ridiculously long. Deep flow stationary waves have the distinct benefit of being nonstop, so surfers get the unique experience of carving until their legs give out.

Teach newbies proper etiquette, terminology, and form

Surfers are fiercely protective of their culture. A lot of that is rooted in safety and creating an enjoyable experience for everyone.

It’s important that new surfers know how to avoid crashing into others. They need to know who has the right of way on a wave, and generally how to not hurt themselves or others. Ensuring your venue doesn’t produce kooks helps ensure support from long-time surfers (not to mention increased safety and fun).

Make sure you have a surfer on your team

When developing your surf venue or adding a surf attraction, there are certain questions that will arise that can only be answered by someone with years of surf experience under their belt. Some venues hire surf consultants. But luckily, many surf pool and stationary wave manufacturers also come with a staff of surf fanatics to help venues get the sport, lifestyle, and culture details correct.

Make sure to vet your surf experience manufacturer to ensure they know what they’re talking about.

FlowRider outdoor

Don’t ignore the growing surf market

The consumer demand for surf has greatly increased over the past decade. With interest at an all-time high and growing, and with a broad demographic appeal, players in the attraction industry would be remiss to ignore this growing global surf market.

We recommend jumping on this market sooner rather than later. WhiteWater West builds amazing experiences across the world for some of the world’s biggest brands, and their surf subsidiaries FlowRider, Inc. and Endless Surf are no different. Both companies are filled with staff dedicated to a life of surfing and to delivering exceptional and authentic surf experiences to the world.

For any questions about how to properly incorporate this growing global trend into your venue, make sure to get in touch with a surf expert. The creators of FlowSurf or the creators of Endless Surf are a great place to get started. If you’re looking for more knowledge about deep flow stationary waves, visit www.flowsurf.com. Meanwhile, to reach the surf pool experts, visit www.endlesssurf.com.

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Shelby Myrman

Shelby Myrman

Shelby Myrman is the communications specialist for FlowRider, Inc. She has always been surrounded by stationary wave machines, trying out her first FlowRider at age 7 and working as a lifeguard on one as a teenager. Growing up in sunny San Diego, CA, in a family of surfers and having surfed for over 15 years, she lives and breathes surf culture. Working within the WhiteWater West family of companies has allowed her to express the stationary wave and surf knowledge she has developed throughout her life to support FlowRider’s mission of bringing the ability to ride a wave anywhere in the world.

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