The STATE OF SURF 2016 | Defining The Surf Community

'Surfer:' What does that mean? | Defining the surf community, measuring participation & future growth

"Surfer"-- What does that mean? | Defining the surf community,  measuring participation & thinking about future growth

Editors Note:On November 16, 2016, TransWorld Business and GroupY are hosting the STATE OF SURF 2016, an interactive panel discussion and keynote interview with Rob Machado.

If you haven't already, be sure to register for the event at

As we start to think about where our industry is headed, it's helpful to look at some of the major factors influencing the decisions of companies and influencers in the space. One of the recurring topics we are always discussing is participation and how to more clearly define that within surfing. As we amp up for an insightful discussion Wednesday, November 16, 2016, here's a bit of fodder to bring you up to speed. Bring your questions to the event--the more opinions, the better.

A question we get asked a lot is just how many surfers are there? The nature of surfing makes it a tricky one to answer, mainly because first you must define what "surfer" really means. Are we talking about someone who surfs once a year while they are on vacation in some warm-water destination? In our industry, most people would not call that individual a surfer, and rightfully so.

With our 2016 STATE OF SURF report we wanted to quantify the big picture, so we combined our own proprietary research from SURFER and SURFING'S audiences with global participation data from Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).


To create the breakdown you see above, SFIA defines a "casual" surfer as anyone who surfed at least once during the year. A "core" surfer is defined as those who surfed more than eight times during the year. For those looking to understand the reach of surfing's lifestyle and culture, this is a good place to start.

Now, take a look at how that stacks up to the data from SURFER and SURFING's audience for our own proprietary research in this study.


This information qualifies our audience for a series of questions about their surfing, purchasing, and content consumption behaviors. All of that information can be found in the 27-page consumer section of our 2016 STATE OF SURF report.

To play devil's advocate, it is the fringe enthusiasts-- those who perhaps only surf once in a great while, but more frequently are found hiking, biking, camping, etc.--that could offer a boost to overall sales and participation if addressed in authentic ways by marketing strategies. Also of importance to point out: those who surf aren't really defining themselves as "surfers" anymore. Most millenials and Gen Z don't define themselves by just one sport or lifestyle.  Many brands in our space are already tapping into this ethos, and redefining their strategies to include year-round and diverse business models with broader appeal.

Women and youth are two groups that many marketers have honed in on, and are stepping up their games.

Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 2.35.55 PM

The outdoor enthusiast is another market segment that many are now looking to in expanding their business. In this report, we examined several areas of crossover, including the standup paddle market and how consumer buying and participation habits stacked up to the typical surfer.


The 2016 STATE OF SURF | Three things you need to know

The State Of Surf 2016 | What Does Surfing Need?