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Why Surfers Are Always the First to Know About Cool New Travel Destinations

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 30/03/2017 Travel + Leisure Staff
Surfer Hotspot Economics © Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images Surfer Hotspot Economics

Unsurprisingly, a new study has confirmed that surfers know what’s cool before anybody else.

A study from the University of Oxford suggests that promoting areas with good surf breaks could help spur economic growth (especially in developing areas) by 2.2 percentage points a year.

“We conducted four sets of experiments, and they all confirm that good waves significantly increase growth, particularly after recent discoveries and during El Niño years,” Sam Wills, a co-author of the study and economist at University of Sydney, told Bloomberg.

The study, released last week, was inspired by Wills’s trip to Taghazout, Morocco — where he discovered that the town, now dominated by surfers, had once just been a sleepy fishing village. He decided to explore global trends from 1992 to 2013 to discover the impact that surfing has on an area.

The fastest growing surf breaks from that time period were found in Costa Rica, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, and New Zealand. Western Australia also took several top spots.

According to Wills, once surfers discover a high-quality surf break and begin frequenting it, they provide a channel for investment, which then grows to support an entire tourism industry. He specifically pointed to Byron Bay in Australia and Jeffreys Bay in South Africa as tourism centers that once start as small surf towns.

However, the trend also works in reverse: As surf breaks disappear, the tourism surrounding the area also diminishes.

“Surfers are the trendsetters, then the other tourists follow,” Tarik Senhaji, director-general of the Moroccan Sovereign Wealth Fund, said last year.

In other words: If you want to know what’s cool before anybody else, it’s time to pick up a surfboard.

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