Not even counting a surf rabid India!
The number of people surf, worldwide, is maybe unknowable. What does “surf” mean for instance? Does it mean skim, boogie, body? Joel Tudor wants you to know that it sure as hell means longboarding, Surfing magazine be damned. And how many times must a person go to be considered a “surfer?” Once a year? Once a week? And must the “surfer” be in the ocean? Does it count if he wake surfs or river surfs or spends his days in Lemoore, California riding the trough-less wonder? All very imprecise.
Nick Carroll wrote a wonderful piece for Australia’s Surfing World two years ago titled Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics wherein he discussed the kicked about numbers. At the time he quoted the International Surfing Association’s claim that there are 23 million surfers in the world, 3.5 million of which live in Australia before quickly poking it with his fork.
You don’t have to think very hard about it to realise that the figure is a fantasy. I mean, just do a flat-line comparison. Three and a half million people is 15% of the entire population of Australia. Extrapolate that to Sydney with its 4-million-odd population and you’re talking about 600,000 surfers in that city alone, or about 15,000 surfers per beach. Yeah, we know Bondi gets crowded, but come on.
The rest of the bit is very good and he basically concludes that in Australia, which I would imagine to be the case in America as well, participation is decreasing while the age of participants is increasing. But maybe Nick Carrol should have gone to India!
The first ever India Open of Surfing is set to kick off so the World Surf League sent its Austral-asian manager for a peek. Mr. Stephen Robinson was very impressed, telling a reporter from the Times of India that along with the Philippines, Taiwan and Jordan, India is ready to go explode!
Wait, Jordan? Like, the country Jordan? With about 3 kilometers of beach at the very very tip of the waveless Gulf of Aqaba? That Jordan? I once caught amoebic dysentery in Aqaba and spent a long week hooked up to tubes in the hospital. In feverish episodes I dreamed I was T.E. Lawrence having crossed the Sun’s Anvil in order to take the city from the rear thus thwarting the great canons pointed outward. To protect their amazing surf, I now suppose.
In any case, Mr. Robinson warned India’s burgeoning surf class that surf fever comes with a few problems. “The situation (in Australia) can be such that surfers get in to verbal altercations over parking their vehicles.” But cheered everyone up by saying, “I have no doubt that there will be more youth (in India doing this sport) in future events,” adding against an estimated worldwide community of surfers of 30 million. “India will add the numbers (of surfers) in the days ahead, just as The Philippines and Taiwan did over the course of time that I have visited these countries on surfing duties.”
30 million surfers worldwide is a solid 7 million more than the most outlandish figure I’ve ever seen. And this does not include India and its ready-to-be-surf crazed 1.25 billion.
Do you think WSL CEO Paul Speaker sends ridiculous fun facts to his global managers every morning? Like, “Aloha gang! Hang ten and HOWZIT! Today’s fun fact…4000000000000 babies were born yesterday each named Robert Kelly Slater in honor of our new business plan. 80000000000000000 surfers paddled out at Snapper for evening gass off and another 9800000000000000000000 paddled at Trestles for Dorn Patrol. Killer Dana!”
Nick Carroll, would you like to go on a balloon popping mission to India?