Seeking surfers who travel: An exploration of surf travel motivations

By Brooke Porter


Traveling with Surfboards. Photo courtesy of

This is a contribution from Brooke Porter from the Coral Triangle Conservancy who is  asking surfers to provide data on their travel habits to inform surf tourism development. Her work was recently featured online at Surfrider. — Brian Tissot

Peeling reef breaks can be pure magic. With climate change and reef degradation, it is likely that surf breaks of the future will not be the same in form as we know them now. Reineman’s ongoing research focuses on wave vulnerability as a result of projected climate change (see Reineman, 2016). Though some breaks will suffer as a result of changing environments, perhaps other areas will prosper. One thing is for sure, surfers will continue to travel significant distances to find that magic break (Buckley, 2002; Dolnicar & Fluker, 2003). Though this “magic” experience is one of individual perception, elements of adventure, discovery and uniqueness contribute to ideas of enchantment. Despite the richness of experiences associated with a good surf trip (is there a bad one?), research on surf tourism remains an emerging field of study. Some, myself included, have suggested surf tourism as a potential development strategy for lesser-developed regions (Buckley, 2002; Martin & Assenov, 2012; Porter, Orams, & Lück, 2015). After giving a talk to a government group in Indonesia about surf and adventure tourism as small-scale development options, the questions that followed confirmed the need for more research. These non-surfing government officials were unconvinced, they were picturing a disorganized and crowded beach scene filled with rowdy “surfers” wanting to party (think Kuta beach), not the uncrowded, remote destinations that many of us actually chase.

Previous research shows a significant number of surfers are educated and affluent (Barbieri & Sotomayor, 2013; Dolnicar & Fluker, 2003). Further, Barbieri & Sotomayor’s (2013) results indicated that nearly one third of their participants embarked on multiple surf trips on annually. Despite research indicating surfers will travel far and often, proving surfers are more than beach bums is difficult with the fragmented literature on surf tourist segmentation. To help address this gap in the literature, my colleague, Dr. Lindsay Usher and I developed an online survey aimed to better explore the surf tourists. Components include general demographics, motivation for surf travel/destination (e.g., value for money, healthy environment), as well as the influence of surf ability of travel companions (e.g., children, partners). This research responds to Dolnicar & Fluker’s (2003) and more recently, Barbieri and Sotomayor’s (2013) calls for a repetition in profiling the surf tourist. The results from this research will provide governments and industry with valuable information about the potential for, and marketability of, surf tourism as well as addressing a gap in the literature on surf tourism and travel.

We are seeking surfers who travel to participate in our online survey. If you have ever traveled overnight to surf and are 18 years of age or older, we need your help! Relive your past surf trips and dream about your next trip! The survey is available in English, Spanish & Italian (select your preferred language on the first page of the survey).

Participate now:

Research website:


  • Barbieri, C., & Sotomayor, S. (2013). Surf travel behavior and destination preferences: An application of the Serious Leisure Inventory and Measure. Tourism Management, 35, 111-121.
  • Buckley, R. (2002). Surf tourism and sustainable development in Indo-Pacific Islands. I. The industry and the islands. Journal of sustainable tourism, 10(5), 405-424.
  • Dolnicar, S., & Fluker, M. (2003). Behavioural market segments among surf tourists: investigating past destination choice. Journal of Sport Tourism, 8(3), 186-196.
  • Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2012). The genesis of a new body of sport tourism literature: A systematic review of surf tourism research (1997–2011). Journal of Sport & Tourism, 17(4), 257-287.
  • Porter, B. A., Orams, M. B., & Lück, M. (2015). Surf-riding tourism in coastal fishing communities: A comparative case study of two projects from the Philippines. Ocean & Coastal Management, 116, 169-176.
  • Reineman, D. (2016). The utility of surfers’ wave knowledge for coastal management. Marine Policy, 67, 139-147.

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