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Asia Minute: Surfing Helps Economies: Australian Researchers


There are many ways to identify factors that spark economic development. Businesses and investment capital can create jobs. Consumer spending can boost an economy. And according to a new study from Australia, a good surf break can also make a difference.


Bodies of water have always been important to civilization…from natural coastal harbors to inland rivers.

But a research team at the University of Sydney has a new link: economic development and surf.

A new study shows that the discovery of a new surf break can increase economic growth by 2.2 percentage points a year.  Researchers surveyed more than 5,000 breaks in 146 countries.  They measured economic activity by using satellite images of night-time light emissions from areas near surf breaks—and then tracing population gains.

Co-author Dr. Sam Wills says policy makers can use this information to create jobs and reduce poverty—especially in developing countries.

He said “we conducted four sets of experiments and they all confirm that good waves significantly increase growth.”

Researchers also found examples in Portugal and Spain where surf breaks were eliminated and the local economies shrank.

Economists say the fastest-growing surf breaks over the last twenty years or so are located in Western Australia, Costa Rica, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam and New Zealand.

Dr. Wills will present details of his research at the International Surfing Symposium later this week in Australia.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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