Surfing named fastest growing sport


The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) has estimated that there are almost 200,000 more surfers on the country’s beaches than before the pandemic, and the majority are women.

Motivated to exercise outdoors and further influenced by sport inclusion at the Tokyo Olympics, the CSA’s latest annual snapshot of how Australians participate in sport and physical activity shows that surfing ranks third behind basketball and fitness/gym for increased number of participants between 2019 and 2021.

Surfing Victoria CEO Adam Robertson said the study confirms the increase in the number of wetsuit sales and confirms what many surfers have been saying for years about the increase in the number of people in the water .

“Across all the lineups, not just your typical cities but all coastal communities…we are seeing a growth in surfing similar to the surfing boom of the 1980s,” he said.

He agreed that COVID has boosted participation in sport, given the emphasis on health advice to maintain physical distance from others and, if possible, do so outdoors.

“It fit the bill in terms of exercise and social distancing from others, and not being an organized sport.

“When we were under COVID restrictions, it was clear that surfing was growing, especially for Victorian coastal communities.”

Surfing’s first inclusion in the Olympics was another pull factor, Mr Robertson said, citing data suggesting that sports increase by around 25% when included in games.

But he thinks other factors are driving the number of participants, such as the growth of the World Surfing League (WSL), and that as the sport ages, more and more generations of families are finding their way.

“Surfing is more of a family sport than it used to be…now there are whole families at the beach.”

It’s also becoming a more gender-balanced sport, as revealed by CSA data showing that of the 196,000 people who started surfing in recent years, 118,000 were female and 78,000 were male.

“I think the growth of women’s surfing is because of the leaders in the sport, the leaders in the community…it’s a combination of family, friends, support networks, surf schools and organizations, WSL and these model surfers who defend and promote equality in the line-up,” said Mr. Robertson.

“It’s fantastic, surfing is for everyone, no matter your age, race or gender.”

While acknowledging that newcomers haven’t always been welcomed with open arms, the CEO of Surfing Victoria suggests that many are here to stay.

“You can’t argue why people want to surf…people will continue to surf because they’ve seen the benefits it can have in their daily lifestyle, and because of those benefits, they will continue to chase the surf.”


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