The Inertia for Good Editor

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The Inertia

According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, surfing is the fastest growing water sport in the United States with over one million new surfers joining our lineups over the past five years. A salty old guy sitting on the peak at your local might not love that news. But to non-profit directors, surfboard shapers, clothing brand entrepreneurs, and just about anybody else whose love for surfing has become their livelihood, that’s good news. What’s equally important is understanding the demographics of that growth. Enter the Surf Industry Members Association (SIMA), that released its newest Diversity in Surfing Report this week.

A handful of notable statistics are highlighted throughout the 22-page document, which was comprised of data collected from online surveys in the U.S.:

– There are more women in the lineup, now making up 35 percent of the surfing population.

-African American/Black surfers are the fastest growing demographic over the past three to five years. This group also accounts for the largest number of what SIMA calls “casual surfers” (people who surf fewer than eight times per year). Overall, African Americans/Black surfers account for 11 percent of the surfing population now.

-Nearly 20 percent of surfers identify as hispanic.

-African American/Black surfers, Asian/Pacific Islander surfers, and Hispanic surfers currently make up 40 percent of the surfing population.

Graphic: SIMA Diversity in Surfing Report

The report outlines that all these numbers represent a swing toward more ethnically and racially diverse participation in surfing now compared to just a few years ago, which they attribute to an industry wide effort to reach a broader audience, include more diverse staff in retail, the Olympic platform, and more. As recently as 2022, SIMA says Caucasian/white surfers accounted for 65 percent of the sport’s population, but that number is down to 61 percent now. They point out that decrease in the overall percentage is due to more and more non-white surfers taking up the sport.

“By diversifying the racial and ethnic composition of surfers, the sport is becoming more representative of the broader population and participation numbers are increasing, which is healthy for the surfing industry,” SIMA wrote in its report. “The combined efforts of various stakeholders in the surf industry to not only promote inclusivity but also enrich the surfing community by embracing and celebrating a wider range of cultures and perspectives…are contributing to this new wave of growth in surfing.”

Vipe Desai, Executive Director of SIMA added that “surfing’s growth resides in embracing diversity, equity and inclusion as the wave that carries the industry forward. By opening our arms and hearts to all, we not only expand the richness of our community but also lift the tides of progress and change, creating a more vibrant and united surfing culture. The more on-ramps we can put in place to welcome surfers from diverse backgrounds, the healthier our industry and surf culture will become.”


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