… the 70/p Rule

There's a neat little rule in finance regarding how long before a investment doubles for a given (annual) compound interest rate. The doubling time is approximately equal to 70/p where p is the growth in percentage. For example, if you've got money invested at 7% (annual rate) then it will double is roughly 10 years -i.e. 70/7 = 10.

… plain stupid

I'm getting old (ouch) and I've been surfing long enough to have experienced the dramatic increase in the number of surfers locally, and vicariously world wide (I'm not much of a traveler.) In fact I've completely stopped surfing a lot of local and regional breaks because the number of people in the water on any half descent day has become just plain stupid. (...and I don't care how early in the day you get out.. nor how aggressive you are about taking waves... in the end the 'numbers' simply win.)

… the good and bad of it

The fact that surfing is now fairly popular and continues to grow in its popularity, and that the industry itself is pretty big, is probably a good thing, at least for product development. The quality of boards are generally very good, and prices remain remarkable cheap (all things considered.) In recent times 'big production' or 'corporate values' may have entered into the picture, but product design, at least for the moment, still plays a big role in the overall innovation in the industry, as opposed to other modes of innovation, like 'how to make more the same, and faster'.

But then there's this overcrowding issue – the impact of growth on the actual activity of surfing itself. This in fact, is now and has been for a while a recurring theme, it has come up in this forum, in magazine articles, and at least in my own personal experience, its not a completely unfamiliar topic of conversation with friends. The topic does come and go, but overall the general consensus is that the growth is real and significant – and on average, at least with respect to the actual activity - it's not probably not a good thing.

... experiencing the 70/p effect.

My little sandbar (Cape Cod, MA, USA) has surely taken less than ten years for the numbers in the water to double (on average.) In fact, they've doubled at least a few times since I started - probably more - remember I already admitted that I was old. Very crudely, at least where I am, the number of surfers has grown on average at annual rates probably in excess of 10% per year, and that likely conservative.

Actually, some years are worse, some better than others, but on average things are getting worse. For a while, when sponging was all the rage, the number of bodies in the water briefly swelled (no pun). Happily that seems to have passed. However, more recently, the SUP has been looming as the next big push, but luckily at least for the time being, the cost of these 'boats' has kept their numbers in check. I mean I know they're fun, and at times I wish I had one, but with each additional SUP that shows up in the line-up, the significance of the phrase “...on the peak” seems to diminish.

So, if growth continues, and everyone in the industry (from design to production to sales) probably hopes it will, my guess is that you've got less than a decade before you favorite peak 'just gets stupid.' Well, unless you live in Oz... then I give you an extra year or two... maybe not.

… can't stop it.

By the way, 'growth' is what we humans are all about, as is arguably any living species. You may think that 'sustainability' is obtainable, but there is no evidence to suggest that it is even remotely so. And sustainability in the surfing industry and in surfing in general is not likely to happen as long as people can get to the beach - and afford to buy a surfboard. If you're one of those people who believe there will come a time when things will settle down, I'd be real curious to know how you think its going to come about, and what surfing will be when or after it does.

It has been my experience that those who speak of 'sustainability' in any process, especially with respect to life in generally, have failed to fully appreciate what would be involved in achieving and maintaining it.

“So let's see, you're going to tell me how to live, or I you? You better buy a gun first.”

We've got a long way to go politically before we can even begin to think in terms of merely slowing the growth of human activity, let alone moving towards sustainability, whatever that might be.

In the end, I'm not saying growth is good or bad, just that maybe we're lucky to be alive during a time when the world still allows us (and it surely isn't true for all) the freedom to make such choices – like to surf. I mean, I can still find local breaks were I can surf alone. Of course, each year its takes a little more effort, but I can still do it... but in ten or twenty years ... ehh, maybe but, I doubt it.

Perhaps some of you may not be planning to live another twenty years, so all this growth nonsense is just that - nonsense ... which I can respect... for obvious selfish reasons.


Us old guys are lucky to have had it good… I think sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that, and appreciate what a great privelage we’ve had. The kids who are starting out today will likely never have it like we had it, but they’ll have fun just the same, not knowing what it was like in years past.

But I guess it’s all relative. Like you’ve said, today’s boards are, for the most part, great products. Today’s designs are far, FAR superior to what we learned on, and what we suffered through as boards evolved - lots of real dogs along the way! So kids are surfing better earlier, and will reach higher levels of performance than we ever dreamed we could, even in our prime. So they’ve got the advantage there. The same can be said for all of the “new” surf spots on the map. There’s better access to more spots now than ever. When I was a kid, we thought a two week kayak trip/camp-out on a barrier island off the coast of southern Virgina was about as good as you could get. At least today you can take a boat trip or stay in a surf resort, and never even THINK about the ticks, rabid animals, running out of water or food, or worse… going through all of that and getting skunked! Just check the wave prediction models, pony up the cash, and get on board… perfect barrels await.

But getting back to your equation, all real-world growth is a curve, theoretical models aside. At some point, the growth slows, and finally levels off. At what point will that happen, and what the factors will be that will cause those changes, are the big questions. Survival of the fittest? Costs that prove exclusionary? Access rights? Membership to “Surf Clubs?”

We’ll see…

Maryland? Come on, I live in Los Angeles! And I’m a weekend warrior. And I’m not complaining. I have been surfing for 35 years and can’t remember it ever being uncrowded.

I dawn patrol and can usually get in 45 minutes to an hour with maybe one other guy at a sandbar. A couple weekends ago the forecast called for onshores in the AM. I got down there to find offshores, no one out and I surfed my local as good as it gets for about 1-1/2 hours with one other guy. Last spring I surfed another local reef break, splitting perfect peaks with a guy from Ventura, who, after going left while I went right fall afternoon, timidly says, “I’m not from around here. Is it always this good and uncrowded?” (the area has a reputation for localism).

I even had the best day of surf in my life during that super hyped 2006 Big Wednesday swell…at Malibu. I kept getting rides all the way down the point, running back out and then, just wanting to rest, here comes a wave and nobody else is there to get it so I go. I think I caught like seven waves in a row like that. At Malibu that’s a miracle.

There are so many days when I say to myself, “Everyone always complains about crowds. Where is everybody? (typically when it gets solid overhead)”.

I just feel lucky to be out there.

Micky Munoz, one of the pioneers who’s definitely seen the increase in crowds, was asked about how he deals with it and he said (paraphrasing) that the positives totally outweigh the negatives, and that all it takes is one good turn and he’s totally stoked.

One good turn!


… you and Munzo are probably right, and I do feel lucky. Just needed to state the obvious - growth has consequences - for reasons not complete clear to me.

Anyway MA is for Massachusetts. And if you look at map, Cape Cod is that temporary boner of a sandbar that sticks 90 mi or so out into the Atlantic. It was formed 20K year ago when the last big glaciers retreated, but it’s not likely to last another 20k … we loose a significant amount of shoreline each winter … aaah, crap, here I go again… I’ll slap myself this time… jeez … maybe its something I ate.


kevin get good at kung foo. fast hits you can do in the water and learn to hold your breath

never needed it yet tho

surfing sux now its a sausage fest , a school sport, may as well be rugby

the comp scene and marketing fucked it all up for everyone

another notch in the belt of outdoor pursuitists

im over it

get your gun (big wave gun) go some where big cold and remote with great whites

no problems

until some fags turn up in a group of 10 with jetskis and 1500 heated wetsuits

the only thing i can say is fcking die and burn you barstards

There are still places where uncrowded surf is available. It’s all about motivation and the search.

As Paul points out, it might be cold, it might be sharky, it might be remote, but it’s out there. You might have to settle for less than stellar wave quality but when EVERY wave is YOUR wave, you can be picky on the sets. There are local surf spots that are chunkadelic with a left here, a right there and a lot of close outs in between but you can occasionally snag a good one all to yourself.

Check a map of central California and look for Morro Bay. There is a barrier sand spit. I rarely see anyone surfing the waves available out there. Between the parking lot at the AT&T access trail and the South Jetty at the harbor mouth is the 5 mile zone I call ‘No Man’s Land.’ I guarantee if you are willing to walk a bit or paddle across and hike the dunes that you’ll get waves to yourself.

No riff raff, no media hype, no parking meters, no lifeguards and no stuck up elitist posers. Just grab your board and go.

Stop complaining and start looking.

Man the North Sea crew need to chime in here for a bit of perspective…

Those guys are hardcore.

Knee high windslop, snow on the beach, northerly arctic wind, no problem. stoked. Out there in droves.

I’ve got heaps of Dutch mates, and they are true hardcore.

Had Belgian mate here recently, surfed head-and-a-half raw onshore power, low tide heave.

He was so fucken stoked.

So I had to get barelled in front of him to calm him down.

I’ve only been to California a few times, but I spent some time along the Central Coast, just searching… and surfing. Absolutely beautiful, miles from anywhere, rarely a soul in the water (except for the sharks and seals, who can be the most brutal of locals), excellent water quality, and plenty of little points and rock reefs to explore for yourself. Fell in love with a couple of spots not far from Hearst Castle. Hope I can get back there again someday.

Actually the problem with growth and the industry being big is there is so little developement. There is more refinement to solidify sales of the same. The only time something truly new comes out is when those who are part of the bigger end of industry get to be the main ones to benefit. Other than that, new things or better things tend to stay small movements and sometimes disappear completely.

If you look at some of what it going on now that is called development. It’s like the industry decided to go back to 1982 and take up where it left off.

The quality of boards is not generally good. It’s generally the accepted same. Which would not have passed muster prior to sanded finishes become the norm. Because of laziness and wanting less production time to get more dollars out of less, the idea that sanded and overly light boards were better boards just became accepted over time.

Those ideas have simply not been challenged since the mid eighties in any major way. It’s not like much of what we see today has not been done. Much of it has been done and rejected and other stuff was simply never given a chance because they were swept away with the rapid change that took place after the invention of and competition sucess of the thruster.

The rise of clothing companies, magazines and the pro tour…all working together swept away many other ideas and caused for mass refinement of one type of surfboard with one type of mentality that would be coined…a surfer or a surfboard. In many ways it was a setback for your average surfer and for board design. In others it has been a huge benefit. Overall I think modern surfboard design has been a good thing with the exception of floatation and emphasis on just thrusters.

Overall, the open minded attitude that is begining to exist with regards to what is being ridden and boards/products being produced is begining to get interesting again. If we could get past an industry obsessed with getting rich by trying to get more beginners into the market to buy their mass produced and overly hyped surfboards there may be hope yet.

OOoPS. My bad. I guess I’m not that good with geography. I used to think New Zealand was next to Connecticut.

The point about just making the effort to find new places to surf is actually profound.

… for your amusement.

These little bacteria are in a petri dish. They multiple pretty quick as bacteria do. In fact, they divide (double) every minute (on average). Some lab technician who is suppose to be watching the petri dish looks up at the clock and sees that it’s 12:00 noon, so he decides to go to lunch. As he’s getting ready to go he figures he better check the petri dish to see how the bacteria are doing. When he does he sees that the dish is completely full, in fact it’s ready to overflow.

Question: At what time was the dish half-full? Answer: 11:59.

(Remember the doubling time was 1 minute, so a half dish becomes a full dish in one minute.)

Unnoticed by the lab technician, some of the bacteria were inclined to be explorers and had left the dish long before it was full. In fact one of them found another dish, so he went back to the original dish (where his family and friends where) and announced that all was cool, that he had found a whole new world, completely empty. The bacteria in the original tube built little squishy statues of him and named holidays after him, and tales of his exploits immediately became part of their mythology.

Question: At what time will this ‘whole new world’ or the next dish be full? Answer: 12:01.

(Again, doubling time is one minute, so in one minute the one full dish becomes two full dishes.)

Inspired by the explorer, a whole new bunch of the younger bacteria decided they too wanted to be explorers and immediately left the tube in search of new worlds. One fellow upon discovering two new empty dishes immediately went back to the colony and reported his find.

Question: At what time will both of these ‘whole new worlds’ be full? Answer: 12:02.

(Again, doubling time is one minute, so in one minute the two full dish becomes four full dishes.)

**...what's the point? **

For one thing exponential growth has a way of getting out of hand quickly. Here the doubling time was one minute, so every minute the whole population doubled. So at 11:59 when the dish was only half full, and all the bacteria probably felt they had nothing to worry about. In fact, two minutes earlier at 11:58, they still had 3/4 of the whole dish left to go. At 11:57 a whole 7/8 the of the dish to go. It never occurred to any of them that at 11:59 they would be facing extinction. Admittedly the doubling time was pretty quick here, but bacteria like to live in the fast lane - but then again so do we. It's all relative.

By the way, that little story was a complete mutilation of an example given by a fellow named Bartlett. Prof Bartlett invested a big chunk of his life (starting in the 1970's during the first oil shortage during the US Carter Administration) touring the US and the World trying to get people to understand the consequences of 'exponential growth'. He really didn't have any solutions. His objective seemed to be a desire to get people and their elected officials to simply understand the consequences of their objectives, like a projected 3% growth rate. Sounds pretty harmless, but at a mere 3% annual growth rate the doubling time is about 35 years. So if your community is growing at 3% in 35 years you'll need to double all your services - like sewage plants, etc. 35 years might seem like a long time to some kid in his twenties, but it's now less than half the our current life expectancy. In fact, at 3%, in 70 years, that same community would need an additional two sewage plants.

If the surfing industry is growing by say 7% per year, then using that 70/p doubling time formula I mentioned in my original post, the doubling time is about 10 years, or a decade. Which is probably pretty crude and not likely to stand up to serious criticism, but that's not the point, the point is that exponential growth has a way of sneaking up on you.

Finding new 'petri dishes' is definitely a first round solution, as are increased access fees, restricting beach access to local residents, localism, etc. but in the end the numbers will win.

**... I've got nothing.**

I don't have a solution. Sure you can bitch and fight with the occasional new kook in the line-up, but what will that accomplish ... well, it can be somewhat satisfying, but that's not the point.

In fact, for the species [Humans] as a whole, I don't think there is a solution to our 'exponential growth problems' other than finding new petri dishes, whether they be new surf spots or new resources of any kind. But it will all run out at some point.

** why worry?**

... exactly!?. But that doesn't mean the problem shouldn't, at least occasionally, be thought about, or some attempt shouldn't be made to appreciate it. For example, the so called West needs oil. The Middle East has oil. So let's make up some bullshit tale that 'those' people are crazy or culturally retarded, or that they're all terrorists, and just go in a take over their countries and lives to re-educate them... and of course, snatch their oil while we're there. Or, I'm surfing my favorite break and the crowd is now so stinking large, I'll be lucky to get one wave every 30 minutes. So I convince myself that these kooks shouldn't be there, that they're not locals, or they don't understand the rules, or they lack respect. Yeah, right. They're there because they want exactly what I want - a wave. It's about the numbers.

Of course don't let me stop you from strangling some jerk who shoulder hops you on some gorgeous face – I just don't want you to punish yourself thinking that the problem your own belligerence – you're only human and doing what comes naturally – and so was he or her. I'm not sure that will hold up in court, but while your being sodomized in showers by your fellow inmates, know that at I understand... if that helps.

**... disappointing finish?**

I'm inclined to believe this is what we do - we just do it until there's no more of it to do. What else is there we can do? We didn't get to where we are now by sitting around doing nothing - using it all up is in our genes! As it is for every other species that I'm aware of... and likely has ever existed. If there ever was a species that did otherwise it's long gone. What you see around you now is all the product of Gresham's law - with a biological twist of course – some call is evolution. We may be able to regulate a bit to curb the more toxic consequences of our activities - like recycling, or bicycling more - but stopping this exponential march forward? It's just not going to happen. The numbers will win.

Man, are we lucky to be alive NOW. Enjoy it. It may not be 11:59 at the beach, but it's close to it.



Wow, now I'm really depressed. I feel like one of those people who like to tell you about how much it stings when you pour vinegar on a paper cut... but just can't stop doing- pouring vinegar on their paper cut that is.

**Hey Swaylock!** You should immediately revoke my privileges - apparently I'm incapable of controlling myself. These rants are growing exponentially.

“The quality of boards is not generally good.”

I guess it depends on how you define “quality.” In terms of design, I would argue that the quality is very good - perhaps excellent. In terms of aesthetics, the quality is generally fair to poor, compared to the norm of boards many years ago, when nearly all the boards in shops I can remember had tints, pinlines, airbrushing… In terms of materials, the quality is pretty good, too, and I credit that to the fact that the monopoly on materials, particularly core material, was broken years ago, and competition has raised the bar across the board. In terms of construction, the quality, in my opinion, is very poor. And this is due in large part to what you’ve pointed out - the fast buck mentality of the big producers. But it’s also due to what the majority of surfers, pros and novices alike, WANT in our boards, and that’s where I have a problem. Most of the masses are convinced into what they want by the machine that is the popular culture of our sport - the sum of professionalism, image marketing, advertising (NOT magazines themselves, but ADVERTISING, which drives content), and the like. The concept of a durable product produced by a sustainable industry is for all practical purposes, absent. This is not to say that such a “niche” does not exist. It does. But sadly, it will remain a nich, and not the norm, for the forseeable future. The same can be said for what we WANT in surfing performance. The masses of surfers out there value a very particular and certain form of atheleticism and a certain aesthetic in style. And those values are pretty much defined and disseminated by surfing’s popular culture. The majority of people - and I’m talking about both surfers and onlookers (which may even include contest judges) - care less about what surfing feels like, and more about what it looks like. This is ironic, considering here we are, in a thread where surfing in isolation is one object of our desire.

I agree? Well, at least I understand.

(But just between you and me… I’m I alone in seeing that advert when Swaylocks home page came up of some sort of body girdle, I think is was called a body shaper or something like that… I mean sure this crap is getting out of hand but … I’m just curious of course… do you think maybe they make one for say ‘mature’ men … not that I’d ever use one.)

That aside… you’ve expressed some great ideas both in the forum and when we’ve communicated in other ways…I suggest you avoid becoming a fustrated crank like me and make it happen… then again being a frustrated crank has its upside… its good cover, at least until everyone realizes that’s all you are. Kind of like when I sit in the line-up and bitch for 15 minutes on the size of the crowd and then on the first nice wave I manage to score, I fuck the bottom turn … which is usually accompanied by a loud plop sound. Yet another reason why I now tend to go off and find new places to surf alone.

Just kidden Solo, I get it.


Wow man… I feel you, but mostly I’m w/John… I find waves alone a lot here in Oregon…

But, just the other night a friend and I were talking about how one of the main local spots has a pretty good set up, but not so good that word has gotten out, at least not so much that many “out-siders” are showing up… We talked about being thankful that we are further from the the “valley kooks” than other wind protected spots which are not as good, but hey, who’s complainin’…

The one other thing I’ve observed, for which I’m thankful… The one/two board quiver… Many a person around here longboards… Only… Not so good on the small, windy days, when the options are low. Quite a few others shortboard… Only… The glory of all this is, when it’s good and double over head+ there are very few who have what I’d suggest is appropriate equipment… Which always adds to my stoke.

Anyway - you need a surf break. Not to mention, as far as the “white” bacteria, who took over this land go, your still back around the original dish.

With 4/5ths of the planet covered by water (3% of it drikable), I don’t think I’d worry about not beingable to score an uncrowded wave or two. The distribution of population moves to the sunbelt of the United States as baby boomers age and their circulation goes bad…that leaves a lotta waves unridden up there in Port Angeles (WA) or Maine, or many other colder climes. Just try to find some one to go surf with you in Homer Alaska.

The same pattern repeats itself if you can’t handle cold water in Chile, and so on. Plus the bby boomers will be dyingoff in droves over the next quarter century. That is unless they figure a way to ‘port’ us over into cloned younger receptacles. Maybe another ‘invasion of the body snatchers’ will ensue.

In a thread I participated in last year Nick Carroll chimed in and mentioned how the publications have researched our sport and found the participation to be cyclical. People drop out after 4 to 5 years, then a new wave of surfers comes up through the ranks. This cycle has no doubt been impacted by the lighter easier catching wave vehicles that make the sport more convenient and accessible to the masses of novices as well as the aging surfers that jockey for waves in more crowded lineups. A surfer pushing 50 is no longer relegated to a heavy log that rated low onthe performance scale.

So let’s entertain the supposition that 60 is the new 30 or 35, and maybe your growth scenario might find some scant support. But otherwise, suffice to say that if you aren’t eonomically bound to a specific area, you can probably go not too far off the beaten path and follow the advice of Simon Anderson, who once was quoted as saying

“**I go left when the right is so good, and right when the left is…” …**well, you get the point.

dont stop raving kevin. i replublished on my facebook if thats cool

If I may offer another piece of wisdom gleaned from the sayings of our respected elders…this is from Peter Cole, who’s still out there (in his 70’s?) charging SunsetBeach on the North Shore. When asked how it is he’s till out there, while most of his contemporaries have quit, he said (paraphrasing), “At a certain point you’ve got to deal with the fact that you’re becoming more of a kook every year. I’ve got no problem with that.”

If I may offer another piece of wisdom gleaned from the sayings of our respected elders…this is from Peter Cole, who’s still out there (in his 70’s?) charging SunsetBeach on the North Shore. When asked how it is he’s still out there, while most of his contemporaries have quit, he said (paraphrasing), “At a certain point you’ve got to deal with the fact that you’re becoming more of a kook every year. I’ve got no problem with that.”

Yesterday I paddled out to a heavily crowded spot in less than ideal conditions to try a board I just finished. It’s normally filled with beginners and I usually can get a few nice ones. Not yesterday, with a dying swell and it being a weekend, all the kids were out and it was no fun.

I’m sitting on a 6’ morning of the earth style board with no leash and there’s people all around me trying to catch everything that comes by. Every time I wander off to sit in a clearing someone gets it in their head to paddle over and wait just outside, they figure I know what I’m doing. It gets kinda hard to not fall into the negative space, but I try.

First nice big one I get and there’s 15 guys in my way trying to paddle out. I would have had to run over at 2 of them to make the wave. One decent wave and I ride it as far in as I can and go home. The only good thing about yesterday was seeing old friends and enjoying the conversation. I got to try my new board and I wasn’t disappointed.

I have to agree with Peter Cole. The older we get the less aggressive we surf. I guess that puts us into the kook category. I always felt that surfing is about riding the wave and being the right spot as it moves along. We always look at it as playing or dancing with the wave. The kids are trying to destroy the waves instead of flowing with them. It reflects the times, and I’m not so sure if we’re heading in the right direction. But then again I recall a time when I was an overly aggressive punk kid.

Then there’s a real kooks or beginners that will paddle out to the peak and catch waves but don’t know how to surf. If they stayed on the inside, they wouldn’t be kooks, just beginners.

Surfed Cottons earlier this week … shoulder high and clean … two people out all day. Surf back in FL with NOBODY … ever, unless I want to surf the inlet. I know it gets crowded but there’s still plenty to go round.

Surfboards … quality? … we now know how to make the best boards ever, rode one myself at Cottons … just that the manufacturers don’t want to make them. Their not even hard to make. Nice being here on sways where some want to make that quality for themselves.