… 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.