Finally. It only took an extra two months, but Surf-First unveiled their online research survey today. But all sources agree: its arrival was well worth the wait, marking the first steps toward building a informational weapon that will one day help US surfers win any fight, big or small.
"One thing we learned from Trestles is that the people who would take away surf breaks come armed with hard data to support their cases," says Surfrider's Chad Nelsen, whose economic study was an important component in the TCA fight. "Our hope here is to collect data on as many US surf breaks as possible — to treat every surf spot as if it's Trestles — but to do it before they're in trouble."
See, that's the problem with surf activism: we're constantly reacting to issues, "saving" breaks and solving problems after they fact, instead of keeping trouble from ever arising. And that's what this survey is all about: understanding surfers' habits and the breaks they use now; arming ourselves with the info that could make or break a fight down the road, whether it's a country-wide issue like airline board charges or just keeping the parking free and accessible at the spot down the block.
And we do mean the spot down the block. From Pupukea to Puerto Rico, Minnesota to Matagorda, Alaska to Alabama, this survey puts even the most fickle break on equal footing with the most famous. Because while you may never have heard of Poverty Beach Poles, to the folks that surf there every day it's literally the most important spot in the world, just as worthy of protection as Pipeline itself.
"We really have two missions," Nelsen continues. "We want to give specific surfers an understanding of the breaks they surf to use in the most self-serving local fight; at the same time, we want to give the surfing public the type of numbers and mass understanding that can help us come together for the major struggles. We don't even know how many surfers there are in the US, their average age or how much they spend. This is the data that will ultimately help us give us a voice for issues both big and small."
By understanding who surfs what breaks, we serve to preserve every one. And looking at the info as a whole, we help to understand surfers as a 'user group', building serious muscle for big fights down the road. But first we need to collect the information – and that's where you come in.
Go to the Surf-First survey page pick the break you surfed last, and fill out every applicable window while remembering three things:
1.Answer honestly. An accurate study is our best weapon.
2.When in doubt, leave an answer blank. Less info is better than bad info.
3.Pass it along to your friends.
All information is anonymous. It gets logged into a database for Nelsen and his research team. Surf-first will NOT share the individual details for commercial purposes, but they will share the bulk data. As soon as the sample's big enough to start providing accurate info; Nelsen will start crunching numbers.* And as soon as they have accurate info worth publishing, it will go live on Surf-First, beginning with broad, national stats; then to the state level; and – with time—even towns and specific breaks, making sure no matter the issue, the surfers affected can say with confidence what they look like, where they travel, and how much they spend.
Surf-First is also in the process of developing blogs for current issues, and a downloadable PR campaign for use in local fights. But the single most important aspect of this strategy is the survey. So fill it out then forward to every surfer and waverider you know. Because spending 15 minutes now will help ensure you surf for the rest of your life.
Maybe together we can make Trestles the last break that needs saving — and keep your home break off the endangered list forever.
*College students, stay tuned for news on how you can help Chad crunch the numbers.
Click here to read "the New Localism', Surfing's November story cover story which first announced 'Surf-First'.