If you ask an Aussie how they feel after catching the perfect wave, there’s a fair chance they’ll be ‘stoked’.

That’s because for many Australians, to be in the ocean is to be living the good life – we’re a nation drawn to the coast and its waves. But just how valuable is surfing to Australian society?

To better understand this question, researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have launched the first nationwide survey on the impact of surfing on our wellbeing and the economy.

Dr Ana Manero, Research Fellow at ANU Crawford School of Public Policy. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/ANU

“Australia has more than one million active surfers who are buying gear, going on holidays and even deciding where they live – all based around surfing,” Dr Ana Manero, project lead from ANU, said.

“Surfing is more than just a sport – it’s a lifestyle. We know it’s valuable to Australia, but we’re trying to paint the clearest picture so far of just how important it is.

“It’s about making sure policymakers have all the information they need to make informed decisions about surf breaks. This is crucial to manage the impacts of erosion and other coastal pressures.”

But the survey isn’t just about putting a monetary value on surfing; it’s also about understanding surfing’s less tangible benefits.

“When you come back from your surf, you feel like a better person,” Dr Manero said.

“Its effect on your mental health, the physical exercise, the connection with your family, with your friends and with other members of the community – it’s immensely valuable. If our waves were lost, all of that would be gone.

“Surfing is Australia’s second most popular water sport but it’s still massively under-researched. That’s why we want to hear from as many surfers as possible through this survey.”

The digital survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete and responses are de-identified. The survey is open to adults living in Australia who have surfed at least once in the past 12 months.

The survey can be taken online.

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