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While the best big surf events tend to happen in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months”, such as the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series including the Reef Hawaiian Pro O’Neill World Cup, Roxy Pro, Billabong Pipeline Masters, Billabong Women’s Pro and Quicksilver’s big-wave Eddie Aikau (all in Hawaii) and Maverick’s Big Wave Surf Competition in Half Moon Bay, surfing tends to be on the “consumer” radar more so in the summer obviously, when people head to the beach, regardless of often flat surf conditions. In the last 2 weeks, there’s been a flurry of news regarding surfing such as 8-time ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Champion Kelly Slater won his 3rd event on the tour at the highly spectacular Globe Pro Fiji event in Tavarua; surf event news for the upcoming X Games and U.S. Open of Surfing; and the launch of Northern Hemi-summer surf camps, which inspired us to take a look at what’s going on in the changing dynamics of surfing participation and lifestyle crossover when it comes to American youth culture.

First off, let it be said that surfing continues to attract a strong demographic of young people interested in emulating what seems to be an independent, sexy, outdoor lifestyle. So having women’s surfing added to the line-up of the upcoming X Games to be hosted in Puerto Escondido Mexico July 7-11 will only enhance the X Games attractiveness and possibly bring more people to the sport of surfing -or at least the lifestyle.

Other things to note are that the Honda U.S. Opening of Surfing from July 25-27 in Huntington Beach, CA, will also host the 2nd annual S3 Supergirl Jam featuring 100 of the world’s top female pros in surfing skateboarding and snowboarding -combining all 3 sports into one venue over 3 days (and yes, they are blowing snow in the parking lot for snowboarding portion of this).

Back in session for its 7th year are the Quiksilver and Roxy surf camps at 20 different beaches across North America, which will also include a new curriculum about the ocean and environment. Surf Diva camps and schools are also moving into full swing in various locations, including a Father’s Day Camp on June 15th, and their special camp get-aways to Costa Rica.

However what’s interesting about surfing versus other action sports such as snowboarding and skateboarding, is that surfing tends to polarize demographics now -either those for the sport (and lifestyle) or away from it, which has caused new dynamics not only for hardgood industries, but more importantly softgood industries trying to capture marketshare based on the lifestyle. Having peaked in 2003-2004, as was clearly represented in our data with brands reaching high points among mass markets (and illustrated by board-shorts-loving young people from Calgary to Montana), it took going overseas for many brands to continue to their growth trend.

At the same time”, in comparison a backlash came into play in skateboarding with skaters wearing more no-logo T-shirts, thrift finds, prep collared shirts, skinny denim and Fedoras. Like many core, passionate markets, when the trend leaders see others copping their steez, they quickly move on even if it’s going backwards with retro infusions to create something individual and new.

Today, the top “surf” brand among 13-25-year-olds, some people (in surfing) would argue isn’t even a surf brand at all. So where are the surf brands? How do they rank in comparison and who’s buying them? Ironically, to maintain growth, many surf brands have stretched into streetwear or street fashion, copying the street culture movement instead of leading what was once their own movement or as noted previously, opting to push-on overseas.

Here’s another interesting correlation: Having presented at both the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) and TELUS Ski and Snowboard Summit in the last few years, the surfing industry is far more focused on selling the lifestyle vs. getting more people to participate, compared with the skiing and snowboarding industries, which push hard at innovative programs to increase participation levels. As one major player (who shall remain anonymous) told us at SIMA in 2006, “There’s no need to emphasize camps because quite honestly, most surfers don’t want more surfers in the water.” Meanwhile for TELUS, which we presented at in April,2008, the main emphasis was on attracting more diverse markets, younger demographics, and people in general. To surfing’s defense however, there is a business around getting people to the mountains to ride or ski (lift ticket sales, resort packages, hotel rooms, food, hardgoods sales ). There is far less of a business around getting people to the beach.

All of this being said, our new Surfing Demographic Report takes a look at new fresh data released in Label Networks’ Spring Study 2008, with specific analysis about who’s participating in surfing, who wants to mostly, the size of market, viewing patterns of surfing events, top surf brands, and where the market opportunities lie mostly -both with actual participation levels and lifestyle traits. Here’s the Label Networks’ Surfing Demographic Report.

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