Economic Waves Keep Surfers Closer To Home

As reported by Laith Agha in the Monterey County Herald.

Surfers like to travel. That’s how they find the best waves.

But for many Peninsula surfers, the cost of driving down the Big Sur coast or boarding a plane to Central America now overrides the benefit.

“You’re definitely more likely to stay local,” said surfer Alexis Copeland, 41, of Monterey. In the past, “you hear a big swell’s coming, you go to Mexico. Now it’s more of a financial commitment.”

These days, surfers are less likely to drive to Big Sur or Santa Cruz “on a whim” to check surf spots, Copeland said, because online surf reports tell whether specific areas have rideable waves. But gas prices are discouraging surfers from making those drives, regardless of the wave quality.

The fuel cost of a roundtrip to Santa Cruz or far down the Big Sur coast — from $20 to $25 — affects the frequency of those trips, but likely does not eliminate those trips from a surfer’s routine. The cost of airfare, however, can eliminate more ambitious outings.

“You’re not seeing it only when you’re driving around,” Copeland said. “You’re seeing it in your larger travel plans. … People are not going on trips to Mexico and Hawaii because it’s just gotten to be too expensive.”

Copeland, an instructor at Monterey Peninsula College, said he has traditionally gone on surfing trips during the summer to places such as El Salvador, Barbados and Indonesia. Last year he went to the British Virgin Islands.

But this summer, he could not pull it off financially.”It’s just gotten too expensive, with the whole family and the price of tickets,” said the father of three.

As anyone who flies knows, airline ticket prices have risen steeply in recent years, and a movement within the industry to charge for in-flight amenities and checked baggage adds more minuses to the traveler’s bank account.

This hits surfers harder than the average traveler. Before soaring fuel prices and other stresses hit the airline industry, a surfboard bag — which usually carries one to three boards — cost no more than $75 each way on a plane, Copeland said. Sometimes the bags were loaded for free if the attendant at the check-in counter was nice, he said.

But airlines have raised those fees and ratcheted down their leniency in recent years.

“People complain about $2 for water,” Copeland said. “How about $100 for a surfboard?”

United Airlines charges $125 each way per bag, limiting each bag to two boards. The price doubles if the bag exceeds nine feet. Delta Air Lines charges $150 per board each way. Jet- Blue charges $50.

Copeland said the last time he went to Mexico, three years ago, he bought a surfboard and sold it back at the place he bought it because it was more cost-effective than flying with his boards.

The cost of a new board is another financial drain on surfers.

A couple of years ago, the average board sold for $425 to $460. Now the same board is selling for $525 to $600, said Brent Bispo, Big Sur board designer and shaper.

For the full story head to Monterey County Herald.