I have been asked repeatedly, “How many surfers are there in [name a state or country]”.

This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. There is only one study that I know of that counts surfers for the US - a 2000 NOAA recreational survey.

Without getting into the debate about what constitutes a surfer, here are some stats for the U.S. from that study:

There are about 3.3 million people who surfed in 2000.

The top 6 states are illustrated above: California, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey and Texas.

Here's a table of all states that they found surfers:

All of this info is based on a report called the “Current Participation Patterns in Marine Recreation”. It was published in 2001 - see reference below. The stats are generated based on a phone survey of 50,000 homes in the US. This is the only published report on recreational surfing participation that I am aware of.

Surfing has boomed boomed since 2000 so it will be interesting to see what we find upon publication of the next marine recreation report.

This tells us how many surfers there are. A more interesting question, one that is critical to understanding the economics of surfing, is, “How many times did they surf?”. Stay tuned for that answer.

You can read the whole report here:

Leeworthy, V. R. and P. C. Wiley (2001). Current Participation Patterns in Marine Recreation, U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Special Projects. National Survey on Recreation and the Environment 2000: 53.