Surf's up? How does water quality risk impact surfer decisions?


Water quality and the subsequent beach advisories resulting from impaired quality are significant problems throughout the world and specifically in the Gulf of Maine where our study took place. Surfers represent a culturally and economically important subpopulation of beachgoers who are subject to higher risks associated with impaired water quality. This increased risk is related to the amount of time surfers spend in the water, the higher incidence of water ingestion, and the propensity for surfers to surf around storm events when water quality is the lowest.

In our research we surveyed 291 surfers and conducted 20 interviews with gatekeepers in the surfing community in the Gulf of Maine. We found that given the level of environmental exposure coupled with a strong sense of environmental sustainability within the local surfing community, Maine and New Hampshire surfers provide valuable insight on issues of water quality. We find that surfers indicate that water quality and pollution can impact an individual's decision to surf. Given this, surfers should have equal accesses to water quality information at their local surf spots. Surfer's knowledge can prove useful to researchers and help drive policy changes related to water quality management.

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Ocean & Coastal Management

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