Exploring how genuine communities are built no matter the location
By: Michael Narea, Traveler Surf & Swim Club Member
Growing up in South Florida, the tourism industry has had a strong effect on my childhood and perspective on travel. Many of my friends work in the industry, and it has been accepted as a normal way of life since I was young. This experience has allowed many Floridians like myself to empathize with other tourist destinations across the world, and understand what it takes to be a respectful visitor in someone else’s hometown.
Pacifica State Beach on a beautiful sunny Saturday (Photo: Austin Halbert)
Over the past few decades, many small coastal towns have become inundated with tourism due to their beautiful beaches and an increase in surfing and watersports activities. With 3.3 million surfers in the U.S. who annually find their ways to the coast, the positive and negative impacts of their travel on coastal towns have been experienced and researched.
On the positive side, the economic impacts of this growth can revitalize a town, create new jobs, and pave the way for new businesses. As an example, a study of surfers visiting Trestles, a collection of surfing spots at San Onofre State Beach in San Diego County, California, estimated a range for the annual economic impact to the city of San Clemente that could be from $8 to $13 million/year. In fact, it has been found that surﬁng waves contributes approximately US$50 billion to global economic activity each year. On the other side, the negative effects are obvious, more crowded waves, a greater number of valueless transactional interactions, and perhaps a greater lack of respect of tourists to the local population.
A packed ocean front parking lot on a gorgeous saturday evening in Half Moon Bay, CA (Photo: Austin Halbert)
The question that I’ve been thinking about all year, literally traveling the world to learn from colleagues, friends, and random people I meet is: Can tourists and locals find common ground through their short interactions to feel absolved of any perceived friction? And even more, what are the kinds of communities are being created at these unique intersections?
Two years ago I moved to the Bay Area as a West Coast newbie with the desire to immerse myself in environments with and learn from other more experienced surfers with diverse ocean practices. By joining the Traveler Surf and Swim Club, I’ve discovered the true value of having the support from the club’s staff and members in motivating my regular ocean and surf practice. As a result of this discovery of the value of community support around the ocean, I’ve felt the urge to intentionally learn about other surf communities across the globe. Being a surfer for 11 years, I’ve had the pleasure to surf South Africa, Kenya, Spain, Costa Rica, up and down East Coast USA, and up and down the CA coast. All known destinations for surfing, and all of which I experienced as a tourist with different levels of community integration…but what about some of the lesser known surf destinations.
Hanging out in favorite backyard in the Bay Area
To begin this exploration, I will be visiting locally known South Korean surf clubs in Jeju Island and Busan to see for myself.
Some questions I will be asking myself throughout my immersive experience are:
- What does the intersection of surfing, tourism, and localism look like in those towns?
- Can a surf club be that bridge that unites tourism and local cultures and takes away that friction?
- Can it provide a tourist with an authentic experience of the life of a daily surf club member, while also providing the local members with a genuine interaction that is much more than a monetary transaction for occupying their hometown. Is this a way to build a global community around the common ground respect and love for the ocean?
Traveling with the essentials for my 10 day trip away from home
Off to the other side of the Pacific, will report back soon on what I learn...
Michael Andres Narea is an avid ocean enthusiast who believes that with the right support, mindset, and accessible pathways every person can conquer anything they desire. Michael has designed educational and lifelong learning programs on 4 continents. When not surfing his favorite beaches across the world, you can find him working with education and talent technology entrepreneurs through his firm, Luminition (www.luminition.com), and hosting learners of all ages through his "purpose development through ocean immersion" experience, Surfani (www.surfani.com).
You can catch up with Michael any weekday for sunset surf sessions at Traveler.