FROM BUSINESS TIMES, AUGUST 2010
The most obvious face of Australia’s multi-billion dollar surfing industry is easy to recognise. Clothing fashions, surfboards and shop fronts are filled with recognisable brand names.
Surfboards and the lifestyle they represent are used as props by a list of manufacturers from outdoor vehicles to energy drinks.
Make no mistake: surfing is big business. At the heart of the industry is the activity itself, surfing. But the number of surfboards being ridden at the local break is just the tip of the marketing iceberg.
Over the past decade the number of companies offering surfers perfect waves overseas has risen in direct proportion to the drop in airfares. Surf charter boats and surf land camps are a lucrative industry add-on, with companies operating at exotic surf locations around the world. While Bali was the target dream of Australian surfers in the 1970s it has almost become regarded as no more of an experience than going interstate.
Surfers horizons now have no boundaries and “exploration” is being done using Google Earth and fast boats. No place is too remote. The string of islands off Sumatra is a growing destination for surfers, with a thriving charter boat industry already operating out of the bustling south coast port city of Padang and surf camps on some of the offshore islands, mainly in the Mentawai group.
Mt Eliza man Chris “Scuzz’ Scurrah has been running surf charters from Padang for the past 13 years and has learnt to operate in a commercial environment that is very different from the tightly-regulated one here in Australia.
Scurrah was in the forefront of the surf boat charter industry and this early immersion in the Indonesian way of doing business is one of the biggest assets of his Sumatran Surfariis.