Though surfers typically need to be on the affluent side to be able to live near the ocean, their income varies widely. "I had kids who couldn't afford to buy a surfboard and then kids who were sponsored and making $60,000 a year already in the sixth grade," Cruse claims about his students.
Regardless of how much money they have, surfers are a good market for another reason: This age group influences the purchases of the entire family, according to Lenore Cunningham, sales director of Lake Group Media, which manages the Transworld SURF mailing list. Marketers who used to target mothers are now targeting teens because they have more purchasing power than was previously thought.
What They Buy
Of course, surfers buy surfing products: board shorts, sandals, sunscreen, surfboards, cars that can accommodate surfboards, four-wheel drive vehicles that let surfers get to the best spots, etc. Travel is another large category for surfers, says Cunningham. In addition, surfers pride themselves on being watermen, so they also purchase kayaks, fishing equipment, spearguns, canoes ... "anything to keep them on the water and physically fit," says Cruse.
Then there are the other action sports that attract surfers. "There is a huge cross-market in the action sports world," says Anderson. "Snowboarding and skateboarding are definitely part of that, and there is crossover in motocross. Some surfers do events that are surf one day and then go to a motocross track the next day."
Catching the Wave
It can be tough to target surfers because they are a counterculture movement that, well, doesn't like to be targeted, says Cruse. Surfers are sensitive to marketers co-opting surfing imagery to sell their wares. "It's almost like a cliché ... the advertising world's attempt at using surfing imagery to sell their products is almost universally completely off the mark," Cruse says.