National treasures like Yosemite, Bryce Canyon or the Everglades not only invoke awe but they’re cash cows for surrounding towns and all the funky enterprises that flank ranger stations. Natural Bridges or a big hole in the ground, however, aren’t the only sights that stir the soul and stimulate the economy.
Santa Cruz, for example, has always let its natural beauty speak for itself. A portion of that beauty, in particular, does for the city what a temperamental geyser does for Wyoming. Indeed, with its fertile wave zone and bustling business and industry, the city of Santa Cruz is forever indebted to Pleasure Point.
A recent CSU study put an annual dollar value of $8.4 million on Pleasure Point by using a “travel cost modeling” method, which calculates recreational economics in national parks. Taking locals and visitors into account, the figure was reached based on how often people surf Rockview to 38th Ave., how far they traveled to surf there and how much they spend. Ultimately, researchers at CSU hope surf zones, like east Santa Cruz, will be put in the same category as national parks.
John Robinson, director of community relations in Santa Cruz, adds that it’s vital to have a world-class surfing area to nurture its annual $100-million surf industry, which includes heavyweight companies like O’Neill, Hotline and Surf Tech. “The city would survive without surfing as tourism alone brings in $540 million a year,” says Robinson. “But take the surfing out and the soul of Santa Cruz would be gone; the culture on the boardwalk would disappear and nothing would sustain its businesses.”
Given that a big portion of those annual tourism dollars come from surfers, Santa Cruz’s thriving economic success, not to mention a good portion of its population, relies on surfing. “Without it, Santa Cruz would become just a stodgy, expensive beach town,” continues Robinson. “I wouldn’t live here anymore.” — Carl Friedmann