Making Waves for ALL!
According to the World Health Organization, 15% of the world’s population (or about 1.2 billion people) live with some form of disability, and as the surfing industry continues to rapidly expand and evolve worldwide, empowering this population is essential – and simply the right thing to do!
At Aquatic Development Group, we believe this is an opportunity to become a champion for inclusion and to provide greater access to waves for a wider audience, especially those that do not live near the ocean or prefer a more controlled surfing experience.
Whether your business is surf-centric or about delivering another type of experience, there’s value in distinguishing the objectives toward elevating and expanding the guest experience. “Accessibility” is the outcome of addressing specific needs of individuals who are differently abled. Over time, this concept has been expanded to “inclusion” and helping a larger audience regardless of specific circumstances. Therefore, we can say that accessibility and inclusion work hand in hand and have the potential to drive innovation while benefiting a larger audience.
A Sport that Unites the World
Surfing is one of the most popular, timeless sports on the planet and it continues to grow and simultaneously evolve. After decades of anticipation, surfing made its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games! Post-Games, it was revealed that surfing’s inclusion (along with skateboarding, sport climbing and karate) was a catalyst to attract millennials. A successful strategy that led to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in February 2022 designating surfing as a “permanent sport” opening the gates to more funding, spotlighting other disciplines of surfing, and adding diversity to the sport.
Currently, the IOC is appraising para surfing, an adapted form of surfing that allows people with physical disabilities to ride waves on a surfboard, for the LA28 Games. Olympic inclusion of para surfing will inspire, create awareness, and change the perception about what it means to be different and still enjoy sports.
In terms of geography, the International Surfing Association (ISA), surfing’s world governing authority recognized by the IOC, spans 5 continents and includes 111 member countries, 5 of which are landlocked (Afghanistan, Mongolia, Nepal, Hungary, and Switzerland). Many of the member nations are not typically known for surfing but have joined the ISA to attract and support future generations of surfers and create a pathway to world -class and Olympic surfing. In the process, generating positive change related to age, gender, culture and so much more.
The Saudi Surfing Federation is the 110th nation to join the global network and is led by CEO Nouf Al-Nasser. Al-Nasser said, “Our goal is to see young female and male Saudis take up surfing, SUP and wake surf – with the long-term ambition to nurture Saudi athletes so they can compete at a future Olympics.”
Egypt, the 111th nation, brings the ISA membership of Africa to 17 countries, driving the expansion across the continent while validating surfing’s universal appeal as the sport spans new corners of the globe. In addition to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Middle East/North Africa countries focused on developing surfing programs include Israel, Iran, Oman, UAE, Lebanon, Morocco, and Turkey.
The Surfing Revolution and the Onset of Manmade Waves
Courtesy of Olympic fanfare, popular lifestyle brands, and social media, the 2022 global surfing market (mostly equipment) is valued at 3.8 billion US dollars, according to Grandview Research. While worldwide surfing tourism, estimated to be worth 9.5 billion US dollars in 2022, will nearly double in the next 10 years, according to Statista.
No doubt, surfing is a booming multibillion-dollar industry yet incommensurately few have regular access to ocean waves. With innovation and multiple manufacturers and developers entering the wave industry, reliable man-made waves are revolutionizing surfing, bringing waves to all corners of the world, available beyond the coastline, and oblivious to Mother Nature. For many, these technology-based waves break down barriers for those that prefer a safe and controlled environment.
Manmade waves mimic nature and fall into two main categories of non-ocean waves:
Progressive wave = large lagoon-type wave that emulates the ocean
Stationary wave = smaller footprint with less water that mimics a rapid river wave
Sheet-Wave = subclass of the stationary wave, projecting a thin layer of water at highspeed over trampoline-type surface
According to Wave Pool Magazine, there are close to 40 manmade waves open for surfing around the world and 75+ breaking ground or in some stage of development. The quest for surf continues to gain momentum and is expected to fuel demand and availability of inland surfing for years to come.
Surfing is truly a common denominator, capable of bringing people together and generating positive impact and change. This narrative set the tone for commercializing our newest wave technology, EpicSurf. From design to commercialization, our vision was to create an authentic surfing experience to be enjoyed by ALL abilities.
Many of the actionable practices learned along the way can be adapted to entertainment, amusement and leisure industry. Join us in the movement toward creating more accessible and inclusive experiences!
Best Practices for Democratizing Epic Experiences!
ASSEMBLE AN EXPERT ADVISORY PANEL (& LISTEN):
Create a network of experts by selecting specialists that practice, research, assist, teach, and represent individuals with disabilities, veterans, or underserved communities. Invite the panel to take in your experience and then use their feedback and suggestions in shaping or improving your product or experience.
CONNECT, CREATE COMMUNITY: Creating inclusivity requires listening to people with a wide range of perspectives. Learn about the organizations in your community and the people they support. Invite them to checkout your experience and learn from their visit.
EXPLORE THE BENEFITS OF EXPERIENCE: To better serve and attract guests with sensory differences consider becoming a “certified autism center.” Reach out to a local youth club or the YMCA that operates in 120 countries and always looking for new partnerships and powerful experiences.
DEVELOP PROGRAMMING: Organizations and advocacy groups are always thrilled to find immersive experiences that help participants discover strengths and build confidence. Discuss ideas for programming with your network of advisors.
TEAM UP WITH A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION: Make an impact and bring purpose to your brand by collaborating with a nonprofit. Find one that aligns with your organizational values and work together.
GIVE BACK: Host an event that illuminates your nonprofit partner(s). Create awareness for their mission and the group they serve by including them on event signage, social media, and press release.
EpicSurf is a deep-water stationary wave manufactured by Aquatic Development Group, the world’s leading developer and manufacturer of wave and surf systems.