After lacerating this wave into a billion pieces, Caleb went up the beach and volunteered to help Lion’s Club sell lamingtons for their annual fundraiser. The kids are alright. (Brunton)

Predictions: Kids Will (Begin To) Take Over Surfing Again!

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I’ve been surfing a very long time. Not as long as some, but long. But no matter how long I surf, I’ve always been possessed of the notion that surfing is basically a young thing. 

Like, for surfing to progress, both culturally and in the creative sense, it’s got to be driven by youth. Because it’s when you’re young that you have your real breakthroughs with it.

When you’re older, well you can fool yourself about it, but it’s as the legendary Californian surfer Tom Curren muttered to me recently about turning 50: “You can’t really hope to, you know, improve.”

Thus in recent years, as Australian surfing has tracked straight down the general demographic spread of the nation, ie got older and older by the day, I’ve begun to wonder — are we cooked?

A cold reading of surfing population stats in Australia have been feeding my vague horror about this situation for some time. Not the fantasy 3.5 million number but the boiled down stats produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which show a surf population bubble over the age of 45, and a distinct shrinkage below that.

Which is, que sera sera and so forth. You can’t do anything about demographics. But contrary to the T-shirts etc, Old Guys Don’t Rule. They have fun, but only in an old sort of way.

Well lately I’ve been reading some additional non-surfing type stats about population movements in Australia. And they show a new bubble beginning to emerge down the lower end of the age groupings. This is because Australian birthrates have been increasing. In 2011, this resulted in a jump in kids under the age of four — such that there were more babies than there were older adults (the 50-54 age bracket). And there were more people 14 and under than there were people over 55.

The result is that there are now more Australians under the age of 19 than there were at the beginning of modern surfing back in the early 1960s. Quite a few more in fact.

At the same time! Not to be too ghoulish, but the annual death rate is also increasing. And who mostly dies? That’s right, Old Guys.

This is bound to shift the balance in Australian lineups back toward some sort of centre point, where kids begin having a bigger say in things again.

I reckon we will begin to see this shift in 2018. Not everywhere, sure. But it won’t happen everywhere and it won’t happen all of a sudden. It’ll just be a few more kids getting a few more waves. And eight or 10 years down the track, it’ll mean a healthier surf culture.

This is the last in Nick’s Predictions series. Next week, we will venture into the equally intriguing subject of Illusions. What do surfers believe that isn’t actually true? Why? And why not? Man, this is gonna start some arguments

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Nick Carroll