For Surfers

Does Buying More Gear Lead to Happiness?

happinessMost of us have more surf gear than we know what to do with. We pack it in our cars, stack it in our garages, stuff it in our attics and even pay to store it somewhere on the other side of town.

Did you know that storage rental is one of the fastest growing businesses in the country?

Well, it is.

Come on, you’ll never surf that board you got from your cousin Ralph—you know the one, you keep telling yourself that you’ll fix it when you have time, which you never do.

That surfboard sits there in the garage, until you put it in the attic, and eventually you get fed up of moving it out of the way to reach those Christmas lights and Grandma Nellie’s dangling ornaments that you finally move it over to your storage unit—it looks so good next to your high school football trophy and that bucket of old surf mags that you are sporadically collecting.

Gear. Gear. Gear.

Look, I am no better than the next guy; I got gear coming out the wazoo. I like gear so much that I created a surf company that designs, produces and sells it. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to buy gear; if you don’t buy gear then I don’t get to eat.

Well, the question on my mind is how much gear do we really need?

There are an estimated 23 million surfers worldwide and in 2010 they spent 6.2 billion dollars on gear. That’s a lot of dough dude. Bhutan, a mainly Buddhist country in South Asia has an annual budget of 14 million  in comparison. You could run 442 Buddhist counties for the amount spent on surf gear globally. I wonder what the world would look like with four hundred more Buddhist countries?

I remember being a kid and having one board, one leash and occasionally some wax. No matter the conditions or the quality of the waves, I rode that one board with ferocity and stoke. These days I quite often hear in the lineup: “Dude, if I had my other board I’d be killing it out here.” Sure you would bro.

I guess what I am wondering is whether buying more gear leads to a better surf experience? Perhaps you could call it happiness or even the quality of life. Business Week rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and the 8th happiest in the world—but if I had to live in a landlocked country like Bhutan I’d go crazy and I’d rate the quality of life near zero. Let’s face it, surfers are a different breed and what makes us happy isn’t what makes other ‘normal’ people happy.

The term quality of life references the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of healthcare, international development, and education. For surfers the term quality of life has a totally different connotation and quite often it is linked to swell pattern, wind direction, and the ebb and flow of the tidal swings.

At the core of a surfer’s life the tentacles of freedom and adventure titillate the vexing feelings that we grow up with and they never seem to fade.

A surf trip is as exciting today as it was a few decades ago, the sense of adventure and the excitement of forecasted swell arouse the surfer’s quality of life quotient more than a discussion of who will be president or what is on CNN.

Have you heard of the Popsicle Index?

The Popsicle Index is a quality of life measurement coined by Catherine Austin Fitts as the percentage of people in a community who believe that a child in their community can safely leave his home, walk to the nearest possible location to buy a popsicle, and walk back home.

Obviously that’s a good thing, but I’ve got a new index for you called the Surfer’s Index which is the quality of life measured by the freedom to surf when you want, the ability to travel to at least two international surf destinations per year, and the intelligence to know when to buy the right amount of quality surf gear to ensure your happiness.

Before you make your next gear purchase, you could ask yourself these three questions: 1) Do I really need it?; 2) Is it made with quality and will it last?; 3) Instead of buying it, could I start a travel fund?

Once you answer these questions remind yourself of what the top Lama said: “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”