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The Tragicomedy of the Surfers' Commons

59 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2008  

Daniel K. Nazer

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Date Written: 2004


Surfing provides an excellent case study for power of extra-legal social norms to efficiently regulate public resources. A complicated, cross-cultural set of cooperative norms governs surfers' behavior in the water. These norms promote safety and the efficient sharing of a natural resource: waves. As an ever increasing number of surfers compete for this fixed resource, conflict has become more common and the cooperative norms of surfing are sometimes replaced by the exclusionary practice of "localism." Nevertheless, attempts at formal regulation of surfing have failed and surfing is still governed almost entirely by social norms.

Keywords: norms, surfing, law and economics, tragedy of the commons

JEL Classification: K00, K11

Suggested Citation

Nazer, Daniel K., The Tragicomedy of the Surfers' Commons (2004). Deakin Law Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 655-713, 2004. Available at SSRN:

Daniel K. Nazer (Contact Author)

Electronic Frontier Foundation ( email )

454 Shotwell St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
United States

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