Surfing a Wave of Economic Growth

60 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2017

See all articles by Thomas McGregor

Thomas McGregor

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Samuel Wills

University of Sydney

Date Written: March 2017


We investigate whether the geographic determinants of growth extend to natural amenities. We combine data on spatial and temporal variation in the quality of over 5000 surf breaks globally with data on local economic performance, proxied by night-time lights. We document a strong association between natural amenity quality and local economic development. Economic activity grows faster near good surf breaks; following the discovery of new breaks, or the technology needed to ride them; and during El Niño events that generate high-quality waves. The effects are concentrated in nearby towns and emerging economies, and population changes are consistent with tourism.

Keywords: Natural Amenities, Economic Growth, New Economic Geography, Natural Advantages, Tourism, Surfing, Night-Time Lights

JEL Classification: O13, O44, O47, Q26, Q51, Q56, R11, R12

Suggested Citation

McGregor, Thomas and Wills, Samuel, Surfing a Wave of Economic Growth (March 2017). CAMA Working Paper No. 31/2017 , Available at SSRN: or

Thomas McGregor

International Monetary Fund (IMF) ( email )

700 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20431
United States

Samuel Wills (Contact Author)

University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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