The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, a big wave series championship held each November and December on Oahu's North Shore, generated $20.9 million in spending last year, according to a report by Brigham Young University-Hawaii.
Last year's total expenditures during the event were up more than 40%, or $6 million, compared with 2006, the last time the study was conducted.
"The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing is a treasure for Hawaii's tourism industry, particularly for Oahu's North Shore," said Lenard Huff, a professor of marketing at BYUH who directed the research.
"Our study took a two-pronged approach," he said. "The traditional economic impact study that estimates the net spending, both direct and indirect, that is generated from participants of the Triple Crown; and the less measurable, but equally important contributions that the Triple Crown makes to Hawaii's image and brand. Not only does the Vans Triple Crown add to Hawaii's economy, but it also provides global exposure of the best that Hawaii has to offer."
The Vans Triple Crown is the Association of Professional Surfers tour finale held every year at three internationally famous North Shore breaks: Haleiwa, Sunset Beach and Pipeline. According to the BYUH study, there were 23,195 spectators over the 12 days of competition in 2010, and the average daily spend by those participants was $178.13.
Event organizers, however, are working to keep those in-person spectator figures from growing too dramatically.
"The North Shore of Oahu is not a place you want to try to increase physical attendance," said Jodi Wilmott, a spokeswoman for the Triple Crown. "And we have actually shied away from that over the past five or more years, purely because of the environmental impacts, adverse traffic effects and impact on local residents."
Three years ago, event organizers began broadcasting their live webcast on a local Oceanic Time Warner cable channel. This year, Wilmott said, that broadcast will be expanded into the Southern California market through Time Warner, allowing potentially millions of Californians to watch the Triple Crown events live.
That broad transmission of a quintessential Hawaii activity is, of course, welcome news to the state's visitor industry, and apparently, those images are in high demand globally. BYUH researchers said nearly 2.6 million unique viewers followed the 2010 Triple Crown webcast, and 85 media outlets from around the world attended the event.
"Oahu's North Shore is recognized as the mecca of the sport, whether you're a surf enthusiast or not," said Randy Rarick, director for the Triple Crown of Surfing. "To see the world's best surfers ride the world's most famous big waves, in the birthplace of the sport, is a memory of Hawaii that people carry with them for life."