Hangin' ten: The common-pool resource problem of surfing

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Abstract

Surfers face a common-pool resource problem, similar to that faced by fishers. Although the ocean shore is a common-pool resource, each wave is a private good. Coordination is essential if a surfers' dilemma is to be avoided. I model this situation as a two-person, two stage game. I show that for many cases the subgame perfect equilibrium is socially optimal. In other cases, the equilibrium is not optimal. I argue that for these cases a surfers' etiquette has evolved in response to this dilemma. A first-to-the curl, first-in-right rule ameliorates but does not fully resolve the dilemma. In addition, a locals-only policy, a policy in violation of the surfers' etiquette, may be a rational response to a growth of inexperienced surfers on the waves.

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