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Airbnb sets its sights on surfing

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As part of Airbnb's Experiences programme, the company, in partnership with the World Surf League, will introduce 75 surfing-related activities and tours at more than 20 destinations worldwide.

New York

SURFING has become part of Airbnb in a big way: The home rental and travel company recently introduced more than 75 surfing-related activities in its Experiences category, a service where travellers can book activities and tours with Airbnb hosts in more than 20 destinations worldwide.

The new Experiences were launched in collaboration with the World Surf League, the professional sport's global governing body, and cost an average of US$50 to US$100. Airbnb's chief executive, Brian Chesky, said it was the first time the company had officially partnered with a sports organisation for its Experiences platform.

To start, the surfing activities are available in 20 major surfing locations globally including Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa; Chiba, Japan; and Pupukea, in Oahu, but Mr Chesky said that by the end of the year, the number of activities and the locales they're offered in will grow to several hundred. "Surfing is, by far, the largest sports offering in Experiences, and that's why we're making it a stand-alone category," he said.

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According to the company, it had 170,000 guest arrivals in 2017 to surfing communities, an increase of 54 per cent from the year before.

It was the WSL organisation that tipped off Airbnb that many surfers were fans of the company's rentals. The chief executive of the league, Sophie Goldschmidt, said that surfers prefer to stay in homes versus hotels and frequently book their stays through Airbnb. "When you have a big surfboard, it's easier to stay in a house, and many top surfing destinations don't have a lot of hotels anyway," she said.

Ms Goldschmidt also said that the surfers hosting the Experiences are an integral part of WSL's community and have been vetted by the organisation. The activities they are offering on Airbnb range from surfing lessons to surfing photo tours to surfing adventures in the ocean.

In Biarritz, France, which is one of Europe's premier surfing destinations, two brothers who are former WSL competitors, Edouard and Antoine Delpero, are offering longboarding lessons through their Delpero Surf Experience.

In New York, well-known big wave surfer Will Skudin will offer surfing lessons in Rockaway Beach, Queens. In Haleiwa, Hawaii, on the North Shore of Oahu, renowned surfboard shaper Carl Schaper will teach guests how to cut foam to create their own surfboard. Most of the surfing activities can be customised for guests to take into account their level of expertise.

Mr Chesky himself is a novice surfer but said he enjoyed the sport when he tried it last year in Cape Town, South Africa, by booking the Surf with a Purpose Experience. There, he took a two-hour surf lesson in Muizenberg Beach with surfer Apish Tshetsha and learned about the surf therapy that he provides for free to low-income children. "It was then that I realised that surfing is an exciting sport even if you're just trying it once in a while," he said.

Airbnb isn't the only player in the travel industry that's paying more attention to surfing: Several hotels, too, are introducing or have recently launched surfing experiences for guests.

This month, Mukul, Auberge Resorts Collection, in Nicaragua, introduced a Surf Sensei programme for US$165 a person where beginner surfers learn how to advance to the next level in the sport. In June, the property will begin offering a Siren Surf Safari for women that includes a surf lesson, along with meditation (pricing is still to be determined).

One & Only Palmilla, in Los Cabos, Mexico, has a new Art of Luxury Surfing programme where guests can take lessons with famous surfers on select weekends throughout the year - Brazilian-born women's star surfer Tatiana Weston-Webb is hosting one from June 18-20 (nightly rates that weekend start at US$890).

Hotels may be introducing these surfing options because a growing number of travellers who have never surfed before seem to be showing more interest in the sport. Kristiana Choquet, an adviser with the New York City-based travel company Artisanal Experiences, said that, in the past year, many of the company's clients have begun asking for vacations in surf destinations such as Cabo San Lucas and Costa Rica so that they can take lessons.

"There's a new allure to surfing," she said. "Travellers are definitely more interested in wellness more than ever before, and surfing is a part of that trend." NYTIMES