May 03, 2024 5 min read

Regardless of where in the US you live, news of the spread of sports betting has likely reached your ears. With each state having the freedom to legalize (or not) the act independently, 38 states have allowed the pastime, much to the joy of their residents.

However, the allowance of sports betting has not only been good for bookmakers and gamblers. Many sports that have previously held little attention among the masses have been thrown into the spotlight by being featured on the most popular and prominent sports betting websites.

Among these sports is surfing. With an estimated 120 million international fans, surfing has often been considered a niche sport that only attracts certain sports lovers. For many who enjoy mainstream sports, surfing didn’t even appear on their radar. But this has changed.

Surfing as a Sport

The act of surfing can be traced back as far as 1769. At the time, Polynesian travelers visiting Hawaii brought the sport with them, and it caught on like wildfire. From there, surfing quickly spread to any region that had acceptable beaches and waves and even inland, where people would travel with the sole purpose of catching waves.

By 1976, the World Surf League (WSL) was founded, and the inaugural season of the WSL Tournament commenced. Many surfers have considered surfing a sport since this point, even though other (smaller) tournaments have been held.

woman surfing

One of the most pivotal moments in surf history was in 2016 when the sport was officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and added to the sports roster in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. Due to delays caused by the pandemic, however, 2021 officially included surfing at the Olympics.

This move not only validated the athletes who tirelessly tried to reach the peak of waves but also made surfing a more widely accepted sport. Consequently, more people begin searching for surfing on the types of betting sites found on, via streaming channels, and through news websites. All this saw an almost 22% increase in viewership of WSL’s 2022 tournament.

The Bookmaker’s Role

The inclusion of surfing at the Olympic Games was crucial for spreading the sport among those who had never considered it a formal event. However, bookmakers have also played a large role in promoting surfing.

With more than 40 legal sports books operating in the US, these websites represent millions of gamblers. Each is looking for the next event they can place a wager on and stand a chance at striking it rich.

By adding the option to place bets on WSL events, these bookmakers have snagged the attention of many gamblers who’d never considered placing a bet on surfing. As such, more interest has been generated regarding the outcome of surfing events.

The sportsbooks have also created a perfect place for existing surfing fans to place legal bets on the most prominent events. The growth in bets on surf events has spawned various types of bets that can be placed and helped the sport grow in the industry more than expected—between old and new fans.

Types of Surfing Bets You Can Place

surfers on the wave

Like most sports, surfing has a wide range of bet types that can be chosen from when gamblers place a wager.

Some of these are straightforward, while others require players to understand the kind of bet with more nuanced knowledge.

Below are the most common types of bets on surfing supported by most bookmakers that list the sport:


As the name suggests, a winner bet requires players to bet on who the winner of a particular heat is or who the outright winner of the competition will be. This is the simplest form of bet on surfing and is perfect for new bettors.

Head to Head

This bet type allows you to pit two surfers against each other in a head-to-head competition. You can place a wager on which surfer will come out on top. If you’re correct, you win.

Spread (Handicap)

Like in many other sports, spread betting appears in surf betting and can even be applied to head-to-head bets. In these types of wagers, a handicap is given to surfers that either boost or toughen their chances of winning. A negative handicap means a surfer must score extra points above those stated to win. A positive adds points to a surfer's final bet score after the event.


This bet type allows you to pick a specific benchmark and select whether the surfer will score over or under that mark. These bets usually represent scores in decimal place (e.g., 15.5), making it easier to calculate if a surfer receives under or over the mark.


Accumulator bets require you to place bets based on the outcome of multiple heats of a WSL tournament. These types of bets require multiple predictions and could be the accumulation of several bet types mentioned above (which is where it receives its name). Because you must get so many correct to win, these bets often have the best odds.

Live Betting

Becoming increasingly more popular, live betting for surfing events is supported by particular sportsbooks. This allows players to place bets as the action of the heat is happening and also provides access to some unique bets that may not otherwise be supported.

Among these are wagers like Next To bets. These require bettors to place a bet on who is likely to surf next in line during a competition that doesn’t explicitly have this scheduled.  


Betting on surfing has opened wide avenues for the sport and taken it to even more unique locations perfect for wave-riding. It has not only attracted newcomers to the option of betting on a unique activity but has also become a favorite for many. The primary reason for this is the thrill of a sport that is so dependent on external factors like weather and tides.

The sport's popularity will likely increase as more people become aware of the option to bet on surfing and WSL events. As this happens, further investment will go into managing the sport and organizing competitions. Should this happen, surfing may soon become a sport that takes the sports betting world by storm.  

Author - Olivia Poglianich
Olivia Poglianich          

Content Strategist

Olivia Poglianich is a nomadic brand strategist and copywriter in the surf, watersports and outdoor adventure space who has worked with brands such as Visa, Disney and Grey Goose. Her writing has taken her all over the world, from a Serbian music festival to a Malaysian art and culture event. Olivia is a graduate of Cornell University and is often writing or reading about travel, hospitality, the start-up ecosystem or career coaching. Her latest interests are at the intersection of web3 and communal living, both on and offline.

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