Raglan's waves are the bread and butter of the local business community, with surfers from all over the world travelling to the Waikato town to ride its famous left-hand breaks.

Charlie Young, who runs the Karioi Lodge and Raglan Surfing School, says he has not seen any definitive figures on what the waves, such as Manu Bay and Indicators, could be worth.

But surfing fuelled most of the the local economy, he said, from the cafes and surf stores to accommodation providers and food retailers.

Young, also a board member of the Raglan Chamber of Commerce, said the value of the waves meant it was crucial the natural environment was protected.


It would "crush Raglan's heart and soul" if something - such as an environmental disaster - stopped people from surfing, he said.

"Protecting the environment is the number one priority here in Raglan, from our mountain to the harbour and the ocean ... issues like seabed mining and oil drilling are all things that need to be looked at very closely."

Young, who arrived in Raglan from southern California 14 years ago and never left, said most of the town's surfing visitors were Kiwis, mainly from Auckland and Hamilton.

Most of the international surfers came from North and South America, as well as Australia and Europe.

"A lot of people end up trying surfing when they come through and get hooked," Young said.

Surfing New Zealand estimates there are 140,000 active surfers here.

While there has been no research on surfing's economic impact, Surfing NZ spokesman Ben Kennings said there were about 150 surf-related shops around the country and 40 wholesalers dealing with big international brands. Some wholesalers had turnover of $20 million a year.

In addition there were about 30 surf schools with numbers growing.