Surfers are characterized by the time and effort they invest in surfing and their propensity to travel in search for the perfect wave. In spite of such characteristics and the economic significance of surf tourism, little is known about surfing as serious leisure and its implications in surf tourism. Thus, a study was conducted using a convenient sample of 126 surfers to examine whether the six serious leisure qualities (Effort, Ethos, Career, Identity, Perseverance, Benefits) are associated with surf travel behavior and destination preferences. Results confirmed that surfers have a strong disposition for surf tourism and that they show high levels of serious leisure in their six qualities. Statistical tests also revealed that although serious leisure qualities are not associated with surf travel behavior, they do predict destination preferences especially related to the overall surfing appeal of the destination, the variety of waves, and the quality of the natural environment. Management and marketing implications for surf tourism operators and destinations are discussed. Besides filing a gap in the literature, this study augments the marketing intelligence for owners and managers of surf-related business as well agencies and organizations promoting surf tourism. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.