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Breaking down surf culture clichés

17 August 2018

Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning hosted a cohort of national and international academics for a conference on surfing culture (5 – 6 July 2018).

The two-day event was arranged by Professor Jon Anderson and PhD researcher, Lyndsey Stoodley, as part of the School’s Impact and Engagement event series. It was also a satellite event of the inaugural meeting of the Institute for Women Surfers Europe, co-organised with the Wales-based Surf Senioritas.

The Institute for Women Surfers (IWS) was established in the United States in 2014, and this was the first meeting of the Institute outside of North America.

Academic colleagues from Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences, School of Journalism, Media and Culture were joined by attendees from the University of Plymouth, Worcester University, Rice University (USA), and the University of Queensland, Australia for the conference.

Lyndsey explained the purpose behind the event, saying: “Our aim was to break down the stereotypes associated with surfing and surfing culture, to better understand, and explore, the diversity of experience within the community.

“Surfing is a cultural practice that has growing influence in a wide range of areas, including environmentalism, new forms of feminism, fashion, photography, music, and tourism. However, for many it remains an activity that is predominantly male, white, and able-bodied. It’s important therefore that we identify and negate these clichés.”

Attendees, both in person and via live stream, heard from two noted international scholars on day one of the event, Professor Krista Comer, Director of the IWS and Professor of English and Feminist Studies, and Dr Belinda Wheaton from the University of Waikato, New Zealand.

Professor Comer, author of books including Landscapes of the New West: Gender and Geography in Contemporary Women’s Writing (1999) and Surfer Girls in the New World Order (2010), is focused on cultural politics with an interest in space and place. Dr Wheaton is concerned with the politics of popular culture, and in particular the cultural politics of lifestyle sport cultures.

Day two involved a roundtable discussion where several short and long-term goals for future surf scholarship were agreed.

Professor Jon Anderson said: “The School was pleased to host this important event and to collaborate with the Institute for Women Surfers. It was a lively debate with a range of different views, experiences and perspectives. We look forward to future collaborations and opportunities to explore new avenues for research into surfing culture and practice. ”

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