Course Information

ANTH 4285/6285: The Anthropology of Surfing

Surfing is simultaneously a sport, a lifestyle, and an iconic part of American and global popular culture.  It is also an ideal lens for analyzing a range of contemporary cultural processes associated with globalization.  This course will introduce you to surfing as a globalizing cultural phenomenon.  We will begin by learning about the history of surfing, particularly as it has become increasingly internationalized in recent decades.  We will also focus on a range of specific topics: surf culture and the idea of lifestyle, the production of recreational spaces, branding and the commodification of surfing, surf tourism, surfing and gender, localism and travel, surf knowledge, contest culture, and more.
This course will emphasize an ethnographic approach to the study of surfing.  During our time in Costa Rica we will be traveling to multiple locations where surfing is a dominant activity, and we will be interacting on a daily basis with surfers from Costa Rica, the US and elsewhere.  Through both guided observations and daily encounters, we will document our experiences through a series of written and visual assignments.
Students will focus their efforts on learning the art and science of ethnographic observation through a range of guided and individual activities focused on surfing in Costa Rica.  In doing so, the process is as important as the product.  That is to say, the heart and soul of ethnographic observation is active seeing and listening, and much of our time in Costa Rica will be devoted to learning that process.  We will approach ethnographic observation as a collaborative project; sharing and reflecting on our observations on a daily basis.  Through journaling, the keeping of ethnographic field notes, and other written and visual assignments, students will track their progress from initial observation, to written description, to analysis.
For those taking the course as a Graduate or Honors option (ANTH 6242), in addition to being responsible for the same assignments as undergraduates, graduate students taking this course will be required to produce a 15 page research paper on a topic of their choice, chosen in consultation with the instructor.
Course Topics: ANTH 4285/6285

  1. Introduction to the Anthropology of Surfing
  2. Doing Collaborative Ethnographic Research
  3. The History of Surfing
  4. Surf Culture and the Idea of Lifestyle
  5. Sustainable Surf Tourism
  6. Branding and the Commodification of Surfing
  7. Making Surf Breaks: The Production of Recreational Space
  8. The Contradictions of Surf Culture: Localism and Travel
  9. Surf Knowledge
  10. Soul Surfing and Contest Culture
  11. Women in the Line-up: Surfing and Gender
  12. Next Steps in the Collaborative Ethnographic Analysis of Surfing
  13. Discussion of Findings in Ethnography of Surfing 



Credit Hours