Conference paper- Surfboard making

My PhD research with Wollongong's surfboard makers, along with other field work conducted in Hawaii and southern California, will be used to give a presentation at this year's Association of American Geographers (AAG) conference in Seattle, USA. The session is in 'Media, Culture and Development'. Here is the abstract to the paper.

Local makers, global markets: The decline of artisan production in the surfboard industry.

This paper examines the vernacular practice of surfboard shaping, in two countries, as an example of cultural-economic research in geography. With Polynesian heritage, surfing and surfboard making are geographical performances reliant on techniques refined in exchanges between rider, wave and maker.

But surfboard manufacture is also now a multi-billion dollar industry. Against a backdrop of oligopolised, global surfboard production, a small number of custom surfboard shapers survive.

These are focus of this research. Drawing on in-depth qualitative work with eight independent surfboard businesses, including individual makers, shop owners and customers, this research explored the practices and modes of surfboard production in two locations which conjure images of surfing utopia: southern California USA and south eastern Australia. Revealed through analysis of participant interviews and work space tours were three key themes:

1. impacts of automated modes of construction in wider corporate surfboard production, providing example of how cultural industry oligopoly threatens the existence of smaller, local and independent makers;

2. with an ageing work profile and no organised system of skills transfer, how hand-making skills are under threat of extinction; and finally,

3. how surfboard shaping is conceptualised as deeply rooted with intangible cultural heritage - where rituals, customs and learned processes of knowledge have been transmitted geographically across culturally diverse surfing communities.