Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Social Sciences, Media and Communications - Faculty of Arts


This dissertation provides a genealogy of the relationship between surfing, the nation, and white masculinity in Australian culture. I argue that, despite its historical connections to countercultural and subcultural expression, surfing has emerged as a cultural formation which, in multiple ways, contributes to and sustains dominant conceptions of national identity. This claim is demonstrated through the investigation of a diverse range of texts produced both within surf culture and outside it, including documentary and fictional cinema, novels, magazines and advertisements. Reading these texts for the politics of gender, race and class that inform them, I identify the crucial connections of surfing culture to the dominant discourses of white Australia, while also attending to the various manifestations of surfing masculinity that do not �fit in� with contemporary national identity. As a counterpoint to the congruence of mainstream surfing culture and white Australian nationhood, I discuss the culturally specific views of nation and country that inform contemporary Indigenous surfing culture. This part of the dissertation is supported by the contributions, through conversations, interviews and questionnaires, of Aboriginal surfers and elders in the Illawarra region as well as by readings of Surfing the Healing Wave, a film on Indigenous surf culture, and the Indigenous sports magazine, Deadly Vibe. I demonstrate that Aboriginal ways of understanding and relating to the ocean constitute an important counterpoint to dominant white representations of surfing and beach life generally. The perspectives of Aboriginal participants and contributors to this thesis provide an oppositional view of nation/country and of surfing as a form of cultural expression. These worldviews instate a point of departure from white, �mainstream� ideas of nation and proffer an epistemology that testifies to Aboriginal peoples� continued resistance to colonialism. Through the voices of Aboriginal people, nation(s), surfing, and the ocean, are contextualised according to a culturally relevant frame of reference. Indigenous voices construct a counter-discourse that contests dominant projections of nation at the level of cultural production and cultural practice.