Surf studies is the new wave at San Diego State

Reporting from San Diego -- San Diego State University’s newest academic research center has a decidedly laid-back vibe. The inaugural symposium is titled “The Audacity of Stoke,” and the first field research mission will take academics to the beaches and surf resorts of Peru.

The Center for Surf Research bills itself as the first academic institution devoted to surfing. San Diego State officials are prepared for the jokes. But they insist their center is a serious attempt to understand the culture and economic power of what has become a $7-billion global industry.

A major goal of the institute is to foster surfing diplomacy by helping American surfers and surf businesses mind their manners when they travel to faraway places in pursuit of the perfect wave.

“Surfers take great care of the oceans,” said Jess Ponting, professor in the sustainable tourism program at San Diego State. “But they don’t always think about the rest of their surroundings.”


He plans to ditch mainstream surf tourism spots like the North Shore of Oahu or Santa Cruz and focus instead on emerging surf economies in less-developed countries such as Indonesia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and South Africa.