Conference Online
Dario Nardini

Dario Nardini
PhD Student, University of Milan-Bicocca

Dario Nardini is an Italian PhD student in Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Milano-Bicocca, and he is now a Visiting Scholar at Griffith University. His MA dissertation on the ethnography of gouren, a traditional style of wrestling which is practiced in Brittany (France), was published in 2016. At the moment, he is carrying out an ethnographic investigation on surfing culture on the Gold Coast. He is both a judoka and an apprentice surfer. His research interests are focused on the anthropology and sociology of sport, the body, cultural identity, cultural representation and everyday life.

Presentation Title: Surfing the Gold Coast: A Paradoxical Activity in a Paradoxical Place
Presentation Day: Tuesday 14th March
Presentation Time: 3.00 - 3.20pm

Surfing embodies «‘alternative’ sporting values such as anti-competitiveness, anti-regulation, […] personal freedom» (Wheaton, 2004). However, the emergence of competitive surfing introduced an ambivalent dimension in the practice, between the so called “soul surfers” and competitors (Booth, 1995), as well as between the “romantic” representations of surfing (Ford and Brown, 2006) and the interrelated consumeristic aspects of the practice. Nowadays, such tensions continue to characterize surfing (e.g. with the recent inclusion of the sport in the Olympics). However, surfing has a contradictory nature also for different reasons. Firstly, it is both an individual and social activity. Surfers ride the waves alone, but surfing spots are social arenas, where people meet, interact, evaluate, learn and teach, contributing to shape and to transmit surfing culture(s). Secondly, surfers’ fascination toward “the search” (for waves) all around the world is in contrast with the opposite phenomenon of the arbitrary self-ascription of particular spots by the so-called “locals”. Finally, in the particular surfing context of the Gold Coast, surf represents, at the same time, a global activity and an important part of the local identity and “lifestyle”. This is clearly exemplified by the process of inclusion of part of the Gold Coast in the World Surfing Reserve list, to which anthropologists would refer to as “patrimonialization”. Effectively, being part of the list means not only to be globally considered as one of the most representative spots in the world, but also that surfing is “officially” recognized as part of the cultural heritage of the Gold Coast. In a similar way, the Gold Coast as a surfing environment epitomizes such ambivalence. In effect, the urban, social and environmental differences between the northern side of the coast, and especially Surfers Paradise and Southport, and the rest of the region (the southern Coast which became a Surfing Reserve, and the hinterland) appear evident even to a superficial observation. Furthermore, the rapid socio-economic changes which characterized the city in the last years produced a mobile geography of the local communities (Baker et al., 2012). Moreover, the ambiguity is expressed also in the cultural representations of the city. There are «significant differences in perception of the Gold Coast city image by visitors and residents» (Potts et al., 2011). At different levels, residents are trying to affirm a local cultural identity which overcome the superficial vision of the Gold Coast as a touristic resort. And surfing is part of this processes of re-shaping of a cultural identity. Even the imagine of the city elaborated by the media contrasts with the social reality, and at the same time influences it, in different and contradictory ways (Baker et al., 2012). For all these reasons, the Gold Coast represents a privileged point of view to inquire surfing as a global activity which has been “localized” and which consequently assumed here particular meanings, in relation to the local social and cultural context. The aim of the paper is to show the relationships between the ambiguity of surfing as a practice and the Gold Coast as a «constructed surfing place» (Preston-Whyte, 2002), and to present my PhD ethnographic research project, established on the following research questions: - What does it mean surfing the Gold Coast? Is there something specific in the GC surfing culture in regard to other surfing places in Australia and the world? - Does surfing in the Gold Coast inform a local sense of belonging? - How does the Gold Coast surfing culture interrelate with the local cultural, social and political features? - How do surfers from the Gold Coast define themselves as “locals”, and construct their «surfing place(s)»?