Queensland university offers course in surfing

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Geography of surfing course co-ordinator Dr Javier Leon said he believed it was the only subject of its kind in Australia and one of only a few in the world.

“The point of the course is to look at the relationships between Noosa’s unique surfing culture, the community and the environment,” Dr Leon said.

“By the end of it, we’ll be able to answer questions such as what makes the waves around Noosa so great from a physical perspective.

“We also want to know who surfs the waves, why they surf them and how much money are they spending in business, where do they get their boards and what it means for surfing culture in general.

“This means we will also be exploring the history, looking at how the popularity of surfing and the sizes of boards have changed over time.”

Dr Leon said students would also discuss surfing as a sport with experts, including former Tracks magazine editor and Noosa Festival of Surfing founder Phil Jarratt and master surfboard shaper Tom Wegener, who has a PhD on the sustainability of the surfboard industry.

Dr Leon said the impacts of climate change would form part of the course.

Dr Leon will teach students about the surf culture in Noosa and its benefits to the local economy.

Dr Leon will teach students about the surf culture in Noosa and its benefits to the local economy. Credit:KJ Locket

“There’s already evidence that wave climate is going to change on the east coast,” he said.

“For example, southern swells, which push all the sand up the coast, are going to weaken – there’s already scientific studies to show that. We want to understand if there are threats to the wave quality.”

Dr Leon said most students who signed up for the course were keen surfers and would gain many skills out in the field and in the surf.

“There are five break points around Noosa Heads that have amazing-quality waves but are quite diverse,” he said.

“One of the things we will check is measuring the waves under different conditions and creating profiles of surfers who visit each break in terms of age, gender and level of expertise.

“It’s a very hands-on course, so students will be using cutting-edge technology like a drone, GPS tracking devices and other tools to document and measure waves.

“What is incredible about this is that it hasn’t been done before and students will be creating baseline data for Noosa.

“We will be setting that baseline to continue to monitor things and see how it changes in the future, like wave quality and how it will change with the climate in the years to come.”

Jocelyn Garcia is a journalist at the Brisbane Times, covering breaking news.

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