On Campus

Surfing for a diploma? Surfing may be the program for you!

B.C. college teams up with Australian university to create surfing diploma program

A Vancouver Island college is teaming up with an Australian university to develop a diploma for surfers who may be better known for skipping class than hitting the books to learn the business aspect of their sport.Barbie Mayor, a nursing instructor and surfing mom who is co-ordinating the program’s development, said the first class of about 20 students could be heading for school and waves in September 2009.

“There is no other program like it available in the Americas,” said Mayor, who is also an accredited judge with the International Surfing Association.”The time is right,” she said. “Surfing is a multimillion-dollar business. I believe it would bring more experienced people into the industry.”

The diploma of sport management in surfing studies is being developed by Vancouver Island’s North Island College with Australia’s Southern Cross University.Once approved, the program will run out of Port Alberni and Tofino, B.C., focus on the global surfing industry and offer classroom, in-water and internship components.

Mayor said the course will be based on the Southern Cross University curriculum but with a Canadian twist.

Southern Cross students enrolled in the program must complete courses in sports management, events, technology and skills, culture, and business – all with a special emphasis on surfing.Mayor said that in 2007, the Canadian surfing industry accounted for about $300 million in business.Jak Carroll, course co-ordinator for the surfing studies program at Southern Cross University in Tweed Heads, Australia, said several students among the 25-to 30 that register in the course every year come from North America.He said the course started in 2004 after a call from the surfing industry for a course focusing on business and management skills.

Mayor said she contacted the Australian university a year ago while her son, CC Unger-Mayor, a member of Canada’s national team, trained at Surfing Australia’s High Performance Centre, the world’s first specific surf-training centre operating in New South Wales.

The Canadian program is currently meeting the requirements of the college’s dean’s council but must still receive approval from curriculum committee and education council, Mayor said.”I think it’s a great idea,” said Drew Hawkshaw, national sales and marketing manager for Rip Curl Canada.”Everybody can surf but not everybody knows the business behind how surf companies are run.

“Hawkshaw said industry sales have at least doubled in the past 10 years and anybody with knowledge about the market will be valuable to surf companies.Stefan Aftanas, owner of Tofino’s Aftanas Surf Designs, agreed, saying he once had to work construction jobs to make ends meet but now has to worry about handling the volume of business his surfboard-shaping and repair company attracts.He said the program could also help Canadians run better surfing contests and maybe lead to a national circuit.”

I think very few people know how surfing contests are run and how to run them efficiently, effectively and fairly,” Aftanas said.But Malcolm Johnson, editor of SBC Surf, Canada’s surfing magazine, said there are certain risks to turning a counter-culture sport like surfing into an academic course.”Surfing has always been a countercultural activity, so to my mind as it gets more institutionalized it loses some of its soul,” he said. “You can’t codify culture. You can’t mark surfing.”Johnson said the program could be beneficial if it helps the industry develop sustainably in communities like Tofino and Ucluelet, B.C.”

If it gets people going to college who wouldn’t go otherwise, that’s another huge plus,” he said.”The best way to really learn about surfing, though, will always be to spend years and years in it. You have to watch and listen, and you have to learn from the people who were in it before you.”

Mayor said the program will only boost the credibility of Canadian surfing and surfers.”Part of the reasoning behind the program is to increase the perception of surfing in Canada,” she said.”

A diploma gives the graduates more credibility in the job market and one of the outcomes of the program is to provide graduates with knowledge and skills, which then will lend more credibility to the surfing industry.”

The Canadian Press

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