Aloha from England: surf science in Cornwall
On the coast of Cornwall in England lies a section of coastline that has become legendary in UK surfing circles. Surf stores, hire shops and board makers huddle around this gem of a surfing site, with a west-facing beach that gathers Atlantic swells and turns them into consistent, powerful, breaking waves of up to 30 feet that are ideal for the sport. Newquay is the surf capital of the UK and Fistral Beach is its focus. Many of the best surfers in the world can be seen in action at the competitions held there.
Big wave surfers from around the world come to surf the Cribbar, a reef at one end of Fistral Beach that produces particularly large waves that only experienced surfers can handle well. This has helped to contribute to Newquay’s status as the undisputed surf hub of Great Britain. Here’s a video of Ben Skinner surfing a huge wave at the Cribbar. Not for novices!
The culture that has grown up around Newquay’s status as a surf destination has led to involvement from nearby Plymouth University. Its Sustainability and Surfing Research Group aims to aid the transition of the surfing world to environmental and economic sustainability, seeing surfing as ‘… a massive power tool for driving positive change.’
Plymouth University now offers a full degree programme called FdSCc Surf Science and Technology. It starts with a grounding in surf culture to help those who don’t know what an A-frame is or how not to be a Barney (get all the surf lingo you need here).
It moves on to Ecology and Management of the Coastal Environment, Physical and Geographical Influences on Surfing, and Surf Practice before providing what many might see as the meat in the sandwich: the Surf Business. This includes Media & Events, Production Methods & Materials, Computer-Aided Design in the Surf Industry and Sports Health & Nutrition.
The course clearly intends to introduce a new generation of surf enthusiast to the scene: one that is just as keen as before but with the ecological and business smarts to create a better surfing world for all.