ODU professor surveying surfers in Virginia and North Carolina

Information could help inform coastal management practices

Attention adult surfers: Old Dominion University has a few questions for you.

Lindsay Usher, an assistant professor of Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies, who studies surfing and surf culture, is heading up an online survey, which originated when a student came to her offering to help with some surf-related research.

“My area of research is surf culture and tourism, so I told him he could help me create a survey and we could try to get it out to surfers in Virginia and North Carolina. We both had connections in both states and surfing is a big part of communities in both states,” Usher said.

The study builds off topics she has done previous research on, such as connection to place and localism. However, she had only done qualitative research on the topics (in-depth interviews and observational data collection). This is the first survey.

“I am hoping the information might be able to help local surfing organizations, such as the Surfrider Foundation, with recruiting members, as well as inform coastal management practices,” she said.

As an academic, Usher will publish the results in peer-reviewed journals, but she feels an obligation to share her findings with the public, as well as with management agencies so that they can benefit from the results as well.

“For me this study is all about learning about surfers’ connections to the places they surf and how that influences their interactions with other surfers in those places, their desire to take care of those places, constraints to accessing those places, as well as their opinions on the changing nature of those places – for example beach nourishment,” Usher said.

“I think all of those things are very much related to one another.”

She’s nearing 400 responses – a reasonable sample size – but since she’s covering the coasts of both Virginia and North Carolina, the more responses she gets the better.

Plus, there’s no real data on how many adult surfers there are in the study area, making the sample size required difficult to estimate.

Those who take the online survey and indicate that Virginia Beach is their local surf site will be also asked about the proposed surf park at the old Dome Site.

Lindsay Usher, PhD, an assistant professor of Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies at ODU, is looking for opinions of adult surfers in Virginia and North Carolina (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Lindsay Usher)
Lindsay Usher, PhD, an assistant professor of Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies at ODU. (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Lindsay Usher)

Usher said they felt it was a “hot topic” and so it was decided to include questions about the proposed site. Questions such as: Will they pay to use it when they use the ocean all the time that is one block away? Will it solve the issue of the variable quality of Virginia Beach surf so they can surf more here throughout the year? Are they excited? Do they think it is a bad idea? How do they think it will affect the local surf community?

Her father grew up surfing in Virginia Beach. Usher herself has been a kayak surfer since 1995, competing in four World Championships of Kayak Surfing. She’s been riding a board since 2008.

The survey will remain online though late August. After completing the survey, respondents can enter to win one of multiple $50 e-gift cards to Surfstitch or Quiksilver.

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