Making waves: contesting the lifestyle marketing and sponsorship of female surfers

Document Type


Publication details

Franklin, R 2012, 'Making waves: contesting the lifestyle marketing and sponsorship of female surfers', PhD thesis, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Qld.

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The multi-billion dollar a year global surfing industry is in the main a male dominated sport. Major surfing companies consider lifestyle marketing and sponsorship of professional female surfers a perfect vehicle to develop its global industry further. This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of the impact of lifestyle marketing by Billabong, Rip Curl and Quicksilver/Roxy on sponsored female surfers. The research paradigm uses an interpretive approach based on Doris Lessing’s (1991) concept of conformity and Michel Foucault’s (1979) notion of surveillance and the technologies of the self. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with fifteen sponsored female surfers as well as representatives from targeted surf companies. Observations, field notes and analysis of surf-related material and websites were also used. Results from this study indicate that the attributes highly regarded in the sponsorship selection process of female surfers were surfing ability, an appropriate look or image, engaging personality and the ability to communicate effectively in public. The study concluded that lifestyle marketing by the three companies limits the number of female surfers who can compete on the professional surfing circuit. Furthermore, the commercialisation of the surfing industry has encouraged the continued use of sexualised images of sponsored female surfers to sell products and increase company profits which has served to devalue women’s surfing performance.