Frederique Penot is a young lecturer and a researcher at the University of Rennes 2, France, where she teaches her Master students English applied to International Trade, Marketing and Management, as well as the bits she knows about surf economics.
Her PhD research draws on Celtic sea folklore and myths, anthropology, surf photography and film work analysis, and is both a market-oriented examination and an ethnography study of surfing in Ireland. In association with Irish films production company Pockets Full of Water, she is currently working on a documentary series project that is supported by multidisciplinary academic research and structure. Her podcast series “Daoine na Mara – Tales from the Green Shores”, has just been launched and is meant to be a platform for collecting and sharing the stories she has collected from surfers along the coast of Ireland, aims to root the development of a distinct Irish surflore.
A land of tales and legends, of rebels and poets, the Emerald isle of green rolling hills is also the land of powerful ocean swells and solid surfs that have put Irish surfing on the global map. As Ireland’s surfing territories are being explored, shared and embraced, the recent spell of Irish surf filmwork and photography over the last decade has brought to light a striking series of dramatic, contemplative and imaginative portraits of the Irish winter waves.
This paper presents how, exploring the translations into images and words of the experience of surfing in Ireland through filmwork, photography, published accounts and stories collected from first-hand interviews of surfers along the Irish coastline, I rely on participant observational research methods, videography and an ethnographic study of the Irish surfing community. I offer a mythopoetical reading and understanding of those representations and narratives, which I propose to interpret as a distinctive social and cultural construct in the making: that of a growing, culturally expressive, ocean- and surfing-related material telling the tales of Irish waves and of the men and women riding them – an expressive body of culture my research has been defining and named “surflore”.
Qualitative analysis of the narratives collected has entailed proposing a method to organize, classify, and analyze those tales. This paper then presents how, drawing from the research methods of folkloristics, in particular the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification of Folk Tales, a system of classification and analysis is proposed to identify surflore narratives through motif and tale type numbers. Looking at the stories collected, common themes and features have been identified and assigned codes and titles, creating entries of classification then divided into more specific categories and sub-themes, thus facilitating a comparative study of the narratives.
The overall body of surflore has then been organised following a four-level progression, or four cycles, in accordance with the themes the stories rest on and the functions they serve. Comparative written publication and creative videography are two methods proposed in this paper for the sharing of the narratives collected; in particular, I have associated with Irish film productions company Pockets Full of Water in the designing of a documentary series entitled Daoine na Mara – People of the Sea to support and share the findings and analyses, as well as to elicit more stories from surfers across Ireland and generations.
Exploring the theme of identity formation through storytelling and the pivotal role of a founding and growing expressive body of culture that draws from the country’s ancient bardic traditions, popular culture and poetry, the research aims at assessing the place of surfing in Ireland’s local and national cultural landscapes.
For more information on the conference visit https://surfconf.sdsu.edu/