This section highlights some of the key publications of the Center and its affiliated researchers. Links are provided where possible to the relevant journals and websites. Interested students and researchers can also contact the authors directly for access to this work where copyright allows it.

Liberalizing Nirvana

Ponting, J., & O’Brien, D. (2013). Liberalizing Nirvana: An analysis of the consequences of common pool resource deregulation for the sustainability of Fiji’s surf tourism industry. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. doi: 10.1080/09669582.2013.819879

In July 2010, the Fijian government issued a decree that liberalized Fiji’s surf breaks and deregulated its surf tourism industry. It did this by canceling licenses that granted resorts exclusive use of surf breaks based on indigenous customary ownership of foreshore and fringing reef fishing areas as common pool resources. This paper analyses the sustainability of surf tourism in Fiji, utilizing a developing framework for sustainable surf tourism. Based on broader sustainable tourism theory and empirical research, the framework considers (1) the impact of economic neo-liberalism, (2) the need for coordinated planning and limits to growth, (3) the advantages of systematic attempts to foster cross-cultural understanding, and (4) the social benefits associated with the development of surfing at the village level. The study found that a lack of regulation is compromising the sustainability of Fiji’s surf tourism industry in each of these four dimensions. However, evidence of a growing acceptance of the need for regulation by most stakeholders offers a starting point for a transactive, participative process to find solutions. A fifth element to the framework is recommended for future analyses based on the need for surf tourism to contribute to poverty alleviation in destination communities.

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Sustainable Surf Tourism: A community centred approach in Papua New Guinea

O’Brien, D., & Ponting, J. (2013). Sustainable Surf Tourism: A community centred approach in Papua New Guinea. Journal of Sport Tourism.

This research analyzes a strategic approach to managing surf tourism in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Surf tourists travel to often remote destinations for the purpose of riding surfboards, and earlier research suggests the mismanagement of surf tourism in some destinations has resulted in significant deleterious impacts on host communities. The research question in this study addresses how surf tourism can be managed to achieve sustainable host community benefits in the context of a developing country. Primary data came from semistructured interviews and participant observation. The findings demonstrate how sport governing bodies can engage host communities in a collaborative framework for the sustainable utilization of sport tourism resources. The derived knowledge from this research may decrease host communities’ reliance on less sustainable commercial activities, and inform policy and practice on sustainable approaches to using sport tourism for community building and poverty alleviation.

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Projecting Paradise: The surf media and the hermeneutic circle in surfing tourism

Ponting, J. (2009). Projecting Paradise: The surf media and the hermeneutic circle in surfing tourism. Tourism Analysis, 14(2), 175-185.

Imagery of perfect uncrowded surf in paradisaical tropical destinations has been the dominant theme in the surf media since its inception. The hermeneutic circle of representation in tourism has been explored in the context of tourism industry advertising material with tourists reproducing iconic images of destinations through their own photographic choices. This article extends such research by exploring the media’s role in driving a hermeneutic circle in the absence of tourism industry marketing. The article employs grounded theory method in an instrumental case study investigating the role of the surf media in the social construction of an idealized surfing tourist space. As well as providing the first empirical evidence of the relationship between the surf media and tourism demand, the article explores the symbolic elements of surfing tourist space, imagery of which drives a multi-billion-dollar global surf industry. The article expands the notion of the hermeneutic circle by looking beyond impacts on marketing and tourist behavior and questioning the implications of a tourism industry that continues to develop in remote, less-developed regions as an ad hoc response to demand fueled by media imagery of commercially created symbols designed to sell fashion items and consumer goods.

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The Sage Handbook of Tourism Studies

Wearing, S. L., & Ponting, J. (2009). Breaking Down the System: How volunteer tourism contributes to new ways of viewing commodified tourism. Chapter 15 In T. Jamal & M. Robinson (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Tourism Studies (pp. 254-268). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

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Consuming Nirvana: The Social Construction of Surfing Tourism Space

Ponting, J. (2009) Consuming Nirvana: The Social Construction of Surfing Tourism Space, Starbrucken, VDM Verlag, 228 pages.

In the twenty first century, imagery of ‘Nirvana’ (empty perfect waves breaking in remote exotic locations) fuels a multi-billion dollar global surf industry and drives surfing tourism to every surfable coast from Iceland to Antarctica. Focusing on Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands, home to the world’s richest surf fields and the largest fleet of surf charter boats ever assembled, this book develops a new theory of the social construction of surfing tourist ‘space’. This theory of ‘Nirvanification’ expands previous notions of tourist space and explores how socially constructed surfing tourist space is overlaid upon remote regions of developing nations such as the Mentawai, impacting host communities and environments as it goes. Understanding of the mechanics of Nirvana-building reveals the agency of stakeholders to improve existing models of surfing tourism development. The book will be of interest to academics and students in the fields of geography, sociology and tourism studies as well as surfers and surf industry professionals with an interest in making surf tourism a force for positive change and sustainable development.

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De-constructing Wonderland: Surfing tourism in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Ponting, J., McDonald, M., & Wearing, S. (2005). De-constructing Wonderland: Surfing tourism in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia. Society and Leisure, 28(1), 141-162.

The purpose of this paper is to deconstruct surfing tourist space (Wonderland) in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia, and to show the distribution of wealth generated through foreign tourists accessing local resources is inequitable and unsustainable. The discovery of world-class surf in this region in the early 1990’s spawned the rapid development of a foreign-controlled surfing tourism industry. This paper seeks to establish the notion of ‘tourist space’ as a conceptual tool for analysing the rise of surfing tourism in Indonesia based on 50 years of narrative, surf exploration and idealized media representations of uncrowded surf breaks and high adventure – in short, Wonderland. In the Mentawai context, a marketing synergy between foreign surf-tour operators, the media, and surfwear manufacturers have written local populations, government, and NGOs out of the ‘Wonderland’ equation. This paper analyses the construction of surfing tourist space in Indonesia by unpacking its components to reveal foundations historically based in surfer mythology. We argue that through a comparison with best practice principles of tourism development, a re-evaluation of self and other, and empowerment of community based organizations that a re-conceptualisation of tourist space may allow new, more effective foundations to be laid in pursuit of sustainable tourism development.

Buy This: De-constructing Wonderland: Surfing tourism in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia