Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


First Advisor

David Cotter

Second Advisor

Arsalan Khan




california surfer, surfing, Encinitas


For centuries, the practice of surfing has mystified the novelist, the missionary, the thrill-seeker, and the proximate spectator, alike. Though it has its roots in Polynesia, this wave-riding eventually globalized – spreading to and adapted by coasts worldwide. Through observation, interviews, and participation, this study examines the co-existence of supposedly competing notions of individuality and community as they manifest in the Encinitas (California) surfer, their community, and their pursuit of the waves. The study finds that while the individual surfer inscribes their own personal meaning on the pursuit, they (in the context of a ‘surf town’) are tied to other local surfers and the larger community by their shared passion for the pursuit and the sense of primacy for the pursuit in their lives. This cooperative duality is also found to be present in the practice itself. This project attempts to shed light on the value of supposedly peripheral (and trivial) pursuits and implicitly argues for greater attention given to them in social science research. Further, it attempts use the practice of surfing to explore larger ideas of self, togetherness, and community cohesion.