Surfing, gender and politics : identity and society in the history of South African surfing culture in the twentieth-century.

Thompson, Glen (2015-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is a socio-cultural history of the sport of surfing from 1959 to the 2000s in South Africa. It critically engages with the “South African Surfing History Archive”, collected in the course of research, by focusing on two inter-related themes in contributing to a critical sports historiography in southern Africa. The first is how surfing in South Africa has come to be considered a white, male sport. The second is whether surfing is political. In addressing these topics the study considers the double whiteness of the Californian influences that shaped local surfing culture at “whites only” beaches during apartheid. The racialised nature of the sport can be found in the emergence of an amateur national surfing association in the mid-1960s and consolidated during the professionalisation of the sport in the mid-1970s. Within these trends, the making and maintenance of an exemplar white surfing masculinity within competitive surfing was linked to national identity. There are three counter narratives to this white, male surfing history that have been hidden by that same past. Firstly, the history women’s surfing in South Africa provides examples of girl localisms evident within the masculine domination of the surf. Herein submerged women surfer voices can be heard in the cultural texts and the construction of surfing femininities can be seen within competitive surfing. Secondly, surfing’s whiteness was not outside of the political. The effects of the international sports boycott against apartheid for South African surfing were two-fold: international pressure on surfing as a racialised sport led to sanctions in the late 1970s against the amateur national surfing teams competing internationally or maintaining international sporting contacts; and, as of 1985, the boycott by professional surfers of events on the South African leg of the world surfing tour further deepened South African surfing’s sports isolation. By the end of the 1980s, white organised surfing was in crisis and the status of South African as a surfing nation in question. Lastly, the third counter-narrative is the silenced histories of black surfing under apartheid. Alongside individual black surfer histories, the non-racial surfing movement in the mid-to-late 1980s is considered as a political and cultural protest against white organised surfing. The rationale for non-racial sport was challenged in 1990 as South Africa began its political transition to democracy. Nevertheless, the South African Surfing Union, the national non-racial surfing body, played a pivotal role in surfing’s unification in 1991 which led to South African amateur surfing’s return to international competition in 1992. However, it was an uneasy unity within organised surfing that set the scene for surfing development as a strategy for sports transformation in the post-apartheid years. The emergence of black surfing localisms after 1994 is located within that history, with attention given to the promotion of young, male Zulu surfers within competitive surfing, which point to emergent trends in the Africanisation of surfing in the 2000s. It is concluded is that while cultural change in South African surfing is evident in the post-apartheid present, that change is complicated by surfing’s gendered and apartheid sporting pasts.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie is ‘n sosio-kulturele studie oor die geskiedenis van die sport van branderplankry in Suid-Afrika vanaf omstreeks 1959 tot 2000. Dit behels onder meer ‘n kritiese bespreking van die “Suid-Afrikaanse Branderplank Argief” wat in die loop van navorsing opgebou is. Daar word veral op twee temas in kritiese sport historiografie in suidelike Afrika gefokus. Die eerste is die wyse hoe branderplankry in Suid-Afrika as ‘n wit manlike sport ontwikkel het. Die tweede is of branderplankry as polities beskou kan word. Hierdie onderwerpe word onder die loep geneem deur te let op die dubbele witheid van Kaliforniese invloede wat die plaaslike kultuur op “slegs blanke” strande onder apartheid help vorm het. Die rasgebonde aard van die sport kan gevind word in die totstandkoming van die amateur nasionale branderplank vereniging in in die middel 1960s en is gekonsolideer met die professionalisering van die sport in die middel 1970s. Vervat in hierdie verwikkelinge is die vorming en instandhouding van ‘n besondere tipe manlikheid wat as ‘n ideaal tipe voorgehou is en deurmiddel van mededingende branderplank kompetisies aan ‘n nasionale identitieit gekoppel is. Daar is drie kontra narratiewe tot hierdie wit manlike geskiedenis wat deur dieselfde verlede verberg is. Eerstens is daar die geskiedenis van vroue branderplankry wat blyke gee van plaaslike vroue se betrokkenheid in dié oorheersende manlike domein. Gedempte vrouestemme klink op in kulturele tekste en die konstruksie van vroulike identiteite binne mededingende kompetisies.Tweedens was branderplankry se witheid nie onverwant aan die politieke dimensie nie. Die uitwerking van die internasionale sportsboikot teen apartheid was tweeledig: internasionale druk op branderplankry as ‘n rasgebonde sport het in die laat 1970s tot sanksies teen amateur spanne gelei wat oorsee meegeding het of internasionale kontakte gehad het, en sedert 1985 het die boikot van professionele branderplankryers van kompetisies in Suid-Afrika die land se isolasie verdiep. Teen die einde van die 1980s was wit georganiseerd branderplankry in ‘n krisis en die status van van Suid-Afrika as ‘n branderplankry nasie in die gedrang. Laastens is die derde kontra narratief die vergete geskiedenisse van swart branderplankryers onder apartheid. Samehangend met swart geskiedenisse word die nie-rassige branderplankry beweging in die middel 1980s as ‘n kulturele en politieke protes beskou. Die rasionaal vir nie-rassige sport is in 1990 uitgedaag tydens die oorgang na volledige demokrasie in Suid-Afrika. Desnieteenstaande het die Suid-Afrikaans Branderplankry Vereniging ‘n bepalende rol gespeel in organisatoriese eenwording in die sport en die hertoelating tot internasionale kompetisies in 1992. Dit was egter ‘n ongemaklike eenheid waarop transformasie gedurende die postapartheid fase gebou moes word. Die groter teenwoordigheid van plaaslike swart branderplankryers moet in dié konteks gesien word, veral ten opsigte van jong Zoeloe ryers wat alhoemee navore tree en op die Afrikanisering van die sport sedert ongeveer 2000 dui. Daar word ten slotte op gewys dat hoewel kulturele verandering in die huidige bedeling merkbaar is, die sport se geslagtelike en rasgebonde verlede nog steeds sake kompliseer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97064
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