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Guibert Christophe

Guibert Christophe
Vice-Dean of Research, Sociologist, University of Angers, France

Bio TBC

Presentation Title: Surfing waves: different desires. A combination of the granting of heritage status, privatization and monopolization
Presentation Day: Tuesday 14th March
Presentation Time: 11.30 - 11.50am

Abstract
The waves along coastal shorelines, understood as a form of "natural materiality", and the visibility of which is due mainly to their supposed quality for surfing, are a good way of identifying procedures related to differentiated appropriation (Guibert, 2006). Three processes under which the appropriation of waves takes place will be identified, each relating to the various expected benefits, be they political, economic or the creation of an "identity". In fact, depending on the one hand on the region and spatial layout and on the other hand the wishes of their users and/or other controlling factors, surfing waves can be either "granted heritage status" for the purposes of regional identification, monopolized more or less exclusively for the purposes of maintaining a form of solitude or simply privatized for purely economic benefits (Guibert, 2014). Analysis of ownership procedures allowing "natural" objects to acquire the quality of a recognized heritage symbol provides information about the variability of interests of those social groups affected and the underlying social logic. The waves along coastal shorelines, in the context of "natural materiality" and whose visibility is mainly due to their "quality" for surfing, are a good way of identifying differentiated appropriation procedures. From case studies, provided by qualitative empirical material (interviews, observation, photographs) and documentary resources (surf magazines, websites, ministarial documents) three appropriation process for waves will be identified, with reference to each of the various expected advantages. In fact, depending on the one hand on the region and spatial configurations and on the other hand users and forms of political regulation, surfing the waves can be "granted heritage status" for the purposes of regional identification - with a specific case in France, near Biarritz -, for exclusively economic advantages following the total privatization of surfing waves in the Maldives and then for maintaining a form of solitude in terms of a kind of exclusive monopoly of the area of activity by surfers in Hawaii (Walker, 2011), the Canary Islands, France. Considering differently the natural objects that are surfing waves then leads to the identification of very different purposes. The general question is therefore the following: how and for whom are surfing waves a form of regional, identifying or economic support used to feed desires? How can waves become "extraordinary" to the point of being at the center of open conflicts and exclusive interests? The ambition of this paper is therefore, from a common objective - waves dedicated to surfing activities - to swich the focus between the differentiated processes of appropriation: the granting of heritage status and then the privatization and monopolization. Individuals and groups "take possession" of natural heritage-related sites and assets. Social, spatial and political configurations mean that, at certain times in history, surfing waves - although geographically distinct - can be granted heritage status, privatized or monopolized. If the granting of heritage status to the "Parlementia" wave implies an embracing of heritage and territorial factors in the creation of spatial links (both individual and collective), the implication of the two mayors from the towns of Bidart and Guéthary means that the economy is not the priority for political interests (Bourdieu, 2000). In the Maldives and Fiji, economics are central to any appropriation of world famous "spots" even if the Fijian government now aims to use surfing as a structuring tool for their tourism offer. Ultimately, "localism" is another form of appropriation - more or less exclusive - of the waves by surfers claiming a kind of traditional domination. These varied interests in the appropriation process of surfing waves involve differentiated participants and forms of regulation. The analyses from the cases studied have, as such, enabled us to highlight the fact that natural resources may well be desired and subject to challenges arranged within a restricted framework of possibilities.

 

Presentation Title: The Mundaka wave in Spain: a territorial resource and a desired tourist effect
Presentation Day: Tuesday 14th March
Presentation Time: 11.30 - 11.50am

Abstract
Associating surfing activities with the Basque Country, in France, is commonplace. Whether in France or in Spain, surfing has been taking place here for decades: the associated links are significant, international-grade competitions are regularly organized and the "quality" of the waves attracts surfers from all around the world. For a long time surfing in France was confined to Biarritz and the south of the Landes region (Guibert, 2007) but from the early 1960s was exported to Spain. Spanish surfers explored the coastlines of Cantabria, the Basque Country and further afield in Galicia. Apart from towns like Zarautz, Deba and Santander where surfer numbers soon ran into the hundreds, one wave soon stood out from the rest due to its "world class" quality, the Mundaka, named after a small town near Bilbao, and less than two hours from the French border. In 1965, the Hawaiian champion G. Lopez, known for riding Pipeline (Hawaii’s famous wave), surfed here with a few locals. The myth soon spread and the Mundaka wave became commonly accepted by both journalists and professional surfers alike as "the best left-hander in Europe". It was not until 1999 that the competition became part of the WCT, the Word Tour Championship. The "Mundaka Billabong Pro" was a must-see stage on the Tour, held each October during the 2000s. However, the competition ended up being canceled in 2005 due to concerns over the quality of the wave: the sandbar which causes it was no longer providing the ideal swell. This article will help to illustrate firstly the dynamics of the local political authorities, especially the involvement of the abertzale council in Mundaka and the Billabong company, and secondly the strengthening of the status of Mundaka as a "Surfing City". How can surfing become a "political tool" and a "territorial resource" (Gumuchian, 2004) for local authorities? Methodology: interviews, press analyzes.(will be exposed at the symposium) Taking surfing as an object of territorial production, that is to say as an effect of symbolization , requires shedding new light on the subject of local authority policy (Guibert, 2006). In the case of Mundaka, it is a question of building up the region symbolically, so combining an "earth-bound" with an "aquatic" activity. Surfing activities require no infrastructure and the best sites for surfing may also change depending on weather conditions. Sandbars, which help provide high-quality waves, can move around at the mercy of storms and high tides. In other words, surfing is an activity that is undertaken in ephemeral circumstances which are difficult to "manage". Different from political communication, in which the short-term stakes are linked to a political campaign, territorial marketing corresponds to sustainable local identification coming from tourism advertising, the main challenge of which lies in creating or affirming this identification to ensure the involvement of a targeted audience. The case of the Mundaka "Billabong Pro" precisely reflects this political determination. But then 2005 became a landmark year in Mundaka’s history: the professional competition was canceled, the wave didn’t "work" anymore, and surfers left the beach for elsewhere. Since 1999, the quality of the waves each year have resulted in a successful stage of the WCT, the "Billabong Pro" being held here. But the upstream dredging of the river in 2005 gradually altered the currents and consequently the sandy bed located at the entrance to the estuary where the wave breaks. The quality of the wave-break initially worried local and professional surfers then the sponsor. As on the coast of the Aquitaine region, following a political party or an political "ideology" is not a criterion in and of itself. The prism of the traditional "left-right" divide or, in the case of the Basque Country, the nationalist prism does not explain the choice of local authorities in either favoring or rejecting professional surfing. This sporting option does not fit with any particular political leaning that adheres to a partisan logic.the "surfing show" is not incompatible with the presence of Basque culture or nationalist political ideology.