Female Surfers’ Perceptions of Regulatory Constraints and Negotiation Strategies


  • Lindsay E. Usher Old Dominion University
  • Edwin Gómez




gender, leisure constraints, negotiation strategies, regulations, skill level, surfing


In general, women face more constraints than men within outdoor or adventure recreation pursuits. Constraints for women include familial obligations, safety concerns, and societal norms. Women are often told they do not belong in highrisk, physically demanding adventure activities. Surfing is one form of adventure recreation that has increased in popularity among women in the past few decades. However, women continue to be a minority in the surfing population and face constraints in an environment dominated by men. Several studies have explored constraints women face in surfing but more research is needed. Even men who are learning to surf have encountered a hostile environment when entering surf breaks where highly skilled, hypermasculine men are at the top of the pecking order. There is also a lack of research on the ways in which regulations of recreation spaces may increase constraints for many populations, but especially women and men of lower skill levels, given the elevated number of constraints with which they already contend. This study aims to fill these gaps in the literature. The purpose of this study is to examine the ways in which women of varying skill levels experience and negotiate constraints to surfing during the summertime in an urban resort destination on the East Coast.Based on a sample of 407 surfers, the study provides important insights into women’s surfing experiences in the summertime in Virginia Beach. Analyses include t-tests, chi-squares and ANOVAs. Results indicate women felt more constrained by water quality problems than men. While an initial gender comparison did not reveal many significant findings, once skill level was included, more nuanced relationships were apparent. Intermediate/advanced women felt more constrained than beginner men by the hours of the regulations. Intermediate and advanced men and women were more constrained by the regulations in terms of where they could surf than beginner men. Beginner men and women felt less constrained than advanced men in having to maneuver around other surfers. Surprisingly, gender nor skill level was related to the way in which surfers negotiated constraints: none of the groups differed significantly in their negotiation strategies.The findings from the study may inform local surfer organizations of the potential for female members to be powerful environmental advocates. City managers may want to note the degree to which male and female advanced surfers are constrained by the hours and locations imposed by city regulations/ordinances. Expanding the surfing areas or reducing the hours may alleviate some of these constraints. Private businesses, such as surf businesses, could utilize these findings to better facilitate women’s surfing experiences through targeted surf camps or the provision of childcare or children’s programming.Subscribe to JPRA 

Author Biography

Lindsay E. Usher, Old Dominion University

Lindsay Usher is an assistant professor of Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies at Old Dominion University. Her research interests include surf culture, surf tourism and local communities and the development of sustainable coastal tourism.