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FEATURE: New degree to allow surfers to use boards and books.

SYDNEY, July 12 Kyodo

Learning to surf?

Forget about going to the beach.

Try university!

Western Australia's Edith Cowan University will next year become the first in Australia, and the second in the world, to offer a three-year, science-based degree in surfing.

The driving force behind the new degree is Elizabeth Hatton, dean of regional and professional studies at the Bunbury campus near the famous wine-growing and surfing region of Margaret River, 200 kilometers south of Perth.

She warns that while it will offer students the chance to combine study with their love for surfing, applicants should not be under the illusion they'll spend three years on the beach.

''It's a rigorous degree...(surfing) is something that people love, but (the course) is seriously preparing them to be professionals in the workplace,'' Hatton told Kyodo News.

''They could work at the big companies like RipCurl or Billabong, or they could work in small to medium enterprises or even outside surfing in environmental management, coastal management and so on,'' she said.

A second-year student could expect to study the meteorology of waves, tides and beaches; competitive surfing event management; materials, design, technology and construction, including board-building; as well as business development and finance.

And yes, surfing.

''You could complete the degree without it but...you can indulge your passion and get a degree at the same time. There will be field trips to do surfing,'' Hatton said.

Despite its counter-culture image, the surf industry is a highly lucrative, global industry, she said.

''It's bigger than most people realize and they are looking for well-equipped professionals. (Surfing) has just grown in popularity, there's no stage in which it has waned,'' she added.

Alan Atkins, national director of the leading competition and surf-school organization Surfing Australia, said the most recent statistics from the mid-1990s show that in Australia alone the surf industry turns over at least A$1 billion (US$510 million) annually.

The figure -- which covers surfboard and accessory sales, magazines, events, coaching and tours -- leaps to at least A$5 billion worldwide.

The top surfing countries are the United States and Japan, followed by Australia, although surfing is also popular in Europe, Africa and South America.

''Surfing is regarded as one of the new age extreme sports and in that context is quickly gathering momentum worldwide,'' Atkins said.

The Bachelor of Science (Surf Science and Technology) is based on a similar, highly popular course already being offered at Plymouth University in southwestern Britain.

Hatton hopes that eventually a third university, possibly in the U.S., will begin offering a course so students could complete the degree by spending a year in each country ''so that we can offer a genuinely global surfing degree.''

Edith Cowan University has already begun fielding calls from interested students from across Australia and abroad.

''We've had a lot of students in their 20s who might not have contemplated a university degree if they hadn't found something they enjoyed,'' Hatton said.

Atkins said Surfing Australia was in discussions with the university over developing industry linkages and contributing to course content.

He said the unique degree would probably be a drawing card for surfers from around the world.

''I imagine that any surfing course would be adopted enthusiastically, as the opportunity to study and pursue one's lifestyle is everyone's dream. It is well known that international surfers are drawn to Australia's classic beaches and lifestyle and recognize Australian surfing expertise as best practice. The opportunity to study here for an overseas surfer is an enticing one,'' he said.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Jul 16, 2001
Words:590
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