Episode 9: Meet Dr Javier Leon, creator of the Geography of Surfing course at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia
I was intrigued when I found out that the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) near Noosa, Australia, announced a new course called “Geography of Surfing” for Bachelor students. In the wake of this announcement, I had to talk to the course’s coordinator, Dr Javier Leon…
Listen to Episode 9 here
About My Guest, Dr Javier Leon
Javier is a USC professor, a bodyboarder and a longboarder, who has a PhD in Coastal Geomorphology. His passion has always been the ocean and his research has enabled him to work along coastlines around the world.
“I was gong through university curriculums and I saw this one which was a Geography degree. It had two courses: it had oceanography and coastal geomorphology. I didn’t know what coastal geomorphology was, but it had “coastal” and I read the little description and it said something about beaches and waves and I’m like, “Yep that’s it, that’s what I need to do” ”. — Javier Leon
After travelling the world to survey beaches and waves, Javier has spent the past 3 years preparing a new course called “Geography of Surfing” for undergraduate students. It’s a field elective at the USC near Noosa. He has and has curated a set of surf related subjects and research studies for his students. He has convinced the crème de la crème of Australian surfing legends to teach some of the subjects too.
“I’m very lucky because (…) my course is co-delivered with amazing people. I have for example Tom Wegener, who is this amazing shaper who is in the forefront of sustainability and he just got a PhD degree on sustainability of surfing. He will be delivering these courses and taking students to his workshop and showing them how to make surfboards with wood and cork.
I have Phil Jaratt who is this icon in surfing. He will be talking to my students about, not only (surfing) history, but also surfing and business because he’s played pivotal roles in the whole business.” — Javier Leon
I sometimes wish I was in my 20’s again, just to enroll in this awesome course. It is believed that this is the only course of its kind in Australia, and most probably, the world.
The Geography of Surfing elective includes lessons on the history of surfing, how surfing participates in the economy (a term called « surfonomics »), the impact of surfing on environmental management and many other fascinating surf related academic subjects.
If there is anything to take from this episode, it’s that academics and surfing go really well together. So go off and tell your parents (or your kids)! Dr Leon is a living breathing example of it. Also, taking the academic route in your career can be hard to start (you must study a lot) but the reward in life quality is immense.
You never know, work hard and with a bit of dedication, you could become a Doctor in Surfing!
“This guy (at University) is doing his PhD on “what makes a good cutback? ». He hooks up these sensors and then films, and collects all this data (accelerometers an stuff) and then he relates those numbers to what a good cutback looks like or is.
He goes to see judges, like Professional surfing judges, and they will go like “yeah this is an excellent cutback” and he’ll go back to his data. But it’s amazing, they can customize training programs for different people for different body shapes and sizes to optimise those types of things. So if you think about competitive surfing and if you think about the olympics this is just groundbreaking research.” — Javier Leon
With this academic approach to surfing, Javier and his colleagues are definitely pulverizing the beach bum archetype.
I guess you could say it’s about time!
In our conversation we also talk about the issues the surf destinations face with the gentrification of surf spots and the environmental management it imposes, the fascinating development of wave pools and the necessary protection of our coastlines. He even shares a tip on how to surf Noosa without the crowds!
I hope that it either encourages you (or your kids) to think about going to this awesome University. For the students (who know what a GPA is), there is no minimum GPA required, so just contact Dr Leon or the University via email for the admission procedures. Alternatively, you can go and meet him at the next Noosa Festival of Surfing in March 2019 where he and his students will be helping raise awareness on the sustainability of this surfers’ paradise.
I would like to give a massive thank you to Javier for getting up super early in the morning to be on this podcast. He was up at 4:00 am sharp to be in front of his computer and compromised a dawnie at Noosa (of all places), for the show!
Enjoy the episode.
Until next week, take care, have fun and enjoy the waves!
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Photos: Courtesy of Javier Leon, All Rights Reserved
To connect with Dr Javier Leon, his email is email@example.com.
About Phil Jaratt
About Tom Wegener
Book by Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren: Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers: Craft, Creativity and Cultural Heritage in Hawaii, California and Australia