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Creating Our Own Lineup: Identities and Shared Cultural Norms of Surfing Women in a U.S. East Coast Community

Women’s participation in surfing has grown significantly in the past decade, yet few surfing studies include women’s perspectives. Using the communication theory of identity (CTI), I examine how surfing women in one community develop, enact, and negotiate their identities in this traditionally male lifestyle sport. Findings show that surfing women bring a more social, complementary style to the surfing lineup, while also identifying as serious surfers who are manifesting their own athletic abilities and relationships with the waves. Through participant observation and interviewing, I discuss how women create spaces in which to enact their gendered identities, how relationships with other surfing women strengthen these identities, and the strategies women enact to reduce discrepancies between erroneous portrayals and their own self-concepts. While CTI has mainly been used to study cross-cultural identities, this study expands its use to a sporting subculture while also adding to a body of surfing research that has largely excluded women.