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Waves of Fiction : Surfing in Australian Literature
Led by Dr Rebecca Olive
(Status : Public)
  • A research dataset in progress in 2019

  • Image credits, left to right: Norman Lindsay, frontispiece to 'A Recipe for Rubber', The Lone Hand, 1911; illustrator unknown, 'Julie Makes a Splash', Australian Women's Weekly, 8 March 1961; [Mandson], 'Ghost of a Dead Dream', Australian Women's Weekly, 23 February 1966; illustrator unknown, 'Joanne', Australian Women's Weekly, 27 November 1974.

  • About the Project

  • Surfing is a beautiful, romantic and mostly pointless pursuit: tanned bodies riding walls of water, waves blue and glittering, grey and heaving, green and wild, sunlight diffusing through the feathering peaks, people triumphantly exiting watery tubes or falling laughing into foam. The modern version of standup surfing that emerged from Hawai’i has been popular in Australia since the early 20th century and has become an ideal of Australian coastal life and culture. Surfers themselves have come to be symbols of contemporary health and vitality for young and old, their tanned, fit bodies defining ideas of freedom, youth, play and leisure. But what does it all mean?

  • How we’ve come to know surfing is most commonly associated with surf magazines and films, and we rarely consider how commonly surfing appears throughout Australian literature. While Tim Winton’s books and Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette’s story, Puberty Blues, have come to be the fiction most commonly associated with surfing, there is a much longer history that includes diverse genres, forms, characters and authors. Yet we know little of that collective body of work, nor what new things it can tell us about surfing, which, although so prolific in our coastal lives, remains little understood, even by surfers themselves.

  • Being able to follow the various threads of surfing that weave through Australian literature will deepen our understanding of how surfing has shaped our relationships to beaches, coastlines and oceans, and how surfing has contributed to a sense of being Australian. 

  • Identifying Records

  • Records affiliated with this project can be identified by the following icon, which appears to the right of work and agent records:

  • Surf sirens, Manly Beach, ca. 1940 (courtesy of the National Library of Australia)
  • Exploring the Project

  • Waves of Fiction is still in progress, but the link below will allow you to explore records currently affiliated with this dataset.

    Note: The search results will open in reverse-date order, showing most recently published material first. Results can be filtered using the tabs on the left (for example, limit to works by women writers) or reorganised using the drop-down menus along the top (for example, organise them alphabetically).

    Explore Waves of Fiction.

  • Project Team

  • Project Lead: Dr Rebecca Olive

    Rebecca Olive is a Lecturer in the School of Human Movement & Nutrition Sciences at The University of Queensland. She has been researching surfing for over 10 years, with a focus on surfing in everyday life and culture. Her scholarship is published across cultural studies, gender studies, sport sociology, media studies, and education, and she has been a consistent contributor to surf media, including as a contributing editor to Kurungabaa: A Journal of Literature, History and Ideas from the Sea.


    Research Assistant (Semester 1, 2018): Cassandra Mutch

    Cassie Mutch is an undergraduate student at The University of Queensland and is studying a dual degree in Communication and Arts. She is majoring in Writing and Mass Media, and minoring in Gender Studies. Through her internship with AustLit, she is working as a research assistant to Rebecca Olive. In her role as research assistant, Cassie is working to build and refine the database, index new works, and source further information.


    Research Assistant (Semester 2, 2018): Acacia Pohlner

    Acacia Pohlner is an undergraduate student at The University of Queensland completing her final year of a dual degree in Communication and Arts. She is majoring in Public Relations, Writing and Literature. Through her internship with AustLit, she is working as a research assistant to Rebecca Olive. In her role as research assistant, Acacia is working to build and refine the database, index new works, and source further information.

  • Image Credits

  • For images from magazines and periodicals, see captions for credits.

    All seascapes are taken from works from Russian maritime painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky.


    Introduction

    From top:

    Ship in the Stormy Sea ( Корабль среди бурного моря), 1887. Source.

    Bracing the Waves (Бодрящая волна), 1890. Source.

    Ship 'Empress Maria' in Storm (Корабль «Императрица Мария» во время шторма), 1892. Source.

    The Ninth Wave (Девятый вал), 1850. Source.


    Further Resources

    From top:

    Among the Waves (Среди волн), 1898. Source.

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