Surfing Thailand

Surfing Thailand

SURFING THAILAND | SURF SCIENCE AND THE ANDAMAN SEA

Steven A. Martin, Ph.D. Environmental Management

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies in Sociology and Anthropology

A Learning Adventure for Students of 814-113 Thai Geography and 805-282 Environmental Studies

Click on images and photos to enlarge.

The Andaman Sea

The Andaman Sea is a salad bowl of high-salinity water topped with waves of mixed types and sources, outlined by an unpredictable volcanic ridge, and characterized by mysteriously deep ocean upwellings and currents, internal waves, and a stealthy world-leader in cyclogenesis.

In this Learning Adventure, I investigate the Andaman Sea and surfing in Thailand, including bathymetry, tides, wave types and directions, and swell windows.

Bali's Tipi Jabrik | Surfing at Kata Beach, Phuket

Backstory

In 2006, after seeing the waves in Phuket while on holiday, I wondered if I might be able to live and work on the island.

Prior to visiting Phuket, I had been a post-graduate student in Taiwan, and it had been great; but how about studying in Phuket? After learning about the International MBA program in Hospitality and Tourism Management being offered at the Prince of Songkla University, Phuket Campus, I decided to apply. The courses started in April 2007, just in time for the surf season on the Andaman Coast.

I packed my bags – and surfboards.

One of 800 hotels on the resort island of Phuket

I soon realized that surf tourism was a new and growing industry in Phuket, and my thesis adviser agreed it was an excellent research topic. Besides, what surfer wouldn't feel great strapping their surfboards on the car and heading to the beach to conduct field research?

I had been a surf tourist in 30 countries and owned a surf school in Hawaii which catered to tourists from all over the world, including celebrities and astronauts from NASA.

Surf travel was in my blood.

Environmental concerns and the protection of surf sites had always been important to me, and my master's thesis progressed into a coastal resource assessment of Phuket surf beaches. I looked at all sorts of issues, including water pollution, marine debris, the tin mining industry, water safety, and much more.

Eventually, my work on the Andaman Coast led to a doctoral scholarship, and in the years following, I developed the Surf Resource Sustainability Index (SRSI), earning me a Ph.D. in Environmental Management.

If you feel motivated to learn more about these topics, please visit my Surf Tourism Research page.

Surfing waves on Thailand's Andaman Coast

The Southwest Monsoon

The Southwest Monsoon is the driving force behind the surf on Thailand's Andaman Coast. The month of May signals the onset of steady westerly/ southwesterly winds, occasionally gusty and accompanied by fast-moving squalls and heavy rain. However, gloomy skies and heavy downpours tend to pass quickly, replaced by pillowy convection-born cumulonimbus clouds, shimmering sunbeams, and consistent head-high surf.

The Southwest Monsoon tapers off during October, giving way to cooler northeasterly winds during November. During this period, lucky locals may experience a few days with off-shore wind pushing up the faces of clean, Indian Ocean groundswells (see sections below on wave types and swell windows).

The Andaman weather wheel, shown here, illustrates from the inner cycle outward: monsoon season, approximate average rainfall in millimeters, wind types and directions, and expected storm activity and skies.

Andaman Coast weather cycle | Steven Martin ©

Typical day at the beach in Phuket during the Southwest Monsoon. Onshore winds and waves with passing heavy showers | Thai Geography

Typical day at the beach in Phuket during the Northeast Monsoon, with light winds and calm seas | Thai Geography

Andaman Surf Meteorology

Surf on the Andaman coast comes from a wide-range of sources and directions, and various wave types are generated by particular sets of weather phenomena. This is to say that depending on how, when, and where waves are generated, those arriving at Thailand’s Andaman coast beaches differ significantly.

Windsea, windswell and groundswell

In this article, three types of waves are discussed in terms of swell period, referring mainly to wave interval, that is, the amount of time it takes for two consecutive wave crests to pass through a determined point. The definitions offered here are slightly adjusted to better understand what we actually see on Thailand's Andaman Coast. Exact definitions can be found across various surf forecasting websites.

  1. Windsea refers to waves breaking very close together, perhaps just 6 to 8 seconds apart.
  2. Windswell refers to mainly to short period swells averaging around 9-12 seconds apart.
  3. Groundswell mainly refers to longer period swells, averaging 14 seconds or more.

In the widest sense, waves are generated at different distances from the coast. Waves resulting from weather patterns occurring near the Andaman Coast generally create a windsea condition. Windsea refers to waves accompanied by the wind which generated them and may look like waves breaking one right after another, resulting in mixed wave heights, a common sight at Phuket Beaches on stormy days.

Once the windsea condition passes, and the wind dies down, a rideable windswell may remain for several hours or several days.

Typical windswell in Phuket during the Southwest Monsoon (May to October)

In contrast, groundswells generated by weather systems in the Indian Ocean may travel great distances, pass through the The Great Channel, between Banda Ache and Great Nicobar Island, and provide clean, long-period surfing waves.

If comparing the consistent, almost daily windswell arriving at Thai beaches during the Southwest monsoon, groundswells are characterized as more powerful, offering longer rides, and having more time between waves. While different wave types may be common knowledge among surfers, types of windswells and groundswells vary considerably in Thailand based on a number of factors.

For example, swells with a 15-second or more wave period, generated as far away as Madagascar in the Southern Indian Ocean, as compared to swells with a 10-second wave period generated south of Sri Lanka in the southern Bay of Bengal. Low pressure systems in the Bay of Bengal have potential to push large waves through The Great Channel or Ten Degree Channel (see maps below) with considerable force, creating big surf in Phuket, similar to what one might expect in Indonesia or Hawaii.

Worthy of note, The Great Channel is much wider, deeper, and open to Indian ocean wave activity compared to The Ten Degree Channel.

Typical groundswell in Phuket

The three most obvious sources of ocean swell activity and associated swell directions relative to the Andaman coast of Thailand are as follows:

  • Monsoonal wind flow which propagates southwesterly to westerly windsea and windswell.
  • Groundswell generated in the southern or central Indian Ocean which produces southwesterly swells.
  • Regional cyclonic activity, including tropical depressions, storms, and cyclones, which may propagate a variety of swell types and directions.

Andaman Surf Meteorology | Swell types | Steven Martin ©

Each type of weather phenomena and its associated swell type and direction create various surfing conditions on the Andaman Coast which may range in size and ‘surfability’ from one coastal area to another. Swell direction is highly significant given that the swell window for each province varies considerably.

For example, provinces north of Phuket are open to southerly and southwesterly swell directions, compared to provinces south of Phuket, which are mainly exposed to westerly swell directions or rarely occurring northerly swells resulting from regional cyclonic activity (see Andaman Coast Swell Windows, below).

Classification of Storms in Thai Waters

The classification of weather and large storms varies from country to country around the world. For example, a tropical storm in one country may be considered a tropical depression in another country. Consequently, communication and clarification regarding the exchange of data among various national weather bureaus is of the utmost importance, especially when issuing storm warnings and in terms of public safety awareness.

In Thai waters, the following criteria apply:

  • Tropical depression is categorized as a weather system which produces winds up to 59 km/hr
  • Tropical storm produces winds of 60-119 km/hr
  • Cyclone produces winds of over 119 km/hr

Surfers at Nai Harn Beach, Phuket

Andaman Coast Swell Windows

Primarily a factor of geography, Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands block or shadow the vast majority Indian Ocean swells from reaching Thailand’s Andaman Coast. Consequently, the surf along Thailand’s Andaman Coast is generally much smaller on a given day compared to the South-Western coasts of Sumatra, the Mentawai Islands, Java, Bali, etc., which are highly exposed to the Indian Ocean.

The news isn't all bad, a gap between Banda Aceh and Great Nicobar Island offer a ‘swell window’, an opening through which waves can pass through, such as between islands or around points of land.

In order for Indian Ocean swells to reach Phuket, they must pass through The Great Channel, a swell window limited from roughly 230 degrees west-southwest through 245 degrees west-southwest depending on a given swell direction. Although a narrow window, the Banda Aceh/Nicobar gap allows enough Indian Ocean surf though to provide year-round surprises for local surfers.

As in navigation, wind and wave directions for meteorology and swell directions follow the numbers of the compass (a 360° circle) where 0/360° is North, 90° is East, 180° is South, and 270° is West. Waves traveling from a particular source or direction are labeled as coming from that direction in terms of the compass relative to the point of arrival. This is to say that if Phuket is the arrival point, we can set the center of the compass over Phuket and measure the direction of the incoming swell (see map below).

Andaman Coast groundswell windows and wave refraction | Steven Martin ©

Thailand’s Andaman Coast occasionally receives big surf generated in the northern Indian Ocean and southern Bay of Bengal. Lucky days for surfers are those when the swell direction finds an open window enters the Andaman Sea at full-face value. Such was the case for the July 2008 Kalim Surfing Contest, which saw clean overhead waves on the day of the finals. The unusually big surf came from low pressure system not far from Sri Lanka.

2008 Phuket Surfing Contest

Ocean swells passing through The Great Channel or The Ten Degree Channel 'refract' or bend, thus changing direction upon entering the Andaman Sea and may reach coastal areas north and south of Phuket (see groundswell windows and wave refraction map).

The science of wave refraction also helps to explain why the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, generated on the opposite side of Sumatra from Phuket, was able to bend around Banda Aceh, the western tip of Sumatra, and strike the Malaysian Peninsula. As tsunamis travel at great ocean depths, speeds, and volumes, the rate of refraction is additively great.

Andaman Coast Swell Windows | Steven Martin ©

Andaman Coastal Bathymetry

Bathymetry, or seafloor topography, varies at different latitudes along Thailand’s Andaman Coast and this greatly affects wave speeds and heights. Waves approaching a particular coast from deep water travel faster and carry more energy and power than waves approaching over shallow water, such as when they pass over a continental shelf before reaching the shore.

Notably, the deepest water on Thailand’s Andaman Coast is found near Phuket; hence, Phuket generally has the most powerful waves regardless of the fact that provinces to the north may have a better swell window to the southern Indian Ocean.

Surf beaches and bathymetry | Phuket, Thailand | Steven Martin ©

All six of Thailand's Andaman provinces have a continental shelf. The shelf averages approximately 100 km wide in the north (Ranong Province), narrowing to 25 km in the middle (Phuket Province) and widening to about 130 km in the south (Satun Province).

Andaman coastal seafloor topography | Phang nga, Phuket, and Krabi Provinces | Steven Martin ©

Tides

Tides along Thailand’s Andaman Coast are semi-diurnal, meaning there are two high tides and two low tides daily, with spring heights of up to approximately 3.6 meters and neap tides down to approximately .6 meter.

Generally, the maximum tidal amplitude, or the magnitude of change in an oscillating tidal variable, in Phuket is approximately 3 meters; however in some areas of the Andaman Sea, amplitudes can reach as much as 7 meters.

Low tide at Cape Coral | Andaman Coast, Thailand

The few reef breaks along the Andaman Coast are highly ‘tide dependent’ in terms of surfing. For example, these areas may become exposed reefs on low tide and have rideable waves on medium to high tides.

Conversely, waves at many beach breaks become too thick and slow on high tides, and are often better surfed on incoming or medium tides.

Exceptions to the rules occur when the waves are big – when indeed, anything goes!

Mysterious Andaman Sea

Seafloor topography

The average depth the Andaman Sea is approximately 1,000 meters (3,200 ft), while the western and central areas are particularly deep at 900 to 3,000 meters (3,000–10,000 ft). The northern parts are much shallower due to the silt deposited by the Irrawaddy River, as are the coastal areas of Myanmar and Thailand due the continental shelf.

Salinity

At an average salinity of 32 parts per thousand, the Andaman Sea is especially salty. Due to the fresh water entering the sea from the Irrawaddy River in the extreme north of the sea, slightly higher salinity occurs in southern areas near Thailand. The influx of cool, fresh water is a contributing factor to the development of low pressure systems and cyclones in the region (see cyclogenesis below).

Geology

Along with the Nicobar island chain, The Andaman Islands form a natural back-arc basin which defines the Andaman Sea. The western area of the sea is dynamic with seismic activity along a zig-zag north-south line where the seabed demarks the boundary between the Burma plate and the Sunda Plate.

As a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the sea floor was uplifted by several meters in some areas. This area is home to the only active volcano connected with the Indian subcontinent.

Deep sea currents

Deep sea currents in the Andaman change considerably with the monsoon seasons from south-easterly and easterly during winter months (December to March), and south-westerly and westerly during summer months (June to September). The changes in currents affect sea temperatures and salinity in various parts of the sea.

Internal waves

Peculiar to the Andaman Sea is the occurrence of ‘internal waves’, which are essentially underwater waves which can travel across the sea and sometimes surface to form the mysterious ripples recorded by early seafarers in the region. Caused by the mixing of different water temperatures and densities in relation with deep-sea currents, internal waves are comparable to oil and vinegar in a jar: when lightly shaken, a sub-surface wave forms where the different fluid densities meet.

Cyclogenesis

Cyclogenesis is the birth of large spinning storms, a low-pressure weather phenomenon particularly dynamic to the Andaman Sea. (Kumar et al, 2008) Although cyclones are normally associated with a weather phenomena related to the equator, the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea are potentially energetic for the development of strong cyclonic storms and account for about seven percent of the total number of cyclones in the world annually (Mohanty et al., 1994).

In teaching Thai Geography for nearly a decade, I find that this topic, that is, giant storms often generated just northwest of Thailand's Andaman Coast, is rarely ever mentioned, save for my classroom discussions. With some of the largest and most destructive storms in the world are generated near Phuket, why aren't Phuketians aware?

In my experience, the reason is that these weather systems are not on most citizen's radar is that as they form, they actually draw the clouds and moisture away from Phuket, pulling them anti-clockwise into the center of the storm. Thus, as Andaman cyclones form, Phuket tends to have spectacularly clear weather. While this is certainly not always the case, according to historical records dating back to 1000 AD, not a single Andaman-born cyclone has moved towards Phuket. Rather these storms characteristically track in a west-northwesterly direction toward the Andaman Islands, making landfall in India, Bangladesh or Myanmar.

Exemptions to the rule include Pacific-born hurricanes that cross the Malaysian Peninsula and enter the Andaman Sea, such as Harriet in 1962, the deadliest tropical cyclone in Thai history, responsible for nearly 1,000 deaths.

Worthy of mention, cyclones born in the Andaman Sea have long lifespans and are among the most devastating in history (Pentakota et al., 2018). For example, Cyclone Nagris which hit Myanmar on May 2, 2008.

Thai surfers – watch for rare, yet epic, cyclone-generated north-westerly swells hitting southerly provinces either early or late in the surf season!

Thank you for visiting my Surfing Thailand page.

I hope you enjoy my photos and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to travel to the Thailand, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Online resources by author

If you're interested to learn more about my MA or PhD theses, or other academic publications, please visit my surf tourism research page.

Typical small, fun surfing conditions in Phuket

Monsoon Boogie Phuket | June 1, 2022

Surf Tourism Research

Surf Tourism Research

SURF TOURISM RESEARCH AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT OF SURFING SITES 

One of my favorite research areas is surf tourism, especially when addressing the conservation of coastal surfing resources. It has been a great way to bring together my personal experience in surfing, surf travel, managing an international surf school (1998-2003), and academic research.

Celebrities from Bangkok try surfing for the first time in Phuket

Conducting Surf Tourism Research in Phuket, Thailand | Click to Phuket Gazette News

My personal experience and research indicate that the world's surfing breaks are iconic locations worthy of protection for future generations. Surf sites are also significant economic engines for local communities with sustainability a key issue.

To address these problems, I developed the Surf Resource Sustainability Index (SRSI pdf), a methodology aimed at measuring the conservation aptitude at surf sites. SRSI is a metric-orientated planning and development methodology – a theoretical compass which points toward sustainability, representing the summation of assessable qualities or attributes a site possesses which can make a positive contribution to sustainability.

NEWS | Surfers save the Eisbach River wave in downtown Munich, Germany

The Eisbach River Wave (Eisbachwelle) is one of the best and most consistent city-center river surfing spots in the world.

When local authorities planned to destroy the Eisbachwelle, local and international surfers responded with a public campaign and online petition to "save the wave"... Read more...

NEWS | Surfing the Eisbach River Wave | Munich, Germany


Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Management

Thesis Title: A Surf Resource Sustainability Index for Surf Site Conservation and Tourism Management

Abstract

Surf sites around the world are under ever-increasing pressures from tourism, coastal development, pollution and other anthropogenic factors, and this research introduces and illuminates surfing areas as integral natural resources. The dissertation develops a Surf Resource Sustainability Index (SRSI) and presents it through a series of three peer-reviewed journal papers. The SRSI is designed as a global model and framework of indicators and methods for the assessment of surf site conservation attributes. A systematic literature review of surf tourism research was used in conjunction with the author’s personal experience and discussion with experienced surfers and scholars to develop twenty-seven sustainability indicators. Framing them as social, economic, environmental and governance indices, the study defines the criteria, implications and applicability for each indicator in context. A progression of field studies was carried out in Phuket, Thailand, where an emerging surf tourism market segment is additive to the island’s bustling tourism economy and escalating coastal resource management issues. The SRSI has proven effective in assessing sites and pinpointing key areas of concern. SRSI metrics are particularly applicable to the cross-sectional evaluation of surf sites and serve as a direct method in the prioritization of sites for surfing reserve development. This research contributes to the fields of surf resource conservation and tourism management through the innovation and application of a new and pragmatic methodology.

Keywords: coastal management, conservation, sustainability indicators, surf resource sustainability index, surf tourism, Phuket, Thailand

My PhD process

My PhD was research-based and followed a standard protocol set forth by the Faculty of Environmental Management. I was required to prepare a qualifying exam, supplemental exam, thesis proposal, thesis defense, thesis poster, and three international journal publications.


Master of Business Administration in Hospitality and Tourism Management

Thesis Title: Coastal resource assessment for surf tourism in Thailand

Abstract

Framed as an exploratory research of Thailand’s physical environment, this study identifies and assesses the natural surfing resources of the Andaman Coast, including the sources, types and locations of waves in relationship to the regional and coastal topography. Underpinning the research is the collection and review of the literature on coastal resource management, surfing in Thailand, and the scholarly works pertaining to surf tourism. From a social science standpoint, personal interviews with Thai and foreign resident surfers, tourists, and members of local communities were carried out. The investigation locates a wide range of areas suitable for surf tourism and indicates that Thailand’s natural resources are somewhat limited and coupled with issues of water quality, ocean safety, regularity and quality of surfing waves, and the accessibility to remote coastal areas during the southwest monsoon. The study finds that surf tourism in Thailand is at a stage of infancy, has potential, and affords an opportunity to develop sustainably. The research advances the overall understanding of surfing in Thailand and offers a series of recommendations for the coastal resource management and conservation of surfing areas.

Keywords: surf tourism, coastal resource, coastal assessment, Andaman, Phuket, Thailand


Academic papers and publications

Martin, S. A. (2022). From shades of grey to Web of Science: A systematic review of surf tourism research in international journals (2011–2020). Journal of Sport & Tourism. https://doi.org/10.1080/14775085.2022.2037453

Previous research outlined the genesis of a new body of surf tourism research based on a wide array of grey and published literature (Martin & Assenov, 2012). The aim of this paper is to further investigate the development of the field through an evidence-based informetric analysis of international journal articles listed in Web of Science or Scopus databases. Employing a systematic review of journal papers published from 2011 to 2020, the study addresses the previous grey literature problem of accessibility and eligibility criteria for citation. Findings are drawn from explicit and tangential studies which capture an up-to-date overview of the evolution of surf tourism research. The study identifies active journals, authors, field locations, and leading areas of research, suggesting that the field has entered a period of ‘academic professionalization’. A bibliography of 96 journal articles presents academics and readers with a corpus of accessible research.

Keywords: citation criteria; Scopus; surf tourism research; systematic review; Web of Science


Martin, S. A., & Ritchie, R. (2019). A social science index and conceptual framework for assigning weights in surf tourism planning and development.Tourism Planning and Development, 16(3) 281–303. https://doi.org/10.1080/21568316.2018.1470999

This paper develops a social science weighting schema for surf tourism planning and sustainable development, eco-tourism, and conservation studies using surf tourism as a representative worked example. Assessment scores from a previously published surf resource sustainability field study of nine beaches in Phuket, Thailand, were weighted against data taken from surveys of expert scholars and surfers from a range of diverse backgrounds. The study measured levels of significance among weighted and unweighted means and bias ratio for 27 social, economic, environmental and governance indicators. Differences between scores and weighted scores were, in general, low, but this was not the case in key areas of concern, notably governance, and areas where poor governance had negative consequences, such as water quality. The findings indicate that analysis of weighted data helps identify key metrics. We show that analysis of weighted data provides insights not apparent from working on unweighted data. The procedures and weighting strategies employed in this research can be used for tourism planning and other related research activities which use interview data, such as research on, ecotourism, national park surveys, amateur fishing, snorkeling and reef tours. This study provides a conceptual framework for comparisons of different studies using similar protocols.

Keywords: conservation; surf resource sustainability index; surf tourism; Thailand; tourism planning; weights


Martin, S. A., & O'Brien, D. (2017). Part 2: A systems approach – Chapter 2. Surf resource system boundaries. In G. Borne and J. Ponting (Eds.), Sustainable surfing (pp. 23–38). Routledge: London.

Ch.2 (pp. 23–38) PDF

Read more...

Introduction

A ‘system boundary’ is a theoretical concept in environmental science representing the intersecting and interrelated human and physical elements in the natural world at a given site. This chapter develops a system boundary discussion on surf sites, recognizing ‘surf system boundaries’ as more than the beach and sea; they encompass numerous stakeholder interests and factors related to the scope of the ‘whole’ surf system as a sustainable and dynamic model. The following discussion serves to review and broaden the knowledge of surf system boundaries and provide clarity in two sets of dimensions: the physical boundaries of surf sites and the resource stakeholders.

Keywords: surf tourism; surf resource; system boundaries; environmental management

University News: Dr. Steven Andrew Martin Recognized for Social Science Research and Publication in Environmental Studies with a New Book Chapter on Surf Resource System Boundaries.


Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2015). Measuring the conservation aptitude of surf beaches in Phuket, Thailand: An application of the surf resource sustainability index. International Journal of Tourism Research, 17(2) 105–117. https://doi.org/10.1002/jtr.1961

Abstract

The research seeks to measure the conservation aptitude of nine surf beaches in Phuket, Thailand by employing the Surf Resource Sustainability Index, an assessment methodology comprising 27 social, economic, environmental and governance indicators used to frame and quantify attributes for conservation development. The research identifies and documents key areas of concern for the sustainability of the island's coastal surfing resources and distinguishes steps forward to address emergent issues. The study finds that by improving the awareness, legislative status and management of surfing sites, the overall conservation aptitude for the island could be raised considerably.

Keywordssurf resource sustainability index; surf tourism; conservation; Phuket, Thailand


Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2014). Investigating the importance of surf resource sustainability indicators: Stakeholder perspectives for surf tourism planning and development. Tourism Planning and Development11(2) 127–148. https://doi.org/10.1080/21568316.2013.864990

Abstract

The sustainability and conservation of coastal surfing resources have gained considerable attention in the twenty-first century. Scholars, graduate students, not-for-profit organizations, and commercial and governmental sectors have entered the surf tourism research field in order to better understand and manage surf sites. This research investigates the significance of 27 social, economic, environmental, and governance indicators outlined in the Surf Resource Sustainability Index, a contemporary methodology for measuring the conservation aptitude of surf sites. Twenty-one highly experienced surfers from diverse backgrounds were chosen for in-depth interviews based on their position as key stakeholders and for their practical experience, knowledge, and interaction with the resource. The study finds that surfers placed the highest importance for conservation aptitude on beach quality, water quality, legislative status, biodiversity, and history. Overall, environmental and governance indicators were slightly more significant than social indicators, and economic indicators were the least significant. Stakeholders' comments and corresponding ratings are listed for each indicator and provide insight to their perspectives and evaluations. The research contributes to surf tourism planning and development though the clarification of sustainability indicators and the discernment of indicator importance by surfers. A surf resource conservation action matrix is developed for future policy design and management.

Keywords: sustainability indicators; surf resource sustainability index; surf tourism; conservation aptitude


Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2014). Developing a surf resource sustainability index as a global model for surf beach conservation and tourism research. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 19(7) 760–792. https://doi.org/10.1080/10941665.2013.806942

Abstract

The growth of surfing activities and surf tourism has gained significant attention in the academia during the past decade. This paper is aimed at developing a framework of indicators and methods used in assessing the sustainability factors of surf sites. The research puts forward a Surf Resource Sustainability Index (SRSI) as a conceptual model to study the sustainability of surf tourism sites. The literature review, previous experience, and discussion with veteran surfers and scholars were used to develop indicators and determine their measurability and aptitude. Index pilot testing was carried out in Phuket, Thailand, where an emerging surf culture and tourism market segment add to the island's bustling economy and coastal resource-management issues. The case study underpins the importance of social, economic, environmental, and governance factors in the conservation process. The SRSI metrics provide a direct method for assessing surf sites and offer tangible benefits to surfers and other stakeholders.

Keywords: surf tourismcoastal resourcessustainability indicatorsindexThailand

Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2012). The genesis of a new body of sport tourism literature: A systematic review of surf tourism research (1997-2011). Journal of Sport and Tourism, 17(4), 257–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/14775085.2013.766528

Abstract

Surf tourism is a rapidly expanding market segment of the wider sport tourism industry and the purpose of this study is to provide an analytical interpretation of surf tourism research. Published and unpublished literature from 1997 through to 2011 was collected through searching a variety of academic databases and communicating directly with the authors themselves. A systematic review was employed to identify and analyze the types of research emerging from international journals, universities, governments, and the not-for-profit sector. The study indicates a genesis in sport tourism literature, representing a new and available body of surf tourism research. We find that this new area of research has arisen mainly from the grey literature through the works of graduate students and consultants. Surfing events, artificial surfing reefs, and the sustainability of surf sites and host communities are among the most prolific areas under discussion and key arguments include socioeconomics, coastal management, and sustainable tourism. Approximately 10% of countries in the world with coastal surfing resources have been studied, and this and other findings indicate the potential for new areas of research in domestic and international tourism. A bibliography provides 156 documentary materials compiled for the systematic review.

Keywords: surfingsurf tourismliterature reviewsustainabilitycoastal management

Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2011). Beach and coastal survey of Thailand: What future for surf tourism. Journal of Tourism, Hospitality & Culinary Arts, 3(1), 77–87.

Abstract

Surfing and surf tourism run parallel: they are focused upon location-specific destinations where natural resources and phenomena occur conducive to the sport, and traveling for the sake of surfing new places is as old as the sport itself. The research investigates the broad environment of Thailand through the survey and assessment of coastal resources in order to determine the plausibility of developing surf tourism in Thailand. The study also examines surf tourist characteristics in Phuket, Thailand, through unstructured and semi-structured personal interviews. The research identified five Thai provinces best suited for surf tourism and suggests that there are suitable locations for surfing and surf tourism, including those for advanced, intermediate, and beginner surfers. A Thailand-specific definition for surf tourism is put forward, reflecting the natural environment and the characteristics of current surf tourists. The paper identifies future prospects, challenges, and issues for developing sustainable surf tourism in Thailand.

Keywords: surf tourism; sustainable surfing; surf site assessment; Thailand


Global Surf Cities Conference, Surfer's Paradise, Australia

In 2013, I was invited to give several talks to the international surfing community at the Global Surf Cities Conference in Australia. I was asked to present research on the Surf Resource Sustainability Index (SRSI) and the surf tourism industry in Phuket, Thailand. Please click the buttons below to view or share these presentations.

  • Kirra Hill Community and Cultural Centre
  • Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
  • Wednesday, 27 February – Friday, 1 March, 2013

Presenting the Surf Resource Sustainability Index at the Global Surf Cities Conference on the Gold Coast, Australia


National and International Surfing Reserves

Surf tourism is a new and dynamic area of research, with most studies targeting the economics and sustainable management of coastal resources, including stakeholder perspectives, conservation, water quality and biodiversity of marine organisms (Martin & Assenov, 2012).

Brad Farmer, a leading advocate for the "Conservation of oceans, waves and beaches, and the salty communities who share them," and global chair of the non-profit organization National Surfing Reserves (NSR), met with me in Phuket to discuss my research and the protection of surf sites in Thailand for future generations (Phuket Gazette, 2011).

Meeting in Phuket, Thailand, with Australian Brad Farmer from National Surfing Reserves | Click to Phuket Gazette News

Conservation Leadership

Farmer is an outstanding example of personal commitment and proactive engagement in surf site conservation. He developed the Surfing Reserve program in order to recognize surf sites as "Iconic places of intrinsic environmental, heritage, sporting and cultural value, and to embrace all peoples to enjoy, understand and protect special coastal environments of universal value to the surfing world" (NSR, 2017). Farmer maintains the core values of conservation: "A Surfing Reserve does not attempt to exclude any user group."

For more information, please surf to these websites:

NSR – National Surfing Reserves

WSR – World Surfing Reserves


Nalu Longboarder's Magazine (Japan) – Surf Tourism Research in Phuket

In 2008, Japanese surf magazine "Nalu" came to Phuket to write a story featuring the island's waves and my surf tourism research. The article, written by Riku Emoto and photographed by Yasuma Miura, was centered on the concept of a surfer conducting research on surfing for an academic degree (published in Japanese).


Conferences and Proceedings

In recent years, I have been active in presenting surf tourism research at conferences and raising awareness of the value and significance of surfing as a coastal resource.

At the 18th Asia Pacific Tourism Association Annual Conference (APTA) in 2012, "Towards a surf resource sustainability index: A global model for surf site conservation and Thailand case study" won the Best Paper Award (Green Aspect on Tourism Development Research), selected out of 171 papers.

Martin, S. A. (2009). Rethinking the monsoon: Sustainable surf tourism in Thailand. Paper presented at the International Tourism Conference on Sustainable Hospitality and Tourism Management: Beyond the Global Recession. Silpakon University, Bangkok, Thailand, May 14–15.

Martin, S. A. (2010). The conservation of coastal surfing resources in Thailand: The Andaman Sea. Proceedings of the International Conference on the Environment and Natural Resources (ICENR) 2010  The Changing Environment: Challenges for Society (pp. 262–280), Mahidol University, Salaya Campus, Bangkok, Thailand, November 10–12.

Martin, S. A. (2013). Surf tourism and resource sustainability in Phuket, Thailand. Scholarly presentation [PowerPoint]. Global Surf Cities Conference: Destination Innovation Collaboration, Kirra Hill Community and Cultural Centre, Gold Coast, QLD, February 28 – March 1. Gold Coast: Gold Coast Surf City, Inc.

Martin, S. A. (2013). The surf resource sustainability index and Thailand case trial. Scholarly presentation [PowerPoint]. Global Surf Cities Conference: Destination Innovation Collaboration, Kirra Hill Community and Cultural Centre, Gold Coast, QLD, February 28 – March 1. Gold Coast: Gold Coast Surf City, Inc.

Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2008). Beach and coastal survey: What future for surf tourism. CD Proceedings of the 7th Asia Pacific Forum for Graduate Students’ Research in Tourism – Advances in Tourism Practices: Pointing the Way Forward (p. 12). University Teknologi Mara, Selangor, Malaysia, June 3–5.

Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2008). Interdisciplinary approaches toward sustainable surf tourism in Thailand. Paper presented at the 1st PSU Sustainability Conference. Prince of Songkla University, Phuket Campus, Thailand, November 19–21.

Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2011). A statistical analysis of surf tourism research literatureCD Proceedings of the 4th Annual PSU Research Conference: Multidisciplinary Studies on Sustainable Development (p. 57). Prince of Songkla University, Phuket, Thailand, November 16–18.

Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2012). Measuring the importance of social, economic, environmental and governance indicators for the surf resource sustainability index. Proceedings of the 1st Annual PSU Phuket International Conference: Multidisciplinary Studies on Sustainable Development (p. 51). Prince of Songkla University, Phuket, Thailand, January 10–12, 2013.

Martin, S. A., & Assenov, I. (2012). Towards a surf resource sustainability index: A global model for surf site conservation and Thailand case studyProceedings of the 18th Asia Pacific Tourism Association Annual Conference (APTA) Hospitality & Tourism Education: New Tourism & New Waves (pp. 745–760). Taipei, ROC, June 26–29. Busan, Korea: School of International Tourism, Dong-A University. [+ best paper award]

Martin, S. A., Assenov, I., & Ritchie, R. (2014). Towards a social science index and conceptual framework for assigning weights in sustainability research. Proceedings of the 3rd Annual PSU Phuket International Conference: Multidisciplinary Studies on Sustainable Development (p. 70). Prince of Songkla University, Phuket, Thailand, November 13–14. [+ best paper award]

Thank you for visiting my Surf Tourism Research Page.

I hope you enjoy the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to learn more about surf tourism or the environmental management of surf sites, or would like to arrange a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Food Environment

Food Environment

YOUR FOOD ENVIRONMENT | WHEN OUTSIDE BECOMES INSIDE

Welcome to "Food Environment", an emerging paradigm in Environmental Studies – A new way to think about food.

Intended learning outcomes include students gaining the ability to talk about personal and public health, diet and nutrition, and how personal choices and responsibility impact sustainability and the environment.

Food Environment Class at Prince of Songkla University

The environment flows into us through food

Our relationship with the environment is most intimate in our choice of what we put into our bodies. Consider that the environment flows into us in the food we choose to eat – When outside becomes inside.

Defining the food environment – An emerging paradigm

Managing your home and personal food environments [click on photo for "Juice Me" presentation]

 A food environment suggests the system boundaries of food production, distribution and consumption.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2014), the food environment is mainly:

"The physical presence of food that affects a person’s diet, a person’s proximity to food store locations, the distribution of food stores, food service, and any physical entity by which food may be obtained, or a connected system that allows access to food."

Food environment or "Food environments"

Can food environments be expressed as community food environments, local food environments, sustainable food environments, nutritional food environments, toxic food environments, and even personal food environments?

When considering that our relationship with the food environment is most intimate in our choice of what we put into our bodies, editor and lecturer Peter Coan suggests, "Perhaps we can draw a further useful distinction between an individual's available, or potential, food environment and his/her actual food environment – that is, between the foods a person has the opportunity to eat, and the foods s/he actually eats."

Students in Food Environment Class - Dr Steven Andrew Martin - Environmental Studies

Students in Food Environment class preparing traditional Thai foods without meat, dairy or added sugar

Supporting this idea, Coan notes that corporate supermarkets largely mediate the potential food environment for many people simply by limiting the range of foods available on their shelves, and corporate advertising further distorts the choices and preferences which people have in buying foods – that is, selecting the inputs to their actual food environment, located typically in their kitchens and refrigerators.

Check out Harvard University's T. H. Chan School of Public Health: Healthy Food Environment Recommendations – Complete List


Health, Diet and Nutrition

While conducting research on personal health management for Food Environment, I developed a shortlist of key topics, namely diet, exercise, toxins and stress.

I soon discovered that I was not the first to make this list.

My personal research led me to the story of Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, French physician and neuroscientist, who developed the "Four Pillars" to examine the rising issue of cancer and other chronic diseases through the lens of prevention, rather than treatment.

The "Four Pillars" of anti-cancer

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Avoid toxins
  • Manage stress

Dr. Servan-Schreiber's best-selling book "Anticancer: A New Way Of Life (2007)" and research-based insights were brought to life by Morgan Freeman, executive producer and narrator of "The C Word", the 2016 documentary.

The C Word

Research by T. Colin Campbell

T. Colin Campbell research poster by Shirley Yang [click on image to enlarge]

"You need to know the truth about food and why eating the right way can save your life."

T. Colin Campbell, PhD., Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University.

According to Campbell, understanding and implementing a whole food, plant-based diet is scientifically proven to improve health, wellness, and to mitigate many of the chronic illnesses of our time, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Much more than a diet, Campbell considers living on whole and plant-based foods as, "Living a whole life."

Popular quotes on food and health

  • "Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food." – Hippocrates
  • "He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the time of his doctor." – Ancient Chinese Proverb
  • "One quarter of what you eat keeps you alive. The other three-quarters keeps your doctor alive." – Ancient Egyptian Proverb
  • "The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition." – Thomas Edison

Popular videos on food and health

Forks Over Knives | Trailer

Food Choices | Trailer

Food Matters | Trailer

TEDx Talks | Exceptional doctors and nutrition experts supporting a plant-based diet

Neal Barnard | TEDxBismarck

T. Colin Campbell | TEDxCornellUniversity

Caldwell Esselstyn | TEDxCambridge

Joel Fuhrman | TEDxCharlottesville

Michael Greger | TEDxSedona

Michael Klaper | TEDxTraverseCity

John McDougall | TEDxFremont

Dean Ornish | TEDxSan Francisco


Sustainable food environment

Among environmental managers, "sustainability" is a foundational idea whereby people consciously and accountably take action in mitigating or avoiding the depletion of natural resources.

A sustainable food environment includes a system of food production, transportation, and consumption, which maintains an ecological balance while meeting our health and nutritional needs.

Sustainable | Trailer


Whole foods vs processed foods

Examples of whole foods

  • Beans
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegetables

Examples of processed foods

  • Canned foods
  • Dairy products
  • Meat products
  • Refined sugars
  • Refined oils

Toxic food environment

Chemicals in our food system range from man made to those which occur naturally.

Factsheet from Physicians for Social Responsibility

Man-made chemicals that may be harmful to you

  • Chemical fertilizers (petrochemicals, inorganics, etc.)
  • Fungicides
  • Herbicides (agriculture and military defoliants, such as Agent Orange)
  • Pesticides
  • Plastics (such as Bisphenol A or BPA)
  • Preservatives
  • Radiation (irradiated foods, farming near contaminated areas)
  • Stabilizers

Naturally-occurring food toxins that may be harmful to you

Naturally-occurring food toxins (Dolan, Matulka & Burdock, 2009) can be studied from a variety of perspectives. For example, even too much of a healthy food can have a toxic effect on the body. Healthy foods that contain natural toxins can include vegetables, beans and grains.

Other natural toxins can result from spoiled foods or are produced in certain types of moulds and algae. For example, Funji, including some varieties of mushrooms, can be highly toxic to humans. Ergot funji (Schmale & Munkvold, 2017) found in flowering grass or cereal, such as rye, are linked with physical and mental health issues as far back as the Middle Ages. Metalloids, such as arsenic, are naturally occurring elements strongly linked to public health issues world-wide.

Shortlist of common natural toxins in food.

  • Algae
  • Funji
  • Metalloids
  • Mould

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provides a database of information about toxic substances and how they affect human health.

According to Harvard University, addressing the complex problems associated with toxic food environments requires urgent communication and collaboration among government, industry and local institutions. As individuals, what steps can we take toward personal and public health responsibility to best mitigate a toxic food environment?

Human Experiment | Trailer

Cowspiracy | Trailer

What the Health | Trailer


Food Deserts

In an article published in Nutrition Digest (2011), the American Nutrition Association (ANA) outlines a “Food Desert” as a geographic location, area or region where fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods are, for the most part, unavailable.

Food deserts are typically located in low income, disadvantaged areas with limited access to healthy, nutritional foods, including farmers’ markets and modern grocery stores offering fresh fruits and vegetables (Nutrition Digest, 2011). For example, a typical food desert is a food environment with fast food chains and convenience stores located at or near gas stations selling processed, imperishable products, such as canned and packaged foods.

Typical canned and processed foods in the rural US

Arguably, a food desert is actually a nutrition desert, meaning that while food is generally available, the food environment does not provide appropriate nourishment to people who rely on these products to survive – That is, fast foods and processed foods which are particularly high in processed sugars, fats, and salt.

To address the issue, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2017) suggests that individuals and communities can create community gardens (CDC, 2011a), share in the upkeep and production of the garden, and organize local farmers’ markets (CDC, 2011b).

Topics for class discussion

  • Can food deserts can be transformed into "Food oases"?
  • Rural and urban food deserts.
  • Urban farming.

References

  • (ANA, 2017) The Community for Science-Based Nutrition
  • (Barthel & Isendahl, 2013) Urban gardens, agriculture, and water management: Sources of resilience for long-term food security in cities
  • (CDC, 2011a) Healthy Places: Community Gardens
  • (CDC, 2011b) Healthy Places: Farmers Markets, Community Supported Agriculture, and Local Food Distribution
  • (CDC, 2017) Gateway to Health Communication & Social Marketing Practice
  • (Nutrition Digest, 2011) USDA Defines Food Deserts
  • (USDA, 2017) Food Access Research Atlas

Contemporary terms and trends in healthy dietary lifestyles for discussion

  • Fruitarian
  • Juicing
  • Organic (agriculture) – Not using artificial chemicals in the growing of plants and animals (Biology Online, 2018)
  • Plant-based diet
  • Plant-rich diet
  • Raw foods
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Whole foods
  • "Whole Life" (Campbell, 2018)
  • WFPB (Whole Foods Plant Based) (Campbell, 2018)

Food environment and the media

  • Who owns the food companies?
  • What marketing strategies are used by major food companies?
  • Do food advertisements tell the truth?
  • Where can we find honest information about food?

Three reasons to think about what we eat

  • For your health and the health of your loved ones.
  • For the environment and whole earth systems.
  • For animals and other sentient life forms.

Resources

  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
  • American Nutrition Association (ANA)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Harvard University's T. H. Chan School of Public Health
  • National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)
Environmental Videos

Environmental Videos

ENVIRONMENTAL VIDEOS AND TRAILERS

The Environmental Videos Page is the result of collective effort, supported by students in 805-282 Environmental Studies at Prince of Songkla University.

As part of ongoing class projects, we  locate, review, and select films and videos to discuss in class.

Students identify individuals who dedicate their lives to conducting research and sharing results through talks, shows, and educational programming intended to touch our lives.

Please contact us with your thoughts and comments.

Yasuni National Park and Tiputini Biodiversity Station | Western Amazon

DOCUMENTARIES BY PRODUCER/ DIRECTOR JEFF ORLOWSKI

Chasing Ice | Official Trailer

Learn more about James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) at chasingice.com

Chasing Coral | Official Trailer

Learn more about our changing oceans at chasingcoral.com

PLASTIC AND MARINE DEBRIS

A Plastic Ocean | Official Trailer

Plastic Ocean | United Nations 7:28

LEONARDO DICAPRIO United Nations Environmental Ambassador of Peace

Before the Flood | Official Trailer | National Geographic

The 11th Hour | Official Trailer | 11thhourfilm.com

TED TALKS

TED, or TED Talks, is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas through short inspiring videos from expert speakers on education, science, technology, and increasingly, topics in environmental studies.

"TED" is and acronym for "Technology, Entertainment, Design".

Jeremy Jackson | How we wrecked the ocean

Johan Rockstrom | Let the environment guide our development

Enric Sala | Let's turn the high seas into the world's largest nature reserve

Al Gore | New thinking on the climate crisis

James Balog | Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss

Naomi Klein | Addicted to risk – What's the backup plan?

CONSERVATION

Virunga | Official Trailer [Netflix]

The Ivory Game | Official Trailer [Netflix]

TEXTILE AND CLOTHING INDUSTRIES

The True Cost | Official Trailer

NATURE TECH

Biomimicry | Janine Benyus – Biomimicry Institute

edX ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES COURSES AND TRAILERS