Gender, race and researcher positionality in decolonial surf tourism research: lessons from the field

Ruttenberg, Tara


Current scholarship in the field of critical surf studies interrogates issues of gender, race and coloniality in global surfing tourism and culture. This literature focuses primarily on cultural discourse and tourism practice, yet has recently begun to examine researcher positionality in ethnographic and reflexive surf tourism research. As a novel empirical contribution to existing decolonial trends in surf tourism and intersectional surfeminist research, this article explores dynamics of gender, race and researcher positionality in conducting community-based participatory action research (PAR) in surfing tourism, through a year-long ethnographic project in Playa Hermosa de Cobano, Costa Rica. This contribution draws on discussions in feminist geography interrogating gendered and racialized dynamics in ethnographic and participatory research. Reflexive lessons from the field highlight the complexities associated with employing decolonial and poststructuralist feminist methods in critical surf tourism studies, particularly for white/white-assumed female-presenting researchers from the Global North working in Global South field contexts. These complexities include considerations of multiple researcher subjectivities related to postcolonial intersectional power dynamics in research team composition and throughout the PAR process.