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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 8, 2001

Surf Scene
Toes to the nose and eyes on the book

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer

Surfing skills are most often learned by paddling out, standing on a board and falling into the ocean – many times. A two-week summer course at Windward Community College teaches an introduction to surf science, culture and technology. A semester-long elective course on surfing may be offered at WCC in the near future.

Advertiser library photo

Introduction to Surf Science, Culture and Technology

A Windward Community College Office of Continuing Education two-week, non-credit course

Classes: 6-8 p.m. weekdays, Monday through June 23

Labs: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. June 16, 23

Windward Community College

$175 (Includes $145 course fee and $30 lab fee)

235-7433, 235-7400

Also: Ask to register for course NC9 232

Ian Masterson had been in love with the sport of surfing since moving with his family from San Matteo, Calif., to a beachside house in Kailua when he was 8. But it was still a surprise to folks who knew him when in 1999, the 27-year-old musician/college student/business owner began contemplating a B.S. degree in surf science and technology at the one college he found that offered such a program, Plymouth University.

That would be Plymouth, England, not the somewhat more well-known town with the rock in Massachusetts.

"I was all ready to pack my bags and hele on over to England when I found those courses," Masterson says.

A college with, in Masterson's words, a somewhat "more progressive curriculum" than most, and a lauded marine sciences program, Plymouth University's seaside location is home to some of the sweetest surf spots in the British Isles.

"Then my Hawaiian-language instructor at Windward (Community College) Kalani Meinecke said, 'What's wrong with doing something like that here? This is the cradle of surfing, after all.'"

Suddenly stoked, Masterson set an immediate goal of establishing a credited surf sciences course in the WCC curriculum. Studying Plymouth U's course offerings and descriptions, Masterson created a syllabus that compacted the best of the three-year program's class topics into one semester.

"The curriculum mostly came from my own personal questions about surfing, too," says Masterson.

Those questions included everything from the sport's Polynesian origins to the weather patterns that create and affect surf conditions to the multibillion-dollar industry itself. The course, as Masterson envisioned it, wouldn't necessarily teach surfing, but would focus on the science and culture of the sport.

WCC suggested Masterson start off by creating an experimental two-week noncredit summer course as part of its College of Continuing Education. With two sessions slated for June and August 1999, Masterson began trolling for pertinent guest lecturers.

Surfing pioneers Fred Van Dyke and Fred Hemmings were longtime friends, but other first-year speakers such as board shaper Tom Nellis and professional surfers Ben Aipa and Hans Hedemann signed on after cold calls from Masterson.

"They were all more than receptive," Masterson remembers. "They were ecstatic about the idea and very humbled that I had called them."

Two summers later, Masterson is preparing to teach his second set of "Introduction to Surf Science, Culture and Technology" classes at WCC (friend and fellow surfer John Winieski led 1999's session). In addition to the aforementioned surf pros, Masterson has lined up Triple Crown of Surfing executive director Randy Rarick, meteorologist Patrick Caldwell and Naish Hawaii Inc. owner Rick Naish, among others, as speakers for summer 2001.

Class study topics will include board design and technology, surf politics, women in surfing, and water safety. Popular weekend labs featuring CPR and first aid certification, and surf lessons with Hedemann also have been added once again.

"I'm not an expert, so I've been watching the questions that the students ask the speakers and topics that the speakers choose to talk about," says Masterson, explaining his continued tweaking of course subject matter.

Hoping to attract more students, Masterson is looking forward to WCC finally offering that elusive semester-long version of "Introduction to Surf Science" as a for-credit elective starting in spring 2002. Unable to wait for the college's green light on that, he's already designed an intermediate companion course to follow it in fall 2002. After pushing for surf science credits to apply to course requirements for humanities and science majors, Masterson will angle for establishing a certificate program in surf science at WCC similar to Plymouth University's successful model.

Though Masterson says he'd be the first to apply to teach the courses, he hasn't altogether abandoned thoughts of furthering his own surf education.

"I'll be looking at what Plymouth has to offer when I visit Ireland this summer for my brother's wedding," says Masterson. He's even penciling in some time to ride the area's summer swells.

"I've already bought some U.K. surf books," laughs Masterson.