'The students are not long-haired beach bums'

January 23, 2004

Surf science and technology, Plymouth University

Marine studies lecturer Malcolm Findlay is fed up with politicians who take cheap shots at the degree he helped to create when they have not looked closely at what surf science students learn on the course.

He said: "The people who call this a Mickey Mouse degree have no clear notion of what it is all about. They might think all the students are long-haired beach bums, but, in fact, they are as fired up about doing a degree that is fresh and interesting as they are about the chance to go surfing."

Students on the course, which has been running for five years, study oceanography, business studies, mathematics and physics, and environmental studies. They look at issues such as how to build artificial reefs that protect the shoreline and produce good waves. They can also gain a surf coaching qualification.

Dr Findlay said: "Because the teaching is done in context, it's much easier for us to convey complex subjects such as the physics of breaking waves. It makes sense to the students because this is something very interesting to them."

Celine Gehret (pictured), a second-year student on the course who won the Swiss surfing championships in France two years ago, said relating subjects such as physics and meteorology to surfing had helped her make it through a tough first year. "I am really enjoying it, and I have learnt a lot that will be useful when I graduate," she said.

The course has links with universities in Australia and Hawaii.

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