Why and how people over forty continue with lifestyle sports : changes in practice and meaning. (2021)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
This study inquired into why and how people approaching middle age continue to engage in the lifestyle sports of surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding.
Lifestyle sports is a term used for sports like surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding that recognises a commitment to not only the activity itself, but also an accompanying lifestyle. With their roots in the 1960s and 1970s counter-cultural movement, they are seen by participants as an appealing alternative to traditional sports, such as football, rugby, basketball and cricket. They are individualistic and often require significant risk taking, which is why they are frequently referred to as ‘extreme sports’ and why they are so popular with younger people. The media focus of lifestyle sports is predominantly on youthful, expert participants, which reinforces the stereotype that lifestyle sports are activities for the young.
This study investigated the experiences of 12 long-term and committed participants in surfing, skateboarding and/or snowboarding who were aged between 40 and 53 years (seven male and five female) by employing a narrative inquiry (NI) methodology to gain deep understanding into their experiences. The data was collected through personal interviews using a life-history approach and explored how these participants learnt both the physical practice of their lifestyle sport and the intricacies and values of the subculture. In particular, the study focused on how the meaning and practice changed for these participants as they entered adulthood and onwards into middle age. Dewey’s experiential learning theory (1938) was used as the theoretical framework for this study to help explain and gain meaning from the participants narratives. Dewey’s theory was particularly useful, as it placed the focus on the learner within the experience.
For the participants in this study, surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding provided an essential means of negotiating the stresses, expectations and structures in their lives. Through engagement in lifestyle sports, they found not only an opportunity for expression and creativity, but also tool for defiance against social expectations. Specific focus was given to the experiences of female participants, who used competitions to overcome isolation, create new communities and form lifelong friendships. As the participants became adults, they experienced increased structure and responsibility, and the pressures of expectations that accompanied this. Lifestyle sports provided a physical and metaphorical space from these pressures, allowing for a re-energising escape. This provided an effective means of coping with this stress and made a strong contribution to their positive well-being. In middle age, the participants had adapted their engagement in lifestyle sports to their physical changes and the diminishing recreation time available for them. It was a period of their lives where they had the most responsibilities, which included employment, family, and mortgages. The participants acknowledged a greater appreciation of risk, as the consequences of a serious injury could affect their physical health, as well as their employment and family responsibilities. Lifestyle sports, however, had taken on new meaning with a family focus, particularly through engagement with their children. Through examples of this, the participants illustrated that lifestyle sports moved from hedonistic, solo pursuits into an activity promoting family connection and the distribution of knowledge between generations.
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