Waikato PhD student and snowboarder wins international award

20 December 2005
Snowboarding during the day and writing her thesis at night - such was the life of Waikato student Holly Thorpe, but it has all been in the name of research.

For the past few years the inspirational University of Waikato PhD student has been investigating the female youth culture surrounding female boarders (surf, skate and snow). Her research is a theoretical investigation, and employs seven different social theories to help make sense of the female boarding phenomenon. Her research also involves participant-observations and interviewing more than 100 people associated with the sport.

A paper derived from her thesis titled “Beyond ‘Decorative Sociology’: Contextualizing the Female Surf, Skate and Snow Boarder” has gained her international recognition and the North American Barbara Brown award for most outstanding graduate in the sociology of sport.

The prize is a free flight to North Carolina to attend the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) convention. This international event attracts leading sport sociologists from around the world. Holly will present her paper at the conference next week.

At only 24, the Sport and Leisure Studies student has several credits to her name including a $5,000 scholarship from Education New Zealand and a Waikato Doctoral scholarship.

Holly is also a keen snowboarder and has been a competitor and instructor. Her interest in the sport inspired her to research the subject.
“Only 30 years ago these types of sports and their participants were on the margin of society, but very quickly they have been commercialised and now it’s a $9.8 billion industry. Women have played a major part in this growth. The female snowboard demographic for example, has more than doubled in the past decade. In fact, snowboarding and skateboarding are the two fastest growing sports for American women. I had many sociological questions and I wanted to investigate further.”

Holly’s winning paper is a critique of sports sociology and cultural studies with an emphasis on the importance of context. Her case study looks at the female surf, skate and snowboarder in a pre-commercial and post-commercial context.