Action sports like surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding and BMX have grown from do-it-yourself activities to a sporting mega-trend. University of Waikato researchers are focusing on action sport cultures, lifestyles, media, industry, events, and connections with broader popular culture.

Over the past forty years, action sports (e.g. surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX) have grown from local grassroots, do-it-yourself activities to a global phenomenon that is increasingly garnering the attention of mainstream society, the mass media, transnational corporations and traditional sports organisations. The Australian Sport Commission (2013) described the rise of lifestyle and action sports as one of the five “mega trends” in the way sport participation is changing in the of the 21st Century. Other nations and organisations around the world are also recognising the growing importance of action sports in (re)defining the sporting landscape.

University of Waikato staff are at the forefront of the research that is mapping these important trends. Our research focuses on action sport cultures and lifestyles, as well as action sport media, industry, events, and connections with broader popular culture.  Our staff and students engage with the latest theories and methods to explore the social, economic and cultural significance of action sports in global and local contexts. Some of our staff have worked with the International Olympic Committee with their research informing the recent Olympic inclusion of surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing into the Tokyo 2020, and the possible inclusion of other action sports into future Olympics. Others are focused on working with local groups and organisations in New Zealand and around the world to create inclusive sporting spaces with benefits to communities. In doing so, our staff and students are driven to do research with real social impact.

We offer:

  • World leading postgraduate research opportunities
  • Action sport research and consultancy services
  • Opportunities for student engagement from undergraduate to doctoral level
  • We have hosted visiting researchers and PhD students, recently from Brazil, the UK, and Ireland.


Collectively we have published over 70 articles, chapters and books that define the field over the past decade.

  • To the Extreme: Alternative sports, inside and out. (2003)
  • Understanding Lifestyle sports: Consumption, identity and difference (2004)
  • Berkshire Encyclopaedia of Extreme Sport (2007)
  • Snowboarding Bodies in theory and practice (2011)
  • The consumption and representation of lifestyle sports (2012)
  • The Cultural Politics of Lifestyle Sports (2013)
  • Transnational mobilities in action sport cultures (2014)
    Women in action sport cultures: Identity, politics and experience (2016)

Who are we?

Key Faculty

Associated Faculty

PhD and masters students

  • Nida Ahmad
  • Damion Puddle
  • John Macfarlane
  • Neftalie Williams

Current Projects and Events

For the range of recent publications see our staff profiles.