Professor Belinda Wheaton

Belinda Wheaton


Qualifications: PhD.

About Belinda

I am a cultural sociologist teaching on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Te Huataki Waiora School of Health, focused on sport and social justice, sport, leisure and wellbeing, sport and the media, and qualitative research methodologies. I joined the University in February 2015 bringing almost 20 years experience teaching in Universities in England (London and Brighton) across sport and leisure studies, sports journalism, cultural studies and sociology.

My research includes a range of qualitative methods (ethnography, media analysis and consumption, interviews), and spans inter-disciplinary areas including; sociology of sport and leisure, policy, youth studies, cultural and media studies, gender studies. Feminist sensibilities and issues of power and inequity underpin my research and teaching.

Editorial Roles

I am  Managing Co-Editor with Professor Louise Mansfield of The Annals of Leisure Research (ALR) journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Leisure Studies. (Published by Taylor and Francis).

Series Editor for The Critical Studies in Sport series. Routledge, London (2018-) with former colleagues Jennifer Hargreaves and Ian McDonald.

I serve on the editorial boards of: International Review for the Sociology of  Sport (since 2007), and Sociología del Deporte and Frontiers (in Sports and Active Living). Formerly on: Leisure Studies (2009-2018); Sport and Communication (2012-2016); Sociology of Sport Journal (2011-2015); Sport and Tourism (2007-2014);  Journal of Sport History (2008-2012); The European Journal of Human Movement (2014-2018); Cogent Social Sciences(2014-2010)

Papers Taught

Research Supervised

I am an experienced supervisor including over 20 honours and masters dissertations.  I welcome PhD students across all her areas of interest underpinned by qualitative methodologies, and particularly students interested in working in my areas of interest, including:

  • action/lifestyle/informal/adventure sports
  • blue spaces - human-environmental relationships, environmental politics and practice.
  • sport, inequality  and social justice; intersectional approaches
  • sport and the media
  • feminist research: sport, popular culture.

Current PhD students:

Julie Brice (doctoral scholarship)

Athleisure and Feminist New Materialisms

John Macfarlane (doctoral scholarship)

Management strategies towards legitimate action sport federations: a national structure for Skateboarding New Zealand.

Craig Hillgrove  (doctoral scholarship)

Tensions of the self and discourses of being: Californian medicine, embodiment and the absence of love.

Margaret Cosgriff.

Youths' embodied and emplaced experiences in local coastal bluespaces.

Past PhD supervision:

Nigel Jarvis,

University of Brighton, UK

The meaning of sport in the lives of gay men.


Georgina Roy

University of Brighton, UK. (Economic and Social Research Council Scholarship).

A feminist analysis of surfing culture


Mat Rudkin

University of Brighton, UK (part-time)

Implications and applications of flow theory performance practice and pedagogy (performing arts)


Jon Binney,

University of Brighton, UK (Part-time).

Understanding alternative activities in the physical education curriculum


Ben Powis

University of Brighton, UK.

Sporting embodiment and disability


Damien Puddle

University of Waikato (doctoral scholarship)

Glocalization and Parkour in New Zealand


Nida Ahmad

University of Waikato (doctoral scholarship)

Topic: Muslim sportswomen's use of social media

2016- 2019

Toni-Elizabeth Green

University of Waikato (doctoral scholarship)

On, in and with the sea: What can a connection to the ocean mean for one's sense of caring for the environment?


Neftalie Williams

University of Waikato (doctoral scholarship)

Skateboarding and the experiences of Black and Minorities in the United States of America

2016- 2020

Marilia Bandeira

Campinas State University San Paulo, Brazil.

The politics of adventure - visiting PhD student on Research Internship Abroad BEPE scholarship funded by Brazilian Government


Lydney Stooley,

University of Cardiff.

Visiting PhD student, Geography and planning


Research Interests

  • action/lifestyle/informal/adventure sports
  • blue spaces - human-environmental relationships, environmental politics and practice.
  • sport, inequality  and social justice; intersectional approaches
  • sport and the media
  • feminist research: sport, popular culture.
  • qualitative methodology, public pedagogy.

My research and collaborations have gained funding from a range of international funding bodies including; Economic and Social Research Council (UK), British Academy, Art and Humanities Research Council (UK), Sport England, International Olympic Committee, Marsden.

I am internationally known for my research on informal and lifestyle sport cultures which includes several books and special issues of international journals, including;   Understanding Lifestyle Sport (2004), The consumption and representation of Lifestyle Sport(2012). The Cultural Politics of Lifestyle Sport (2013) is based on a decade of original ethnographically-rooted case studies exploring 4 different lifestyle sports (surfing, skateboarding, parkour, kitesurfing) across 3 continents. It has been  translated into Japanese (2019).

I have led international projects on understanding the role of informal and lifestyle sports in addressing sport, health and youth policy objectives. My research has had national and international impact on policy and practice influencing key policy makers (e.g. The UK Sport, Australian Sport Commission, Sport NZ).

Research on action sport in the Olympics led to us presenting our work to the IOC’s executive board (2016) as part of the evidence leading up to the decision to include skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing in Tokyo 2020.

My recent research on informal and lifestyle sports has explored marginalised participants, identity and ageing.

I am also co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Feminism and Sport, Leisure and Physical Education (Palgrave, 2017), Leisure and the politics of the environment   (Taylor & Francis 2013) 'On the Edge': Leisure, consumption and the representation of adventure sport (leisure Studies Association, 2009); What ever happened to the leisure society? (leisure Studies Association 2008) and co-author of Key concepts in Sport Studies Sage (2009)

Recent projects include:

Action sports and the Olympics: I was co-PI on Youth Perceptions of the Olympic Games: Attitudes Towards Action Sports at the YOG and Olympic Games' with Dr Holly Thorpe, funded by the IOC's Advanced Research Programme Grant   2015/6.  This collaborative work went on to play an important role in informing the IOC's inclusion of surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.  We have a forthcoming monograph. Action Sports and the Olympic Games: The Cultural Politics of Agenda 2020 and the Changing Sportscape. London Routledge.

Coastal Blue space, health and well-being: The relationships between human and ocean wellbeing, including a special issue Sport, Bodies, Wellbeing, and the Sea with Rebecca Olive,  and  ongoing research on Sport, sustainability and the environmentalism

Freshwater ecosystems: I was a Pi for the Uof W Tertiary Education Commission Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs) submission (2019), titled  Te Wai Manawa UofW, developing themes on human-environmental wellbeing, and developing transdisciplinary research.

Recent Publications

  • Wheaton, B., & Mansfield, L. (2022). Fact, faction and fiction: exploring fictional composition as a tool for knowledge production in leisure research. Annals of Leisure Research, 1-12. doi:10.1080/11745398.2022.2048040

  • Wheaton, B., Aramoanawaiti, J. T., Olive, R., & Kearns, R. (2021). Coastal communities, leisure and wellbeing: Advancing a trans-disciplinary agenda for understanding ocean-human relationships in Aotearoa New Zealand. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(2), 1-20. doi:10.3390/ijerph18020450

  • Thorpe, H., & Wheaton, B. (2021). Young Gazan refugees, sport and social media: Understanding migration as a process of becoming. International Migration Review. doi:10.1177/0197918320988247

  • Wheaton, B., & Mansfield, L. (2020). Visions for Annals of Leisure Research: optimism, collaboration and excellence. Annals of Leisure Research, 23(3), 269-273. doi:10.1080/11745398.2020.1784015

Find more research publications by Belinda Wheaton


Children's and Youth Sport; Environmental Policy and Politics; Extreme/Alternative Sports; Gender; Social Issues in Sport; Social Movements; Social Science Research; Sociology; Sport Education; Sport Governance; Sport Science; Sports; Women and Gender Studies; Youth