Female Participation
Surfing/Wrestling Sociological Comparison
Title IX Aspects

Bruce Gabrielson
Head Coach - SMWC
October 1997

As part of my ongoing research into Title IX problems, I came upon some interesting information. Although not directly related to wrestling, it has a very applicable reference to participation based on sex in the surfing community, particularly as it relates to female interest in certain types of activities. Surfing seems a good sport for comparison to wrestling for a couple of reasons: surfing is a physically demanding sport; recognition is provided by the sociological pier group; except for a few of the very best, there are no financial rewards; and finally surfing is considered a minor sport. Surfing is also a college sport on the West Coast, but unlike wrestling, no scholarships or other financial inducements are available. Surfers compete simply for pleasure. The lack of monetary inducement tends to make the research applicable to the general rather than specific.

Notice in the reference Rosenberg and Sutton-Smith indicate that "in modern societies women are more interested in games of strategy and chance, and men are more interested in competitive sports and games of skill." This is a concept I will persue further.

Although this study was performed in 1976, and references earlier studies prior to Title IX, it may indicate that although sports programs are available, the interest will simply not be there as females approach college age (notice the numbers among the mean age group). Doesn't this sound like something we've been hearing recently when discussing female athletic programs in college. Maybe female activists don't believe credible research performed prior to their destruction of minor college sports.

Another interesting comparison of the surfing community to the wrestling community is the number of actual participants. Wrestling, like surfing, involves activities which "discourage all but those most determined to bear the discomforts." Like surfing, dedicated female wrestlers are able to "bear the discomforts." However, it appears that so long as alternative less difficult opportunities are available, fewer female participants will become involved in competitive wrestling activities.

By the way, JUDO is similar to wrestling, and has an active following of female participants. However, as can be seen at any JUDO event, the numbers of female participants drops off sharply in the older age groups. Maybe what this implies is that while female participation in wrestling is certainly acceptable and on the increase, at some point it will saturate and there will be sharply fewer percentage increases in numbers, especially among older females.

I guess the point I'm trying to make with all this is: It would not be a good idea to base our hopes for wrestling's continuation on an outpouring of support and participation by females. It's great to have still another avenue for our sport, but I don't think it will save us from Title IX.

The following is excerpted from:


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Department of Sociology San Jose State University
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts

By: Stephen Wayne Hull
August 1976

"Social research studies on the ages of those who participate in sport seem to concur that youths in any society, but more especially in industrialized societies, show greater interest in sport and sport groups than any other age group. J. S. Coleman's book, The Adolescent Society (1961) describes the important role that sports hold among adolescents in the USA. From the available data, it appears that Tom Wolfe's representation of surfing as a youth-oriented sport is not altogether unfounded. The fact is, over two-thirds of those who surf in the Santa Cruz area could be considered youth. While the data revealed that surfing is not a sport exclusively for the young (there were four subjects, 6.25%, over the age of 30), the fact remains that the great majority of surfers are 21 years of age or younger. "

"Sex. The sex distribution among surfers is another characteristic trait. In a county in which 47.6% of the population is male (U. S. Department of Commerce, 1972, p. 66), this survey revealed that a conspicuous 98% of the surfing population of Santa Cruz were male. The Surfer Magazine data again confirmed these figures, showing that 80.4% of the magazine's readers who responded to the poll were male. "

"The difference between the Santa Cruz survey results and the Surfer Magazine poll may in part be due to the different populations from which these were taken. Another factor contributing to this difference may be the relatively harsh climate and ocean temperatures that Santa Cruz is known for, and which discourage all but those most determined to bear the discomforts. This is not to say however, that there are not any females committed to surfing, for there are several very dedicated female surfers. "

"Social research on the sex of those who participate in sport has found comparatively slight interest. The most relevant research on this subject is a study conducted by Rosenberg and Sutton-Smith (1959, pp., 165-170), which concludes that in modern societies women are more interested in games of strategy and chance, and men are more interested in competitive sports and games of skill. These conclusions are indeed reflected in the large percentage of males participating in surfing."

Dr. Gabrielson has been actively writing articles, writing letters, contacting congressmen, and researching the harmful aspects of Title IX for the past five years. His own school's wrestling program at California State University, Long Beach, was an early victum of Title IX. He is also widely known in both the surfing and the wrestling communities.