Scott Laderman – University of Minnesota, Duluth (MN, USA)

Above: Duluth, 2008. Photo: T.C. Worley/New York Times

Scott Laderman is an associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and the author, most recently, of Empire in Waves: A Political History of Surfing (University of California Press, 2014).

Laderman in Duluth, Minnesota, 2009. Photo: Laderman
Laderman in Duluth, Minnesota, 2009. Photo: Laderman

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Scott spent many of his most formative years surfing along the Southern California coast. After graduating from high school, he moved to Santa Cruz, where he attended Cabrillo College for two years (surfing everywhere between Año Nuevo and Moss Landing) before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley in 1991. He was fortunate to be able to spend a year of his undergraduate career at Cal studying abroad (and surfing) in Dunedin, New Zealand. Scott graduated with a B.A. in English and a minor in Native American Studies in 1994.


New Zealand, 1992. Photo: Laderman

He then moved to San Francisco, where he lived on the bluffs overlooking the Seal Rocks at the north end of Ocean Beach. Northern California and the South Island of New Zealand were pushing, Scott thought at the time, the boundaries of cold-water surfing. Living on the shores of Lake Superior, where he moved after completing a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in 2005, quickly disabused him of that mistaken belief. He now finds himself regularly breaking icicles off his hood.



Laderman - Tours of VietnamWhile his first publication was a short piece he wrote for Surfer while interning at that Orange County-based magazine in 1993, Scott did not begin his professional career as a scholar of surfing. But his combined passions for wave-riding and the history and culture of American foreign relations would bring him to Empire in Waves. First, however, he wrote Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory (Duke University Press, 2009), which explored tourism and memory in that postcolonial Southeast Asian nation, and he co-edited Four Decades On: Vietnam, the United States, and the Legacies of the Second Indochina War (Duke University Press, 2013), which was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2013. He also published articles and essays on film history, American empire-building, and Cold War tourism, among other topics, for the Pacific Historical Review, Mass Communication and Society, and a number of other journals and anthologies.

Scott’s work on surfing has taken him around the world. Most of the research for Empire in Waves was conducted in Australia, California, Hawai‘i, and Washington, D.C., and the presentation of that research has extended from North America and the Caribbean to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. He has presented several papers on surfing at the annual meetings of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the American Studies Association. In 2010, he presented a paper on Indonesia and the surfing imagination at the Institute of Historical Research in London. Two years later, in 2012, he was named by the Organization of American Historians and the Japanese Association for American Studies (JAAS) to be a short-term scholar-in-residence at Ehime University in Japan. While there, he presented his work on Alexander Hume Ford and early-twentieth-century Hawai‘i at the JAAS annual meeting in Nagoya. In 2013, he gave several presentations in Europe at the University of Oxford, the University of Birmingham, De Montfort University, and University College Dublin. And in early 2014 he presented a paper on Kelly Slater and the politics of the Middle East at the Transnational American Studies conference in Beirut, Lebanon – see his piece on the conference for the History News Network – as well as a paper on Barbados, South Africa, and surfing’s struggle over apartheid at the Transatlantic Connections conference in Bundoran, Ireland. The latter presentation won the Alan McSherry Surf Culture Award.

Scott Laderman
Scott Laderman

In addition to Empire in Waves, Scott published “Waves of Segregation: Surfing and the Global Antiapartheid Movement” in the Radical History Review in 2014, and his “Reds, Revolutionaries, and Racists: Surfing, Travel, and Diplomacy in the Reagan Era” appeared in Diplomatic Games: Sport, Statecraft, and International Relations since 1945 (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), which was co-edited by Heather Dichter and Andrew Johns. For Sustainable Stoke: Transitions to Sustainability in the Surfing World (University of Plymouth Press, 2015), a forthcoming collection co-edited by Gregory Borne and Jess Ponting, Scott wrote “Beyond Green: Sustainability, ‘Freedom,’ and the Labor of the Surf Industry.” He was also invited to submit “Wanderlust: Surfing, Modernization, and Cultural Diplomacy in the Long 1970s” for a special forum in Diplomatic History on sports diplomacy in the 1970s.

Scott is the 2015-2016 recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant to teach and conduct research at the University of Hong Kong.

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