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Beach Grit

Warshaw: “Poorest fuckers in surf most generous!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Raises $60k to keep surf history archive online!

On New Year’s Day, the surf historian Matt Warshaw made a welcome announcement

“Out with a bang! BeachGrit just dropped 6K into the EOS fundraiser, and I’m shutting it down at $60,000. Spraying corks tonight!”

Three weeks ago, of course, it was a different story. The online history of surfing hung by a thread after Warshaw threatened to to pull his entire archive (The Encyclopedia of Surfing , History of Surfing, Above the Roar) unless thirty thousand dollars was donated immediately.

“It’s just kind of humiliating, to be 57 and making what I make,” Warshaw, who is capable of infinite melancholy but also a voluptuous flame, said. 

And now? Warshaw is waltzing around with sixty gee.

Let’s rap.

BeachGrit: Prior to launching the fundraiser were you shitting yourself? Were you like the lonely boy who throws a party catered with fine wines and meats and wonders if anyone will come?

Warshaw: It changed hour to hour. In the morning I’d be sure it was going to work, I’d save the site, all would be fine. But any little thing would trip me up. An anonymous comment on a thread somewhere, “Nobody subscribes to websites!” and I’d be fucked for the day.

Did you make a binding promise to your wife that if the money didn’t come in you’d really seek alternative employment?

I made that promise in 2011, with a 2012 deadline. Time was up. And yes, I was gonna go back to print. New versions of the books, magazine writing. I would have steered clear of the web, just out of bitterness.

If print publishing didn’t pan out, was there a plan C? What other talents do you have?

Early retirement. PTA dad.

And you romped it in! Can you describe the shape of your face when you told your wife that you made the required thirty k, that you doubled it? Did you resist an I-told-you-so smirk? Or no?

Two days into the drive I had $12,000 in donations. Jodi came home and I said “Look! Twelve thousand! We’re gonna make it!” Went downstairs, had a glass of wine, sat down to dinner, and while we’re eating I get a call from the EOS dev guy. Not the dev guy, but the head of the actual company that I hired last year. This swinging dick blue-chip company in Venice, charging me $110 an hour to code —everybody told me to hire the best dev guy possible, you end up saving money, and I did. So I answer the call, and the head of the company says, “Matt, I’ve got some really bad news,” and all I could think of was that my coder must have died, because what else could it be? “I’m so sorry, but your donation page has been set on ‘Test Mode’ the last two days.” Which meant that none of the 12K had processed. Back to zero. That was the closest I came to actually crying during this whole thing.

So what did you do?

Got in touch with all the people who’d donated, explained what happened, kinda played it for a laugh, and got the money back. Not all, but almost all. It took a few days, though.

And the dev company?

Fired. But only after the money was in the bag, and I had another guy lined up.

Did anyone in the surf industry apart from the surf media toss a few bones? The clothing brands? Any of the big board guys? The WSL?

Shaun Tomson donated. Tom Carroll donated. Randy Rarick donated big — he’s always been a great supporter of EOS. Sam McIntosh, Felipe Pomar, Sam George, Steve Hawk, Zach Weisberg, Brendon Thomas, Marcus Sanders, Phil Jarratt, Scott Hulet, Sean Doherty, they all gave. Amazing, the poorest fuckers in surf, the media people, were the most generous. Nothing from the brands. Zero. Nothing from the brands themselves, or maybe just two or three donations from people who work for the brands. That’s okay. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but EOS I think works better when it’s independent. The site doesn’t belong to the surf industry, in any way, shape or form. No donations, no ads, no brand presence at all. It looks and feels better that way, I think.

What’s the final tally? Sixty gees? How will this be distributed? Are you a put-in-the-bank drip-feed sorta guy or oowee-baby-gonna-be-a-helluva-Friday-night party pants?

Just over $60,000. Thirty to me for this year’s salary, 10 for site maintenance, and who knows how much into some bigger improvements. I just bought, and all three sites are going to be collapsed into that domain. And a whole new paywall will go up before summer, where subscribers can name their own price to get on the site. Whatever’s left stays in the bank so I don’t panic this time next year.

Warshaw: “My favorite donor, good for one gee — my sweet mom.”

And do you have to do it all over again next year?

Probably, yeah, but not another life-or-death thing. More like an NPR annual fundraiser. Tote bags and coffee mugs and shit for new donors. It’ll be a pleasure after what I just went through.