Newport surf media house holds cup out to readers to fund surf movie!
Seven years ago or thereabouts, the creative muscle behind Surfing magazine flew the coop and started What Youth, a print mag and online portal.
The high-volume and heavily advertising-reliant Surfing never recovered from the desertion and, one year ago, was officially spiked.
Chalk one up for the brave independent, yes?
Recently, What Youth, who get their money from making well-crafted, sponsor-funded online shorts, creating a gorgeous office in Newport and providing salaries for half a dozen people and so forth, held its cup out to the readers.
“We need your help. We’re embarking on the first surf trip for our new film. And that means we need some money,” the magazine’s editor and co-founder Travis Ferré wrote on Kickstarter. Wetsuits, signed photographs and a surfboard were offered to benefactors.
With thirty four hours to go, $US5,500 had been pledged.
All that, the public cry for cash, for five gees?
Is What Youth, a cultural arbiter unlike any other in surf, whose movies turned Chippa Wilson, Nate Tyler, Creed McTaggart, Mitch Coleborn and Noa Deane into stars, on its knees financially?
“This is honestly less about tough times, and more about wanting to create good times,” says Travis, who is thirty five years old but presents as someone more like twenty nine. “Crowd funding has always been in the back of my mind as an interesting experiment… I’ve also always thought our audience as a whole was more participatory. And I love the idea of them being involved in producing something with us. Something our style. Not just a reader poll or something. Like, literally help us get somewhere.”
If you were to point a camera at Travis, right now, you’d find him piloting a fifteen-seater Ford Econoline with two seats taken out to fit in surfboards and cameras. The Australians Harry Bryant and Mitch Coleborn are in the van, along with the Newport surfer Colin Moran. They are somewhere on Interstate 5, between Los Angeles and Santa Cruz.
“Just passed a slaughterhouse,” says Travis.
BeachGrit: Tell me everything about the movie, who, where, how long, why?
Travis: At this stage, this trip is that first backfire as you warm the car up for a long journey. We’ll see how this goes, log some clips, set a mood and the rest will take shape after that. All goes well, What Youth will have a full-length movie that will come out before then end of the year. The response to this has been overwhelmingly positive though, so I like the opportunities it sets up. This was dialed in over a margarita the other night and by the next day we went for it. So we’ll go nail this, hunt ramps and see what happens next.
Is it a hipper version of Drive-Thru California?
No, we’ll make something from this trip (maybe something of a prequel) that may have that vibe I suppose, but we’re chasing a bigger project and this will just be the first of many excursions this year. Call this the pilot.
I see two sorts of surf media biz models, those who’ll do any sort of advertorial for money no matter how demeaning (to advertiser and website) and others, like you, and Warshaw too, who don’t do anything by halves. What’s your ethos re: advertorial? Would you, for instance, knock out a few hundred words and a thirty-second half-assed short for five gees? Would you generate a little fake news, say, ten best whatevers, at five hundred a shot? Or does that make your skin crawl?
Your examples above do make my skin crawl a bit, but I’ve found ways that you can actually change “advertorial” to a far less offensive word. More like a collaboration. Or partnership. We’re more set in our ways of working to create valuable franchises like “Fairly Normal”, “Afternoon Interviews”, What Youth short films, and some new freesurfing based projects like What Youth Parts that I think it will be a way to collaborate and elevate surfers and their personalities alongside brands who support them and us… It’s a long play, but we’re in this for the long haul, not the quick buck, and hopefully we’ve established that by now. We have a long history now of declined credit cards and well-executed projects. So we’ll make it work one way or another.
You can’t manufacture something like the act of surfing. Surfing is about so much more than riding on a wave. And that sounds dumb and cheesy, but it really is. I think we try to show that mysterious magical part at What Youth — that strange universe that surfing introduces us to that’s important.
Do you still make a print mag? If yes, is it long for this world? Do you lose money with every issue?
Yeah, we still make a print mag. We actually gave the last one away for free and it was gone in two hours. We don’t get rich off making an expensive coffee table style magazine, and no, the magazine is not exactly the future of media, but it’s also the instigator of a lot of rad things we do. We love celebrating them when they come out, it’s also a tangible thing that drives the whole operation. I call it a wash financially, but it definitely creates value for us, even if it’s not monetary.
We still make a print mag. We don’t get rich off making an expensive coffee table style magazine, and no, the magazine is not exactly the future of media, but it’s also the instigator of a lot of rad things we do. It’s a wash financially.
You refused an invite to the Surf Ranch! Tell me why! And did it hurt, even just a little?
There is no doubt in my mind riding that wave is “fun.” And there is no doubt that there could be some insanely fun and rad things we could (and hell, hopefully we will) do at that venue — both on the wave and as an event space — but for me it still represents the bottling up of something that should not and cannot be bottled up. You can’t manufacture something like the act of surfing. Surfing is about so much more than riding on a wave. And that sounds dumb and cheesy, but it really is. I think we try to show that mysterious magical part at What Youth — that strange universe that surfing introduces us to that’s important. The people, places and weird things I’ll never be able to explain quite right are what it’s about. And being okay with that is okay too.
Is it fun to have principles?