One of Surfer mag's best editors, Mr Sam George, weighs in on the recent sale of the once-hallowed title and the evaporation of most of its staff.
If you were over the age of 45 on February 1, 2019, the day it was announced that media giant American Media acquired the Adventure Sports Network, publisher of the venerable SURFER Magazine, and then laid off half the staff in preparation of selling off the moribund mag, you might have said,
“Aw, that’s fucked up.”
If you were under the age of 45 you probably said,
“Who the fuck cares?”
Or more probably,
“What the fuck is SURFER Magazine?”
So what does that mean?
Simply that the disparity of those responses is the meaning of this epoch-ending footnote on surfing’s timeline.
It’s all about relevance. Always has been.
Under the relentless onslaught of vblogs, streaming webcasts, ‘clips’ and Instagram posts the archaic SURFER, with its glacial publishing schedule, frozen, static imagery and endless, gray pages of printed copy, can no longer carry out its commitments, obligations and objectives to a surfing world that once viewed its hallowed pages as more of a religious tract than magazine. Put simply, SURFER is no longer relevant. SAM GEORGE
Sure, you can make it all about money, and yeah, SURFER and all the other sports titles in the Adventure Sports Network have been bleeding cash for years.
But so what?
Blame the Internet?
Of course. Why not?
Because for over 50 years, since the first issue of SURFER rolled off the presses in 1960, the mag had been a going concern, defined as “a company or other entity able to continue operating for a period of time that is sufficient to carry out its commitments, obligations, objectives.”
Sadly for SURFER, those days are over.
Under the relentless onslaught of vblogs, streaming webcasts, ‘clips’ and Instagram posts the archaic SURFER, with its glacial publishing schedule, frozen, static imagery and endless, gray pages of printed copy, can no longer carry out its commitments, obligations and objectives to a surfing world that once viewed its hallowed pages as more of a religious tract than magazine.
Put simply, SURFER is no longer relevant.
But what a run it was.
Someone said it best in The Perfect Day: 40 Years of Surfer Magazine, published by Chronicle Books back in 2005:
“…some surfers drop off the charts completely, sacrificing everything that binds them to common society so that they might never miss another good wave. Others reconcile themselves to the estrangement, fall out of rhythm, surrendering their zeal to a creeping nostalgia, dreaming of warm, sunny days, trusty boards and swells long past. But for the rest of us there has been SURFER Magazine. Each issue looked forward to with as much inspired anticipation as were the swells featured in its pages. First six times a year, then 12, but for all those years, all those eras, the only waves a surfer could truly count on; the only waves you could hold in your hand.”
Two guesses who wrote that.
But don’t just take it from me. Consider 1977 World Champ and surf legend Shaun Tomson writing in his forward to Surfer Magazine: 50 Years, also published by Chronicle, a decade later:
“Every issue represents not only a collection of pictures and articles but also a freeze frame of its reader’s youth. SURFER is not just a magazine but is the framework for a surfing existence, a collection of reference points for an obsession, [representing] youth, freedom and a time when absolutely nothing was more important than that next wave coming down the line.”
For guys like me and Shaun—and a lot of other surfers our age—this is what made SURFER Magazine so vital, so important to our surfing lives.
And it’s difficult to imagine any much younger surfer today saying the same sort of things about “Who is J.O.B.”, or Stab, for that matter.
With the exception of occasionally revealing exciting new wave discoveries and then snobbily refusing to provide even a hint at their location, today’s surfing media is about entertainment, not inspiration.
And that’s as it should be, being entirely era-appropriate for surfers whose “reference points for an obsession” are provided in a medium based primarily on transitory content.
But man, I’m going to miss holding those waves in my hand.
(Disclaimer: I authored the two Chronicle SURFER books excerpted above, and to anyone who thinks that makes me an egotistical, self-referential asshole I say “Go to hell. Let’s see your books.”)