Iconic ex-editor Sam George writes: “Surfer magazine is no longer relevant!”

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.”)

Question: Does our President of Content, Media and Studios hate “normal” surfboards?

Celebrate diversity!

One of the greatest comedies of all-time is the Jerk, starring Steve Martin as Navin R. Johnston, and I dare you to disagree. From the opening sentence “I was born a poor black child…” to the closing moment, where we see Navin and his family all dressed in white, dancing on the porch of an extra-large shack, the film is note perfect.

In one scene, Navin goes to work at a gas station. A deragned man, who picked his name out of a phone book, tries to shoot him but ends up shooting many oil cans instead. Navin, confused, shouts, “He hates these cans!”

The same can be said for our World Surf League President of Content, Media and WSL Studios except instead of “He hates these cans!” I think we can all point at Erik “ELo” Logan and shout, “He hates modern, traditional shortboards!”

It’s true!

Every single manner of wave riding vehicle is showcased on his robust Instagram feed. Every sort of SUP, asymetrical SUP, foil SUP, longboard, longerboard and over the weekend Mr. President appears to have added kite surfing to the list. Oh of course kite foiling comes next and then we can assume finless planks, the kitchen table etc. but there is nary a 5’11 thruster to be found. Nary a 6’1 pintail. Nary a fish, squash, swallow. Nary anything… normal.

Now, what does this all mean? Is our President a brave modern man, the sort who shuns gender pronouns, the sort who will usher the World Surf League into a place of diverse harmony wherein any board can show up in any contest at any time? Where fans will begin to hiss any surfer carrying a DHD or Mayhem or Pyzel under zir arm?

Are traditional shortboards the new white male?

Vans employee tells kid with MAGA hat to ‘F*ck Off; Gets Fired

Trump supporter denied chance to buy iconic checkerboard slip-on shoes!

An employee at a Vans store in Kansas has been fired after, allegedly I suppose although he doesn’t seem to deny it, telling a kid with a Make America Great Again hat to fuck off.

“I’m sure he’s heard it before,” the employee told the kid’s mammy, who then reported the guy to his manager.

“My son walked into this store. That gentleman cursed and told him, ‘Take off your hat’. He said nothing to him, 14-year-old child, then he said, ‘F you’ to my son. My son said nothing to him, did nothing.'”

Shortly after, Vans, which is Dane Reynolds’ primary sponsor, released a statement saying, “The actions and comments from one employee in our Oak Park location are in contrast with our company’s values and belief in personal expression.”

And yesterday, it was revealed that Empire star Jussie Smollet, who’d claimed he’d barely escaped being lynched by two men chanting, “This is MAGA country!”, a hate crime that blew Twitter into the heavens and had GQ writing “They could lynch you if they really wanted to, and maybe get away with it too” , probs made the damn thing up.

From the safety of Australia, I ask: Are men, and boys, in MAGA hats tearing the heart out of America in “the blind rage of late-stage whiteness,” as posited by GQ, and therefore must have their smug faces punched as suggested by TV host Reza Aslan?

More importantly, should Vans invest a little cash in heating its stores?

Both employees are filmed wearing woollen caps and inflating jackets that belong, I would suggest, in Alaska’s famous tundra.

WA government creates safe space for sharks!

Progressive: Western Australian gov to monitor “health and well-being” of sharks caught in drum line trial!

Safe spaces for sharks!

Remember the good ol days when the torture of fish via knives and suffocation on jetties was a rite of passage for young boys and the occasional adventurous girl?

And when you could go into a restaurant and sit before a miniature train whose little cabooses presented fish that had been vacuumed from the ocean by super trawlers?

Oh you still can torture little fish?

And you can gorge on tuna and so on as long as it’s not…shark?

The elevation of the shark from fish to deity was confirmed a few days ago when it was announced that volunteers would monitor a drum line trial in Gracetown, Western Australia, where Great Whites have multiplied in such numbers one mental health counsellor now has the added custom of freaked-out mums of kids who insist on surfing, to ensure “the health, wellbeing and mortality risks of sharks.”

From a story in The West Australian on Friday.

The transparency of Gracetown’s fast-approaching smart drum-line trial has been bolstered by an agreement that will see two volunteer observers present when a shark is tagged and relocated.

The revelation came at a public forum tonight where Conservation Council of WA’s Simon Blears announced the move.

Mr Blears, CCWA’s representative on the Ministerial Reference Group, said the Department of Fisheries had agreed to make the system more transparent after ongoing concerns for the health, wellbeing and mortality risks of sharks.

The volunteer observers, one of whose identity was disclosed at the meeting, will require police checks and a thorough induction before being allowed on the contracted vessel.

Donna Martin, one of the volunteers, will watch as sharks caught on drum lines are secured with a rope, tagged and relocated at slow speed 500m further offshore.

Mr Blears said the improvements agreed on by the department were “large success points”, adding that trans-parency was a priority for the CCWA.

“One of the other things we wanted to make sure occurred was transparency of activities on the boats,” he said.

As part of the agreement, cameras and audio devices will be mounted to the upper structure of the vessel used for relocating the tagged sharks.

The footage will be made available to the Ministerial Reference Group. CCWA director Piers Verstegen, Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly’s senior policy advisor Michael McMullan and Director of Fisheries Science and Resource Development’s Daniel Gaughan were also at the meeting.

The trial, which starts this month, will see 10 drum lines put about 500m offshore across an 11.5km area taking in Southpoint, Northpoint and Lefthanders at a cost of $3.84 million.

One volunteer, the former aquarium worker Donna Martin, has threatened to have the trial shut if it kills or harms too many sharks.

Is this splendid man a good surfer, a VAL or an EI? Impossible to tell! | Photo: @kook_of_the_day

New Threat: The Rise of the Emerging Intermediate Surfer!

What happens when a VAL completes his metamorphosis?

It’s the year of the VAL, the Vulnerable Adult Learner whose behaviour and habitat has been well documented on this website.

Read here, here and here

Here, here, here and here too.

But what happens when a VAL eventually gains enough confidence in his, her, ability? They become an Emerging Intermediate, a more aggressive and threatening form of surfer than the VAL.

Don’t believe me?

Let us, as they say in polite circles, start the conversation.

The EI is unassuming because he has a carbon-wrapped board it discovered while being self-radicalized by surfboard review clerics on YouTube.  There is also a hipster sub-sect that can afford one-thousand dollar “artisan”, asymetrical twin-fins.

Emerging Intermediates further blend in and confuse everyone else because they actually make a legit wetsuit purchase from a mainstream company, be it an Xcel or perhaps a Matuse (see again hipster sub-sect).

The problem:

Newly radicalised, weaponised, and over aggressive, they will come to your peak and start shoulder hopping waves with their heads down. They are oblivious to everything. The newly anointed martyrs will make suicide missions into set waves, tomahawking down the face. The real treat comes when they actually make the wave but you’ve burned them. Tantrums and a detailed explanation of “The Rule of Surfing” will follow.


You have EI’s who vacay in Bali to surf waves out of their league. They wear reef booties and tell everyone they hate wearing them. Secretly, they wish the booties came up to their knee caps and they proudly stomp around in them as proof of being battle-tested at Uluwatu and so forth.

The overarching problem with EI’s is that aren’t as easy identifiable as VAL’s. Therefore, you don’t know where the enemy is and you don’t know where the enemy fire will be coming from.

So what can be done?

Do we place a travel ban on VAL’s in Tourmaline, Pacifica, Venice, and Bondi, assuming that they one day will be radicalized as EI’s?

Is it our responsibility to de-radicalise EI’s by suggesting they go back to a fun board and a surf trip to Costa Rica?

Many questions.