Mergers and Acquisitions: What happens to Surfer magazine now that it has been sold?

Let's ask an expert!

I surf, a lot. I am one of those perpetual advanced intermediates who can surf, but doesn’t turn any heads. I wish I could say I was in the surf industry, but I cant. I have spent the entirety of my professional career as a mergers and acquisitions attorney.

I have been part of natural growth companies, start-ups, consulting firms etc. I know the model well. None of that knowledge has helped me “be part of the conversation” in the surf world but when Chas broke the news on Beach Grit, shortly followed up by his conversations with David Lee Scales on The Grit Podcast, I thought I would reach out to Chas to help him play a little insider baseball with what is most likely going to happen to a once shiny and revered publication because, well, it is my time to shine.

There are many types of exits a company can have. For instance, the entire goal of startups is to exit. Startups, or at least the good ones, take on several rounds of Venture Capital (rather than growing organically) with the specific intent of spending as much money as possible to grow and expand as rapidly as possible, avoid paying income tax, and selling to a much larger company to get a [hopefully] big pay day. Other exits/acquisitions, like the one Surfer is going to experience post acquisition, are far less pretty.

In situations like what we are seeing at Surfer, this acquisition is a outward signal that Surfer Magazine is in significant financial hot water. Companies that grow organically, like Surfer, are highly unlikely to sell. They, after all, have a vision, a customer base, a product, and a culture they want to retain. In situations like these, the general consensus is that the profits are negatively impacted by bloated operating models or mismanaged finances that are ill equipped to react to pivots in the customer base or delivery model. In this particular circumstance, my best guess is that the old “Print Media Is Dead” tag is sprayed all over the downfall of Surfer Magazine and they got bought not because they wanted to sell to the National fucking Enquirer, but that it was the only way to keep the magazine above ground and without a tombstone.

From where I am sitting, the Surfer acquisition will like this.

1. You’re all fired (except the authors)!!!!
a. When a company is bought because they are on the rocks, the first thing that always happens, without fail, is that people in departments that do not generate revenue (ie HR, AP, AR, etc.) are axed and rolled into the new parent company’s processes. Why have multiple cost centers when you can have one?

2. Authors, if you were on a W2, you’re now a contractor!
a. Benefits, employment, payroll taxes, and PTO are expensive. You can get a lot more authors on a per word basis than you can paying them all salaries. Think of The Inertia- I have no first-hand knowledge but If I was to guess, I would say they have 12 full time W2 employees, and they’re all non-writing executives. The thousands of dog shit articles on The Intertia about feelings and humping dolphins is all provided by “contributors” scraped from the dregs of professional Surfing. As a result, surfer loses its voice, and we get another Inertia.

3. Your office is closed!
a. For the same reason as above, bye-bye office.
4. We’re throwing your operating model away!
a. It is very likely that if the print content does not present a huge revenue upside for the National Enquirer, they are going to redesign the entire operating model. I imagine that this will mean either the magazine will get pared down to a rag like The Enquirer so it can run as a loss leader that points people to blown out and more expansive online.

5. We’re only here for the IP! And most of it is ALREADY SOLD!
a. My guess is that the ONLY reason National Enquirer wanted surfer is an EXPANSIVE amount of surf related intellectual property. Surfer had nearly 60 years of pictures, prints, articles, videos, and surf related assets that NOBODY else had. The Enquirer is probably going to sell most of these for a proft and keep only a very small portion of what made up Surfer. Wilbur Kookermeyer? Sold! Covers? Licensed to be turned into cheap posters! The Surfer Bar? Sold to a restaurant group! 60 years of pictures? Getty Images!

So the writing on the wall is, Surfing is dead. The issue in your mailbox is the last issue (or close to last issue) you will receive. You are going to see a huge dumping of Surfer assets for you to buy cheap and from China. Your friends that work there probably won’t anymore once the deal is done. Does this suck? Yeah, but THAT’S CAPITALISM BABY. And let’s be real, you and I haven’t bought an issue since we got nifty glowing pocket hypnoboxes in our pockets.

So really, this is all our fault, but mostly yours Steve Jobs.

From the VAL-and-proud department: Movie Tough Guy Revealed as Vulnerable Adult Learner Surfer!

VAL Matt Damon joins the toxic stew at Australia's most dangerous wave!

Surfing the Pass, that kooky sand-bottom right in Byron Bay, is hard work. Like, really hard.

Imagine every surf craft that has ever existed. Then imagine fifty of each of them crammed into a lineup a couple of hundred yards long, piloted by a lottery-ball selection of humans who have never stepped foot in the ocean before. 

Here’s Susan, 45, Iowa, waiting patiently to be collected by the next wall of foam on her 8’6″ soft board. There’s Akumi, 33, Tokyo, flying down the line on a 7’ aliia, screaming for the gods as she locks into a decapitation death spiral.

Here’s Levi, 23, Melbourne-slash-Byron, awkwardly soul arching through the entire mess, leashless on his 14″ double ender. 

The Pass easily surpasses Bondi, and is close to three-foot Snapper Rocks, as the most dangerous surf spot on the east coast of Australia – if you rank danger by chance of collision occasioning  actual board and bodily harm.

For the everyday surfer it is a write off. A world-class wave buried under a blanket of narcissistic greed. A sad indictment of the human race’s propensity to make too much out of a good thing. 

And to that toxic mix you can now add Vulnerable Adult Learner Jason Bourne, safety crouching a two-footer, ready to put you into a sleeper hold if you dare drop in. 

As reported by The Daily Telegraph, 

Matt Damon and his wife takes (sic) to the waves in Byron Bay family holiday

Hollywood superstar Matt Damon can’t get enough of the land Down Under.

Back holidaying in the northern NSW beach town of Byron Bay, Damon, was snapped hitting the waves for a surf on Thursday afternoon.

The Damon’s (sic) also met up with their good mates, the Hemsworth’s (sic), who often host their fellow A-listers in Byron Bay.

(Read the story here if you can get past the dang paywall.)

It begs the question.

Would you burn Jason Bourne? Keeping in mind he may even have Thor as backup water patrol? 

I think I’d pass.

Revealed: BeachGrit is the most “popular surf tabloid” amongst polite society!

Raise your brandy.

I don’t mean to brag here BUT your li’l ol’ BeachGrit got mentioned by The New York Times yesterday less than two months after appearing in The New Yorker, the only two publications read by every single person in polite society.

You certainly recall in December when Pulitzer Prize winning author William Finnegan wrote:

“BeachGrit, an Australian Web site that delights in trolling the W.S.L., blew up the image to billboard size and installed it on a freeway in Lemoore, just in time for the Surf Ranch Pro. The billboard shot zoomed around the surfing Internet.”

That was in The New Yorker.

And yesterday, in The New York Times, National Magazine Award winning author Daniel Duane wrote:

“Chas Smith, a founder of the popular online surf tabloid BeachGrit, told me that other male big-wave surfers complained about women at the time.”

Oh it’s no big deal, really, it’s just… I don’t know, should I try wearing a monocle now? Do you think Spy makes a monocle with Happy Lens technology?

Or do you think I’d look better in a tweed jacket with leather patch’d elbows?

Think on that for a minute.

The New York Times piece is an in-depth look at women and big wave surfing. We’ll get in and dissect it later I just really need to know what to wear while doing. What about spats? Do polite socialites still wear spats?

Any other ideas would be appreciated.

Breaking: The World Surf League looks to build “a couple” Surf Ranches in Paris, France!

Australia, Brazil and maybe LA too!

You of course know Parisians, their casual elegance, their perfect trimness, their enjoyment of the finer things like Gauloises, chilled champagne and oysters but did you also know they’re stone-cold wave tank freaks?

It might be true!

Our World Surf League’s Dear General Secretary Sophie Goldschmidt sat down recently for an interview and we’ve already discussed her take on the troublesome far-right strain infecting most surfer’s heart but let’s jam on the Surf Ranch revelation shall we?

“We have one in Lemoore, which is our pilot facility. To be honest, we never thought we’d have events there but it’s just gone so well and the technology has become so robust that we are using that. But we’re building one in Florida; we’re also going to be building one in Tokyo, in Australia, in Brazil, likely LA, and we’re looking at building a couple in Paris.”

Australia, Brazil, maybe LA and a couple in Paris.

The City of Lights! Surf Ranches on every street corner!

In all serious, why do you think a couple in Paris? Is it just because Parisians are stone-cold wave tank freaks or is something else at play?


The Sporting Cock.

What else could possibly be at play?

Stay tuned!

WSL CEO: “Surfing is a counterculture-type sport and progressive for different, maybe political reasons!”

Very cryptic.

I don’t know about you, but I like our Dear General Secretary World Surf League CEO Sophie Goldschmidt. We haven’t spoken much, just a few pleasantries at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, but… I don’t know. There’s something about her. A spark. And glimmer. Like she could pitch an office chair from Santa Monica’s High Castle in a fit of explosive rage. Like she could have all her enemies killed overnight and never lose that little smile.

Anyhow, she gave a wide-ranging interview yesterday to SportsPro and let’s tuck into some highlights.

On today… “The reasons I took the role have been even more firmly reinforced. The sport’s at an incredibly exciting tipping point. Momentum is building in all sorts of ways. I’ve pretty much loved every minute of it.”

On growth potential… “We have so many different aspects to surfing, both the high-performance, elite end of the sport but it transitions into lifestyle, I think, more authentically than any other sport. That’s a real opportunity, and then also growing the profile of these athletes.”

On the Olympics… “I think we both need each other. The Olympics has done an amazing job, especially over the last few Games, and they’re evolving all the time. But I think they’re aware that there are certain segments of the population out there that maybe don’t resonate as much with it. And I think surfing definitely offers something very different.”

On wave tanks… “I think it’s important to state that the ocean has never been more important to us; the variability, the fact that [the athletes are] also competing with Mother Nature, as well as each other, makes the sport truly unique. But this is very complementary for all of the reasons I mentioned – it allows us to go to markets we could never have dreamed of, to be properly programmable from a TV perspective, to engage with audiences in different ways.”

On building two wave tanks in Paris… “We have one in Lemoore, which is our pilot facility. To be honest, we never thought we’d have events there but it’s just gone so well and the technology has become so robust that we are using that. But we’re building one in Florida; we’re also going to be building one in Tokyo, in Australia, in Brazil, likely LA, and we’re looking at building a couple in Paris.”

On being an agent of change… “I think I’m able to be a bit of an agent for change – again, the timing is right. But I’m not afraid to take some risks and be innovative and when you’re trying to punch above your weight, which surfing is as a sport – you know, we’re an emerging sport – we can have that challenger mentality. We have the flexibility because of the structure to act that way, which is incredibly exciting.”

All very great but tucked into the middle of the interview was a very cryptic passage, one that I’m having difficulty in really nailing down the meaning. Would you like to try with me? Ok here we go.

“It’s always been known as a kind of counterculture-type sport and progressive for different, maybe political or other reasons. But actually, considering it’s all about the ocean and nature, they’re really open-minded. I mean, the athletes have been fantastic. We’ve changed a lot, we’ve tried a lot this year and they’ve really embraced it, which is great. That hasn’t always been my experience in sports so that’s a real positive for what we’re trying to do.”

Got it? What does this first sentence mean to you?

“It’s always been known as a kind of counterculture-type sport and progressive for different, maybe political or other reasons.”

To me it would mean that surfers are a little rebellious and… no, throwing the “maybe political or other reasons” in really confuses though it confuses less when the following sentence is included. “But actually, considering it’s all about the ocean and nature, they’re really open-minded.”

To contrast “counter-culture type progressive for different maybe political or other reasons” with “But actually, considering it’s all about the ocean and nature, they’re really open-minded.” can only mean one thing.

Our Dear General Secretary Sophie Goldschmidt believes surfers are far-right and probably racist, sexist, ageist too but with hearts of gold.


Is there another reading?