“As I put my leg down, I felt it again, so I’ve put my leg up and it’s grabbed my leg rope and started pulling down, and my leg rope’s just started to stretch. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know what to do. I was stressing, I was screaming at everyone, and everyone just started paddling away from me. In the moment, you just think you’re not going to come out of it alive unless you do something.”
Absolutely terrifying, especially being abandoned like that. Everyone just paddling away and not a proud day for Perth surfers except one hale friend who stuck around.
Marafioti undid his leash, swam to that friend who paddled him in on his board.
A hero though… this whole two boys, one board setup seems very dangerous, like tempting fate, but no matter. Fortune favors the bold and it favored Marafioti who added, “You can’t explain how it feels to have an animal grabbing at you. I don’t wish it on anyone.”
“Except Carole Baskin.”
Just kidding. He didn’t say that part about Carole Baskin.
Warshaw on Death of SURFER magazine: “It’s been hanging by a thread since it was sold to the owner of National Enquirer in 2019, but the clock has been ticking since Al Gore invented the internet.”
In 1972, at age 12, I wanted to grow up and be Jeff Hakman or Jerry West, flip a coin.
Instead, I grew up to be the editor of SURFER, which is one of those consolation prizes that turns out to be better than the thing you wanted in the first place.
I was hired in 1985.
Creatively speaking, the magazine was in middling-poor shape when I arrived and middling-good shape six years later when I ceremoniously turned over my half-ton avocado-green Steelcase editor’s desk to Steve Hawk, who took SURFER from middling-good to very good indeed.
It was a great place to work: part surf club, part Warhol Factory, part The Office.
I liked the people I worked with. I liked the deadline pressure and having a worthy nemesis (thank you, Surfing), and as a subscriber and fan since 1969, I liked the weight of the place — having Severson, Stoner, Kampion, and Brewer looking over my shoulder (the first three metaphorically; Art Brewer actually looked over my shoulder and froze my blood on occasion with his famous hooded-eye stare).
In other words, I was both inspired and slightly awed at being part of the sport’s oldest and best magazine. I never set foot on the SURFER premises without intending to make the new issue better than the previous one — because it was my byline on the articles and my name at the top of the masthead, yes, but also because it was fucking SURFER, Bible of the Sport, and I still hate that tagline, but if you got the gig you honored and respected and were shaped by it nonetheless.
SURFER had been hanging by a thread since it was sold to American Media (owner of National Enquirer) in early 2019, but the clock has been ticking since Al Gore invented the internet. Surf magazines will find a cozy little niche audience, like vinyl LPs, but with rare exception we’re 20 or so years removed from the day when a print article could break a story, set a tone, drive a discussion.
SURFER has long felt like a coda not just to its previous self, but to print media in general. Prodanovich said the “Covid economy” did SURFER in, but that’s not really true. The internet marched SURFER to the cliff — all the virus did was finger-push it over the edge. Digital is coming for us all, and yes I see the irony of this story appearing here.
Drew Kampion was the first SURFER writer I stole from, probably for a middle school essay, and I’ve done it ever since, right up to Sean Doherty’s recent Pipe Masters wrapup. John Witzig taught me how to come in with guns firing. Kevin Naughton and Craig Peterson taught me how to come in with a smile and a bro handshake and a case of beer.
Photographer Brad Barrett (below right) and art director Hy Moore (left), the quiet duo from SURFER’s 1968-1971 High Renaissance Age, and I do mean high, remind me that some of the finest and most valuable work goes uncredited.
I never met John Severson in person, but thanks to him I know that is possible to create something that is both specific and timeless, and that you can and should develop a full quiver of media skills. We are by and large an international collection of small-bore hustlers, back-paddlers, and bad-vibers, but at some deep plasmatic level we share a bond as surfers, and this was another received bit of Severson wisdom. “I wanted everybody to feel included,” he told me in 1995 when I asked why he originally called his magazine The Surfer. “It felt like we were something we were all going to do together.”
“We’re In This Together,” incredibly, is the lone cover blurb on SURFER’s final issue, and while I am warmed by this 1960-to-2020 symmetry and full-circleness, there is no getting around the fact that, with SURFER gone, we are suddenly and probably forever less together.
Last month, Julian Wilson initiated a $US1.5 million lawsuit against Hurley for their alleged wrongful termination of his contract.
The crux of Hurley’s alleged reasoning centered on Wilson’s failure to compete in 2020. The contract had apparently entitled Hurley to reduce Wilson’s compensation if he failed to compete in at least five World Tour events in a year.
The WSL cancelled the 2020 Tour following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s unclear why Wilson dismissed the suit, as the documents filed on Wilson’s behalf are lacking any substantive information, but it’s likely that the parties settled.
Wilson’s attorneys would have likely threatened suit in the initial negotiations and he (plausibly) would have had little incentive to dismiss the suit without reaching some settlement agreement, as even the hint of litigation is substantial leverage in the U.S. (lawyers are an expensive bunch).
It’s possible that Wilson blinked first in light of a threat by Hurley (aka Bluestar Alliance) to litigate the matter to the hilt, but it seems unlikely given Wilson was represented by a high-powered legal firm specializing in media and entertainment.
Wilson and Hurley entered into the original seven-year agreement in 2014.
Then, in 2019, Hurley was purchased by Bluestar Alliance.
According to Wilson, Bluestar announced its intention to shift away from athlete sponsorships following the acquisition.
Bluestar was allegedly unhappy with many of the contracts they had acquired, “reportedly looking for loopholes in contracts. … to use as leverage to renegotiate terms.”
Wilson also alleged that Hurley had attempted to postpone his payments, telling Wilson that if he did not agree to the postponement, Hurley would face bankruptcy.
Since Bluestar’s acquisition, Hurley has culled several high-profile athletes.
Rob Machado, a Hurley sponsored surfer for twenty years, was dropped in January of this year.
John Florence left Hurley after he was reportedly offered $2 million to void the remaining $12 million left in his contract.
Carissa Moore was rumored to be in a contract dispute with Hurley earlier this year, though she still remains on the team.
Wilson is still sponsored by a myriad of brands, including Red Bull, but for now, the nose of his board looks a lot like ours.
The flouting of contracts isn’t exactly novel news for Americans (see American removal of Native Americans), but it still feels dire when corporations can essentially opt out of expensive surf sponsorships with little consequence.
A dark time for surfers in the paid-to-shred biz.
Former staffer writes eulogy on death of SURFER: “The final bit of content? A photo of an air at a soulless wavepool posted to Instagram. About the saddest way this lumbering old lion could be put down.”
SURFER was not simply an “asset” but a living, breathing part of our culture…
I saw my first cover of SURFER magazine (October, 1991 issue) when I was twelve years old, standing in line at a grocery store in landlocked Visalia, California (Hi Chas’s wife!), my chubby hands each clutching a tube of chalky Necco wafers.
The cover image was a long-haired dude in a wetsuit and booties floating a big chunky end section, with the photo divided in two: black and white on one side, color on the other (it’s my avy). I didn’t know what I was looking at, but I knew it looked cool as hell, so I pestered my exhausted mother until she bought the magazine. I took it home, fell in love, and it shaped the rest of my life from that day forward.
My mom moved me to the coast a year later, a miraculous gift from an otherwise non-existent god. With that grubby SURFER magazine as my only guide, I spent the next couple years turning my landlubbing ass into an actual surfer. 30 years later, I still have that issue at the bottom of a box, a few dozen other issues stacked neatly on top, a layer cake of memories three decades deep.
Every so often, I tip a bottle of bourbon into a glass (one ice cube), fish that ancient mag out of the box, and in a whoosh of nostalgia am transported instantly to a time when surfing was the most mysterious thing in the world to me, impossibly cool, and a culture I desperately wanted to be part of.
That a kid who’d never seen surfing in person could buy a copy of SURFER 200 miles from the ocean at a low budget grocery store in a low budget town probably has something to do with the demise of the magazine. Mission creep, cancer-like growth, the mag leaving the careful clutches of John Severson’s hands to be passed around to ever more predatory corporations that practically gave away subscriptions to inflate circ numbers to move more ads, selling mags in places that made no sense, blah blah blah, standard pulp publication trajectory of the past few decades.
SURFER wasn’t unique in that.
It also wasn’t unique in last week’s blood letting by parent company A360 Media (gag). Powder Magazine, founded in 19-freaking-72, skiing’s granddaddy publication, was axed. Bike Magazine, another giant, pushed off a cliff. Each of these titles, like SURFER, were cherished, fueled dreams, had pages ripped out and taped to walls, and for at least parts of their existence, defined their sport’s culture.
None of them were given a farewell by A360.
SURFER was in its sixtieth year of publication. The final bit of content produced? A photo of an air at a goddamed soulless wavepool posted to Instagram. About the saddest way this lumbering old lion could be put down.
Why not the dignity of a week-long online lovefest?
Let some of the old editors and scribes pen loving tributes?
Where’s the harm in that?
There of course is no harm, and if the media biz was run by real human beings and not by Allbirds-wearing choads worshipping accounting software, it perhaps would have occurred to people higher up in the organization that these titles were not simply “assets” but living, breathing members of our culture that deserve proper eulogies, not Friday afternoon pink slips.
I wrote for SURFER as a full-time gig for much of the past decade, so you’ll forgive a little rambling and sensitivity here.
I’m also not naive to market forces or even partial to my era at the mag. For my money, nothing will beat the early Steve Hawk years in the nineties. Moody, mature, with just enough vinegar-splashed irreverence to cut through the seriousness. The high-water mark of the publication, no question.
I’m also not so naive as to think SURFER died last week.
It really died years ago, maybe sometime around the second decade of this century, when the internet toppled SURFER from its pedestal as the must-read magazine that each month gathered the surf world together, so to speak.
Even from the inside, and especially as the issue count was shortened year over year recently, I mourned the SURFER of old, unsatisfied by what replaced it, the firehose of social media, and websites all sharing the exact same YouTube clips, interspersed with traffic farming listicles and self-help articles geared toward you clicking on product links and the website getting a kickback.
There’s a reason A360 is keeping only Men’s Journal, after all, a magazine nobody cares about, but which surely generates enough in affiliate sales (look it up, kiddos), to be a cash cow for a media company that doesn’t give a shit about media or journalism, or any of the sports their magazines covered.
Those problems are bigger than surf, ski, or bike mags, of course.
Two decades into the internet eating media, we still don’t know how to make websites profitable without ruining them, so addicted we’ve all become to free content.
There is a lesson here in SURFER’s demise.
Support your favorite publications. You don’t like ads? Don’t visit free websites. You don’t like staring at screens? Buy print publications. We deserve whatever shitty media we’ll have in the coming years if we refuse to pay actual money for it.
The Surfer’s Journal will soldier on, for who knows how long, likely until those of us who grew up with print pubs give up the ghost, our kids never having cared about non-digital entertainment. The SURFER Magazine that you loved the most, or, whichever weird-ass Australian title you grew up reading, was likely at its best back when it was supported by subscription revenue that covered the cost of printing, and made a little profit before ads entered the picture at all.
It’s ridiculous to complain about the quality of a product you pay nothing for, to demand an ad-free experience while reading a free article. Editorial freedom combined with the trust of a subscriber base is a powerful thing in media.
We can have the media we want, as long as we’re willing to pay for it.
Which brings me back to that kid in Visalia, who changed the direction of his life based on one copy of SURFER magazine, and the 42-year-old man who threw away his high school yearbooks but can’t bring himself to pitch a thirty-year-old magazine into the recycling.
I’m clearly not alone. SURFER meant a great deal over the decades to an awful lot of people. It still will, but now as only a memory, and that’s fine. Time moves on, tastes change.
Something needs to fill that gap. Something has needed to for awhile. BeachGrit, god bless y’all, ain’t filling it. Stab isn’t either. The Journal I guess comes close, but it’s always felt sterile, standing at a distance from its readers
. As Chas wisely said, “SURFER was the Bible of the sport. It was what mattered. And now it doesn’t.”
Surfing doesn’t really have any media that matters anymore. Nothing to rip from a mag and tape to a wall. Nothing to get excited about when it shows up. Nothing to take us to new, faraway places we’d never heard of, nothing to introduce us to new ways of being a surfer, no cultural fire for us all to gather ‘round, to warm our hands each month.
The media biz today makes that nearly impossible.
And for that, I’m sad.
We should all be.
Now if you’ll excuse me, time to dig out that old mag, drink one for the old girl, and be happy I was able to make those memories at all.
Oh, and PS: We never, ever wrote anything based on appeasing pro surfers or advertisers. Drives me fucking insane when people who have no idea how this works prattle on endlessly about that.
Half Metal Jacket: The United States Army drops “shark attack” basic training technique as Coronavirus pandemic ends “up-close shouting!”
Of all the things abandoned during the Coronavirus Pandemic (2019- ), including handshakes, sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers, full restaurants and professional surfing, I think I’m most sad to see the United States Army’s “shark attack” go.
And of course you know what the “shark attack” is because you are a surfer but also watch movies.
The “shark attack” is when a drill sergeant stands centimeters away from a recruits face while screaming.
While the shark attack was intended “to establish dominance and authority using intimidation and fear, to weed out the weak of heart,” it helped to create “a chaotic environment that centered around applying physical exertion under stress.”
“Drill sergeants were charged with assessing the trainee’s ability to handle stress … by enveloping them in a manner that emulated a shark attack,” Fortenberry said.
Sometimes, half a dozen drill sergeants would “gang up on you and be absolutely relentless,” causing some recruits to cry, said James Dalman, who was infantry in the Army Reserves and National Guard for six years, on his website.
Although the shark attack method was “mean, nasty, and overwhelming,” and a “deeply unpleasant experience, it does serve an important purpose — preparing troops for stressful situation including combat,” he said.
But now it is gone because screaming centimeters from anyone’s face, even recruits’ faces, is not cool during Coronavirus.
I feel very sad because another surf reference has been removed from the military but mostly because movies will suffer deeply. In the future there will be no more Major Panyne…