Power to the little people etc.
Tracks magazine has returned to its surfer roots after more than four decades in the paws of various corporate masters.
The magazine’s editor Luke Kennedy along with Peter Strain, David Mulham, Greg Cooper and Damian Martin have bought the title from nextmedia who bought it from Britain’s emap in 2007 who, in turn, bought it from MasonStewart in 1997.
Founded in 1970 in a little beach shack at Whale Beach by Dave Elfick, John Witzig and Alby Falzon, and launched to capture the counter-culture movement then sweeping through surfing, Tracks was a newsprint version of Falzon’s zeitgeist snatching Morning of the Earth.
Tracks shifted tone in 1974 with the hiring of arch wit Phil Jarratt, one of surfing’s finest and funniest writers. Tracks paid close attention to the rise of professional surfing, and jettisoned much of its nonsurfing editorial platform. Editor Jarratt wrote a kneeboard column titled “Cripple’s Corner,” and Queensland’s soon-to-be world champion Wayne Bartholomew surfed in the nude for a 1976 cover story. A new and hugely popular Tracks feature was Captain Goodvibes, a boorish cartoon surf-pig superhero. Tracks’ circulation by mid-decade was 40,000, larger by far than any previous Australian surf publication. The magazine’s reputation held steady under the editorial stewardship of Paul Holmes, followed by Nick Carroll (both of whom went on to edit American surf magazines). Articles continued in the Jarratt style: smart, funny, and more often than not snide.
As Carroll later put it, Tracks “truly defined the Australian surf mag.”
By the late ’80s, Tracks was being challenged by 1985-founded Australia’s Surfing Life and the 1987- founded Waves, both eager to probe the raunchier limits of sophomoric surf-related humor. The new material caught on; by the time Tracks editor Tim Baker left in 1991 to work for Australia’s Surfing Life, the older magazine was a deflated, if not defeated, power.
The employee buy-out continues a new trend in surf media ownership where surfers get back into the game after decades of surf magazines being the golden eggs of non-surf co’s.
Think, Doherty and Jon Frank, Surfing World; Murdoch, Bainy and co, White Horses.