"You’re not a radicaliser of surf culture, nor the arbiter. You’re just another pawn, serving up the same old flim-flam for ad revenue."
Dear Mr Sam McIntosh,
We don’t know each other, but I’d like to address your recent piece on Stab, the surf blog for entertaining educational ad copy.
Firstly, I know you think it was some grand justification of ideology, but it’s just nonsense.
For one, we know how surf media works, Stab especially. For the most part, it has served us sycophancy and trojan horse ad copy since it existed. If not for that, perhaps it never would have survived. You understand that, and you know what keeps lights on and pockets lined. We get it.
But to be magnanimous about it, as if kowtowing to people of influence is doing us a favour, well that’s just shite.
To address one of your arguments specifically, you assert that “modern media is essentially worthless” because athletes and organisations can speak directly to their fans via social channels.
Now, stop me if I’ve misunderstood what social media is all these years, but does this line of argument not prove the exact opposite of your assertion?
Is social media not just what people want us to see, from a personal or algorithmic perspective?
In which case, modern media, independent outlets with objective voices that you can trust, is more valuable than at any point in history.
Modern media should exist to challenge what people want us to hear. It should exist to combat the algorithms. It should exist to ask the questions that people don’t want to answer.
As for exhuming Orwell then murdering him to justify your existence, that was just cold. And oh so wrong.
But that’s not really the point. Stab has never been about independence and objectivity (well, maybe a brief flash in the embryonic stages).
You don’t do objective journalism because no-one wants it. The surf world is too inconsequential for anyone to care, and we’re conditioned by what we’ve been fed for so long. I mean, come on, any surf media, and especially anything that involves the WSL is of interest to such a minuscule percentage of people who surf that it’s almost unsustainable, far less important.
It’s why the WSL seem to be constantly gasping for air, even though we know they have a product that should be worth something.
But here’s a thing. What if it’s not the product?
No-one takes surf media seriously, from inside or outside the industry. Those inside understand that what they’re served up is disingenuous or tone deaf, and people outside see through the veneer, even if they don’t know exactly why.
Does the WSL deserve a bigger audience, more attention from a greater number of surfers? I think so. Probably.
But it doesn’t speak to them. It never has. Instead it treads this no-man’s land between the Dream Tour and The Inertia.
Culture doesn’t change overnight. I know you (as Stab) see yourself as this great disrupter (how many times can you tell us you once used a floating dock?), but you’re not a radicaliser of surf culture, nor the arbiter. You’re just another pawn, serving up the same old flim-flam for ad revenue. The difference is, you’re asking people to pay for it now.
To be disruptive is to change things, to go against the flow. To sacrifice the back-handers and the bottom line because you believe in the work.
I don’t read Stab. Your content doesn’t speak to me, nor appeal. (It is a shame that Paul Evans’ writing is paywalled.) I subscribed for the first time a few weeks ago because Lewis Samuels had mentioned me in his interview and I wanted to see what that was about.
Ask yourself why Samuels mentioned me, of all the established voices he might have noted, why me? (And Shearer, of course.)
It’s not because I write for a major outlet, nor that I’m even very productive. This isn’t my full time job.
And it’s not because I’m a great writer who cares deeply about his audience and craft. (Though that is true, clearly.)
No, if I had to guess, I would say it’s because I’m not affiliated with anyone in the surf industry. They don’t pay me, they’re not my friends, so my voice remains my own. I’m just some chump on the other side of the world, in a small town in the Scottish Highlands (that’s not even very close to waves), saying what I see. It’s ridiculous, really. I think about it daily. I couldn’t be further removed from the surf industry. I’m a fraud, really. But also a Real One. And maybe if I’d sooked at the industry teat it would’ve changed me. Maybe if I met some of the people I comment on, my humanity would turn me into something different, something like you. So it’s nice to remain at arm’s length, valuable even.
But if you want the truth, I’m more interested in pursuing writing outside of surfing, because I don’t trust the majority of surf media, nor respect it. There is no objectivity here, no journalism, no real future. It’s a small pool that lacks talent and freshness, and there are so few credible outlets for writers to stretch themselves.
The Surfers’ Journal and BeachGrit. That’s it. (And apologies for missing one or two Australian titles I just don’t have access to. I’d guess that Sean Doherty is producing fine work.)
I am not loyal to anyone but those I respect for their work, not their influence. My eyes are clear, as is my conscience.
Who do I respect? Those who have independent, objective voices. Samuels himself, Steve Shearer, Derek Rielly, Matt Warshaw, Surf Ads (don’t want to out him). And yes, even Chas Smith.
And if it’s just on pure writing talent and not objectivity, I’d throw Paul Evans, Sean Doherty, Jed Smith, Nick Carroll and Vaughan Blakey in there, too. (Shit, even Ashton and Mike C can be bright writers, if they weren’t so happy in voluntary confinement.)
Yes, Derek runs BG, and does so in a way that might be challenged. But I will tell you this: people can speak freely here. He lets me say whatever I like, and I value that. Only the overtly abusive, racist or discriminatory is off limits at BeachGrit, as it should be everywhere. Aside from that, it is objective and free.
Most importantly, it’s a place to exercise creativity in writing. I mean, I don’t need to tell you that, it’s why you poached your staff from here. And it’s no coincidence they’ve never been as good since.
But this is not to fluff DR’s feathers, this is just to say that there is another way. People can trust what they read here (if they can make it through the clickbait), and hopefully they will attract a greater number of independent voices because of that. Does it make them as much money as you? Absolutely not. But they don’t need to type furious, sweaty defences of their polluted ideologies either.
Like I say, culture doesn’t change overnight. And maybe we’ve gone too far. Maybe surf media will always be seen as glorified ad copy. Certainly, if no-one challenges it then nothing will change.
If I gave my kids chocolate and sweets for every meal they’d keep eating it, but it doesn’t mean it would be good for them.
What if I started charging them when they got hooked on the sugar?
Try serving some greens, Sam. People might not like it at first, but in the end they might thank you for it.