– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

Drift Magazine

Drift MagazineWhether intentionally or not, Drift may revolutionize the traditional surf rag industry. Their message: “We feel it is important to create a positive future for surfing, and help to sustain the environment through a paperless magazine.” Drift Magazine is a free digital surfing publication that shares its profits with organizations like Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) and WILDCOAST.

Howard Swanwick, Online Editor at Drift, graciously gave us the time to talk about sustainability and the mission behind the magazine. At Phoresia we strongly believe that we live in an organic system, where everything is interconnected. Howard helps to make some of these connections clearer for us.

Q&A with Howard:

Q. What inspired you to create a strictly digital surfing publication?
Were you worried about it being too radical for the entrenched surfing culture to accept?

I have spent the last ten years in the magazine industry, and currently work for BBC Magazines in Bristol. In the last couple of years I’ve become increasingly aware of the need to address the problems, which the magazine industry poses to our world. I see this as a three-phase problem, which I will outline.

Firstly, producing magazines takes raw materials, namely paper. Even if paper is sourced from a sustainable forest, there is a generation gap in replanting, which means there are measurable lulls in CO2 absorption rates. Also, sustainable forests don’t support the same bio diversity as an ancient forest would. It’s very hard to make a magazine without using some virgin fiber.

Secondly, the printing process relies on chlorine-bleached paper and inks (some of which contain dioxins) which end up in the drainage system and ultimately in the water table, rivers and oceans. Some publishers have addressed this by adopting methods like soy-based inks.

Thirdly, magazines are over produced, to cope with unexpected demand at the newsstand. Magazines aren’t just sold to subscribers; if they were it would be easy to print exactly the right amount of magazines. However newsstands are less predictable. In the US alone, 2.9 billion magazines were produced, but not read last year. That’s an enormous amount of magazines, which get pulped. Recycling magazines takes energy, and that’s not even considering the purchased magazines and what happens to them when consumers are done reading them.

When it comes to the environment, surfing has a very unique relationship with the world around us. Surfers enjoy those moments where they can appreciate the world in its entire splendor; in a way you can’t get a football game or watching tennis. In that sense it’s not a sport, it’s a calling to our most basic instincts, the relationship with nature. When we understand this, we can come to terms with how we are affecting climate change and pollution levels.

Most importantly, we don’t wish to evangelize, we simply want to exist to offer surfers the choice to make a difference. We don’t want to hold a proverbial gun to anyone’s head. As Al Gore pointed out in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, it’s a matter of joining up the dots and realizing the answers to our problems are right in front of us before it’s too late. So surfers can choose to accept us, or steer clear of us, it’s their choice. Surfers represent a broad cross section of society, and are usually sensitive enough to understand these concepts.

Q. Can you tell us a little more about how Drift is helping to support the work of organizations such as Surfers Against Sewage?

When we first started Drift we hoped that the magazine would sell, and that we would donate 5% of sales to Surfers Against Sewage. However we very quickly realised that Drift would have to be free to work. Our relationship with SAS is now based on donations from advertising. We work with them to raise awareness of their campaigns and also will be talking to them about getting involved in some of their events.

We are also working with Wildcoast in San Diego, California, whose work helps to raise awareness about water quality issues around Southern California and Northern Baja. As an ex-resident of San Diego, this project has a lot of interest for me. We run a column from Serge Dedina, their Director, and have a Wildcoast section on our web site. Recently they sent me the video of Shell’s destruction of the big wave spot known as Harry’s and the construction of a liquefied natural gas line through Northern Baja. I found this profoundly ironic, as they sponsor the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, a show which is run in succession with BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Q. Sustainability has become a catchall word and has different meanings depending on the context. Does sustainability play a role at Drift Magazine?

Sustainability means many things to many people. Obviously we are looking at how we can produce a magazine without harming the environment in any way. To do this we have signed a partner agreement with Ecotricity here in the UK, so that even the electricity we use in the studio comes from a carbon neutral source. We try to encourage our readers to sign up to these companies. We are trying to look at all the aspects involved in surfing, from board materials to how to get to the beach. We have been speaking to Chris Hines about his work with Ned McMahon, and the new TDI foam he has been working on with Home Blown in San Diego. We are hopefully going to be involved in Chris’s idea for a world conference on surfing here in the UK.

We’ve been doing some research of our own into how many miles UK surfers travel, and what options they have to buy carbon neutral fuels. Surfers cover an awful lot of miles looking for waves, and we are testing products like Waste Vegetable Oil and Rapeseed Methyl Esther to power diesel vehicles. In the UK, biofuels are not commonly available, and at this moment are taxed at the same rate as mineral fuels. We’re hoping to highlight these issues, again with the help of SAS and the companies at the forefront of developing alternatives. Again, it’s not about preaching, it’s about offering surfers a workable alternative.

Q. What do you see for the future of Drift Magazine?

Drift Magazine

The publishing world is changing very quickly. The boundaries of what constitutes a magazine are changing all the time now, with web sites offering blogs, podcasts, forums and a whole range of features where timeliness is important. I think editors are becoming much more aware of the need to embrace new media to complement and add value to magazines, which is what we are trying to do at Drift. We think that by adding video, audio and interactivity to a digital magazine you can attract a readership that are already very used to using the internet in their daily lives. How many surfers use the net to find the surf conditions, watch the latest leg of the ASP tour, or find out about a holiday destination? It’s those people we are reaching out to, which constitutes an enormous amount of people. Of course reading a magazine is a very personal experience, and we are still asking people to read a magazine on screen, some people won’t want to do this, but
we also know a lot of people do want to do this. Drift is downloaded and read all over the world, which of course is another huge benefit of going digital, as distribution is so easy. Distributing a printed magazine to exactly where you want it overseas is extremely hard.

What does Drift hold for the future? Well, we have plenty of great features for the next few issues, and a really great team of dedicated professionals all over the world working for us. To some extent I became dissatisfied with what I was reading in most surf magazines, the content just didn’t relate to my surfing life. So the idea of Drift is simple, get back to basics, talk about surfing in terms the everyday surfer can understand, move away from the pro scene (at least in the magazine anyway) and focus on the broader spectrum of surfing, encompassing music, art, wildlife, photography and of course, the environment.

Its very early days for Drift, but we’ve had such an overwhelming reaction from our readers, that we know we are doing the right thing, and will continue to build on what we’ve got so far. We think we’re redefining publish to some extent, and its great to use surfing as the vehicle with which to do this.

Download Drift Here   Â

For a synopsis on the facts about paper publications check out thier page Why Read Drift.

• Category: environment, interviews, news & media

One Response »

  1. Thanks for the heads up on this rag. Sounds interesting.