– stripping surfing back down to its most elemental form

What is Surfing #89: Cancel My Subscription Please

I stumbled upon a thread on a Florida surfing forum recently where the topic was a heated discussion about the value of the current popular surfing publications. The author of the thread had this to say:

“So they finally lost me. After at least ten years of signing back up I’m over it. All the f’n adds, repeated destinations, same lame interview with the “Next Kelly” and articles geared to sell product. They both truly lost me with the pro Made in China articles.Surf Magazine Subscriptions One mag while proudly boasting “Shaper of the Year” wasted good recycled pulp and ink to show case a highly talented group of shaper/surfers only to have them riding and talking about boards that were constructed by a faceless, under paid Asian. The other mag stole some quality “me” time trying to convince me that “Hey you should thank the companies who took their factories over seas cause even though none of them surf now they do get waves.” Of course I’m paraphrasing. So it looks to me like they have an agenda that I can no longer support. What happened to the soul, the craft, the innovation? Can we no longer get it from our own back yard. For Christ sake there is a two page add for Joel’s Good Karma line brought to you by the pop-out kings themselves. Has Joel sold his “soul”? Gotta go They’re watching me…………..” – Click here for the full context of the forum thread…

This sparked a long rumination in my brain about sustainability and the balance between profit and integrity. OK, I know that last sentence was a bit out in the flats so I’ll clarify. What is the role of a magazine like Surfing or Surfer? Presumably the role is twofold: to provide their readers with insightful and original content about surfing, surf culture, surfboard design and competition, and to make revenue from advertising. After all, any business initiative has to make money or it dies without the world noticing. What seems to be happening however, and this doesn’t strictly apply to surfing magazines, is that profit from advertising is controlling much of the space in the magazines as well as the content.

Surf MagazineIt’s hard to say whether these publications will die. In fact, it’s unlikely. Their subscription rates are so low these days that you wonder if what you pay for years’ worth even covers shipping. This means that they must me making a killing off of advertising. But what happens if no one wants to buy the magazine? Advertisers will take note. In reality this scenario is at the extreme end of what is possible. And recently one of the editors for a major surf magazine has been posting comments on Swaylocks, and he’s received quite a bit of flack too for his editorial direction. But the fact that he’s willing to risk his neck on Swaylocks shows an interest in being in touch with people who surf. It also shows promise that the magazine will at least be in touch with what the actual surfing public is interested in.

The principles of sustainability apply to all aspects of modern life. And culture magazines are no exception. If a publication is to survive, and if it cares at all for preserving some journalistic integrity and an honest look into the culture, then it must have a strict balance between advertising revenue and the needs of its readership. This is not rocket science nor as controversial as quad fin placement. For now we can all be thankful for the ever growing community of surf bloggers from all over the world. Blogs like Surfy Surfy, SissyFish, Warbles, Surf in Oregon, Contra Ola, Safe to Sea, Wine and Woodsmoke and The Fresh Aspect bring  fresh and commercial free content to our surfing collective. Thanks to all of you for your hard work. It’s interesting thing to read various surf blogs throughout the world and hear first hand about things that are going on in the surfing world outside of the ASP and the next “whosit” supergrom -things that are never mentioned in the major surf publications, yet are more at the heart of what the average magazine buying surfer is interested in.


• Category: news & media,

15 Responses »

  1. My computer’s made in China.
    My car’s made in Japan.
    My flip flops are made in Thailand.
    My t-shirt’s made in Canada (WTF, Canada?).
    My jeans are made in China.
    My underwear is made in Thailand.
    7 of my 8 surfboards are made in US(China board was free).

  2. I agree but heh, buddy, can you spare me a dime?

  3. Action Jackson, I’m missing the correlation there? Care to elaborate?

    The world is indeed a global marketplace, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make conscious decisions on our purchases based on overall lifecycle costs.

    It’s actually kind of crazy once you start to realize where products come from looking at the shelves of your local grocery store or clothing shop and realize the impact all of that has made to get onto the shelves. There’s quite a lot we can do to change that but it requires conscious decision making and a little bit of forethought.

    Beach Bum, China’s printing up your money as we speak, should be off the container in Long Beach in a few weeks, I’ll mail it to ya…

  4. What about the Surfers Journal? I’m a happy subscriber. You have to pay for it though? But its got the deeper and varied content. I have also liked The Surfers Path. Somewhat more ad content but a green and international perspective.

    I do subscribe to the Surfer/ing dual. Cheap, Cheap, Cheap. Mostly ad crap. Would never pay cover price. You have to wonder if they really expect people to read articles that are printed in 8 font typeface with a black on blue background????

    The Blogs are the most authentic, communal, and pure. Long live em’

  5. Hey JD. Couldn’t agre with you more. The Journal and the Path are on different levels all together.

  6. Oh, I guess I didn’t have any real correlation except for the large paragraph about China made boards. But I was just sitting at my desk and got to wondering where everything around me was made. Nothing is made in the US. That’s all.

    Did you notice that Surfer’s Journal is “printed in China”?

  7. My last reply might not have worked, so I’ll try again. Hope it’s not redundant.

    No real correlation, I guess. But I was sitting at my desk and checked things around me to see where they’re made. Nothing is made in USA.

    “The Journal” is printed in China…yep, a different level indeed.

  8. Yeah, Surfer’s Journal is printed in China, a disappointment for sure. There was a discussion some time ago, possibly on Swaylocks where Pezman tried to justify it by saying the printing process they use is no longer done in the US. As you said, nothing is made in US.

    The comment about TSJ and Surfer’s Path being on a different level was in regards to their journalistic quality. Another one that has had some really fresh content and is just trying to find it’s place is Drift magazine out of the UK.

    Your first comment is interesting though, because it highlights the global scale of our consumption. “Our” meaning us as a society. Being conscious of where things are made is the first real step in trying to have less impact. You start to look at things more in terms of where they were made and what the “true” cost of it is. Many things are inexpensive as far as monetary cost is concerned but carry a much bigger price as far as materials, labor, and environmental impact go.

  9. Here’s the link to the Swaylock’s article mentioned in the article above. The TSJ printing comment is the 5th post down, but the whole thread is worth reading.

  10. Good article, couldn’t agree more that surfing news catered for the masses doesn’t feed the soul, heck isn’t even about surfing (as i see it…) I cringe when i check the instant gratification of surftrips on luxury yachts with nothing put in the kids way but arranging for their mates to fly in from the other side of the world and to bring their ipod…

    But it is a good start that this is a realization we are sharing and we can do our little thing about it! But we’ll have to realize that we are just a little niche at the extreme end of the spectrum, so not the average reader. But hey, by doing our own thing, using the internet and spreading the message of roots & soul rediscovery, reflective moderation, sustainability or how you wanna call it, the hordes may get a whiff of it and before you know it – it’s a different world.

  11. make revenue from advertising

  12. ha, hit enter before wrote post, sorry.

    Above you stated that the surf mag’s purpose is presumably twofold, I think it is really just one: make revenue from advertising. Both mags are owned by a larger company that owns several magazines so I would venture that whatever non profit motives started er/ing way back when is long gone. Just look at any “fashion” magazine your wife or girlfriend has laying around, the purpose is even more transparent. If you want content, buy a book. I got suckered into buying that issue with all the shapers and all the new “design” stuff going on after skimming through it at the grocery store. After I read it completely I was pretty disappointed that it was nothing more than a big advertisement for Surftech’s TL2 boards. But it was the teeny-bopper directed content that had me cancel my subscriptions years ago.

  13. As a history guy and culture consumer, I believe that the history and development of surfing is archived in every surfing publication. They are all very important in that regard. But the growing volume of little complaints (too much space for ad copy, narrow focus on professional surfers and surfing) give way to a damning one when the editor blurs the line between editorial and commercial content.

    Both of the big American publications (er and ‘ing) have wandered way too far into that forbidden zone with their coverage of surfboards since Clark. The selection of their shaper of the year is a perfect and all too prominent an example. Subtler examples include their unwillingness to point out the board choices of said professional surfers when those boards are made by off-mainstream shapers (like the recent use of Campbell Brothers’ Bonzer configurations by Fanning and Knox). I happen to believe that surfing is iconographic culturally important enough to need/deserve the type of archiving I mentioned above. And the maintstream American publications are potentially failing that responsibility.

    Perhaps Phoresia is correct, like the denizens of the old Usenet group “alt.surfing” used to claim all the time. The argument from the alt.surfing crowd was always that the most authentic surfing reportage will come in the form of individuals with a keyboard and an internet connection. These internet-based content maker would always bring the freshest content and local reportage possible, at a scale the dino-publications could never match. And at some point, enough folks would find that that ended their need to buy either of those magazines.


  14. I like this blog. Somebody from a Google group directed me here and I think I like it. So far I have yet to read most of the posts, however I like what you are doing and the environment theme is a plus. I write in every post “Go surfing. Respect the oceans.” and Hopefully the latter part is catching on. Feel free to check my blog out. You might like it.


  15. Hey there,

    Thanks for the the shout-out, and amongst such great company! I, for one, am sick of the major rags. That’s why I started Sissyfish. There are a lot of reasons why the big circulation ER and ING bother me, but perhaps the biggest is the amount of paper used to produce their huge runs in comparison to the small amount of quality content printed on it. I keep all my issues of TSJ, but the Surfers and Surfings purchased at airport mag shops are totally disposable–which is not “sick” in a good way.