The Death Of Surfing / by craig levers

Surfing Magazine is dead. It's a big one, the biggest one to date. Started just four years after Surfer magazine in 1964, the two titles went head to head for decades. There were often fierce and vindictive battles. In the 70's and 80's staff members of the opposing titles would actively sabotage each other, these acts became folklore amongst surf journo’s.

Surfer would self proclaim itself as the Bible of surf, deadly serious and verbose stuff. Surfing Magazine set its sights more on the youth, its tone lighter and less earnest. As a Kiwi grommet of the 80's I lapped up both when I could find them. Tracks and Surfing World ruled the roost in the Antipodes though. Tracks was brilliantly irreverent, while being informative and current. Surfing World was pure surf photo porn.

In 1999 this sequence of Kerin Perrow at Backdoor Pipe was used in an advert in Surfing by T&C- I was stoked, straight after it T&C also ran A full page advert of Jason Shibata boosting a backhand air at Rocky Lefts. The original transparency was sadly lost- But I was stoked to get some shots, even if it was in adverts in Surfing. The spread above is out of the book PhotoCPL

In 1999 this sequence of Kerin Perrow at Backdoor Pipe was used in an advert in Surfing by T&C- I was stoked, straight after it T&C also ran A full page advert of Jason Shibata boosting a backhand air at Rocky Lefts. The original transparency was sadly lost- But I was stoked to get some shots, even if it was in adverts in Surfing. The spread above is out of the book PhotoCPL

There's an irony to lamenting the death of Surfing via an email and  blog. The general catch cry is that the interweb slowly strangled the life out of it. It could be argued Surfing's death warrant was signed years before.  Both Surfer and Surfing have been owned by the same publisher for the last two decades. Eventually one would have to go. 

The official line is that Surfing will be fallowed into Surfer. The staff blended in. But the contributing photographers and writers will be the ones that lose out. Yet another outlet for their creative endeavours has closed. 

There is a general gnashing of teeth and calls of more evidence of death of surf print media. I'm not sure I agree. Yes, the interweb has changed how we source our stoke. Yes, we garner surf information in different, more immediate formats. And yes, most sadly, an unfortunate side effect of the interweb is that an opinion is presented as fact. Stories are not robustly back checked. We are fed press releases as though they are creditably sourced news. Most of the surf websites suffer some pretty shitty and shoddy writing masquerading as actual journalism.

In 2003 this shot of Mikey Phillips also graced the editorial pages of Surfing magazine, again the stoke of seeing your work in an institution was never lost. Naturally it had to run in the PhotoCPL Book too

In 2003 this shot of Mikey Phillips also graced the editorial pages of Surfing magazine, again the stoke of seeing your work in an institution was never lost. Naturally it had to run in the PhotoCPL Book too

It's easy to forget that in the late 90's and early 00's there was a massive explosion of surf magazine titles. And with that there was a corresponding bloom of would-be surf journo's and photogs. Perhaps what Surfing's demise reflects is more a consolidation of surf print media. Not another nail in print's coffin. 

There's another thing that doesn't fit the 'interweb is killing surf print' argument. SURF BOOKS. Now before you scoff, and go, 'Ha! Saw that one coming. Bloody Ceepee pushing his own barrow aye!' I'm not, well maybe I am. But it's substantiated. The absolute fact is that never before have there been more surf books created annually. More biographies, more coffee table books. Surf print isn't dying, it's just moving with the demands of the surf culture. 


We, hopefully, will see Surf websites grow up and become conveyers of both opinion and creditably researched fact. We'll see surf magazines survive. The ones that go a bit deeper and celebrate the exponents and diversity of surf culture. And we'll definitely see more big, beautiful surf books published.  

There has indeed been a big death in the family. A senior member, an elder. But to be fair, it has been a long time coming, we had been preparing for years. But fore knowing doesn't make the departure of a dear old friend any the less painful. Farewell old stoke bringer.

From The Galleries

Ohhhh the kind of antipodean curves the old photo editors of Surfing would froth over. Just click on the image to see it larger...and purchasing options of course!