SURFING is dead.
"Surfing" Magazine that is. After a half-century of feeding the frenzied dreams of the surf masses, SURFING is ending its print run. Does it matter?
For a long time in the American surf media, two national publications towered over all the rest. The original "Bible of the Sport," SURFER Magazine, was founded in 1959 by John Severson, a Napili resident since 1971. As the sport and lifestyle of surfing grew up, so did SURFER.
Over time, this Magazine became the artistic, sophisticated and mainstream record of surfing's rise on the U.S. Mainland, Hawaii and worldwide. Its visual and editorial style was often clean, mainstream and accessible. If SURFER were a brand, it would be Quiksilver, Al Merrick Surfboards, Facebook.
SURFING was born five years later in 1964, and it was destined to be the brash younger brother of SURFER. In the late 1980s and '90s, it evolved into a rock 'n' roll, youth-driven, teen Magazine, full of posters, bikini inserts and radical layouts. The stories were often better than they needed to be, under the editorial direction of gonzo surf scribe Drew Kampion and hardscrabble Aussie journeyman Nick Carroll. If SURFING were a brand, it would be Volcom, Lost Surfboards, Instagram.
In the late eighties, I was in second grade, too young to look at SURFING Magazine because of the bikini shots. But my friends and I would insert the mags inside "Stone Soup" Magazine covers, so the librarian couldn't catch us.
In the early nineties, I was in middle school when my babysitter's boyfriend would distract me for hours by gifting me a stack of brand new SURFING mags. I drank the Kool-Aid. Every photo spread from the Hawaiian winter. Every turqoise tube shot. Every Body Glove and Gotcha ad. SURFING fueled my vision of paradise, and I couldn't get enough.
In high school in 1996, I would rip the centerfold pull-out posters and cover every inch of my wall and ceiling with surfers and waves. My favorite posters weren't the full fold-out pictures of guys (always guys) pulling incredible maneuvers, but the black and white photos of empty waves. That's what I posted on my wall, feeding a wavy wanderlust that has never faded.
Before the Internet. Before e-mail. Before Smartphones. Before immediate access everywhere all the time to all the information in the history of the world, including every photo, video and word ever produced about the sport, the lifestyle, the calling. Before all of this, there was 100 pages of color photos, stories, and of course, ads, stapled together and delivered to my mailbox once a month, received with pure stoke.
But that world is gone forever. Print is dying. SURFER Magazine has pulled back from 12 issues a year to just four. SURFING will close the presses. The Inertia, Stab, and Surfline websites have knocked down the lumbering surf media Goliaths of the 20th century. These multimedia agglomerations of content are the new normal. We can all get it all the time now - forecasts, gossip, updates, real-time wave cameras.
As I stood at Honolua Bay one afternoon last week, watching 100 surf-stoked rippers slip, slide and shred across towering walls of water, I couldn't help but yearn a little for the pre-Internet '80s. When we were more patient to receive the surf news once a month, less sure when the next swell was on the way, and more open to the magic of the present moment. Here. Now.