Surfer mag closes after sixty years of publishing

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

...and then there were none.

First Transworld Surf, then Surfing, and now Surfer magazine has closed too, leaving mainland USA without any surf mag titles.

For the record, Hawaii still has the advertiser-supported Freesurf, and the The Surfer's Journal is still printing their quarterly surf lit.

The long-prophesised 'death of print' was never going to be sudden nor absolute, but with Surfer - the first surf magazine and its most celebrated - gone, the symbolic milestone has come to pass in surf culture.

In 1960, high school teacher John Severson published the first issue of Surfer (called The Surfer) as a 36-page pamphlet to accompany his film 'Surf Fever'. Quickly rebranded as Surfer, it documented the sixties surf boom - and every surf boom thereafter - plus developments such as the shortboard revolution, and the advent of professional surfing.

Never as popular in Australia, which had its own heritage and upstart titles, magazines that moved in lockstep with Oz surf culture, Surfer nevertheless garnered respect for its history, plus its writers and photographers.

Despite outlasting a slew of competing titles, Surfer couldn't compete with the digital onslaught, regularly searching for new business models - the Surfer Bar franchise, $1 subs, various iterations of Surfer.com - before being packaged up in a suite of action titles as the publisher went through a number of acquisitions and rebrands (For Better Living, to Peterson, to EMAP, to Primedia, to Source Interlink, to The Enthusiast Network, to Adventure Sports Network), who then handballed said titles to American Media Incorporated, who in turn rebranded to A360 Media. The instability an indication of declining fortunes.

This year, COVID accelerated the decline with staff numbers slashed and those remaining furloughed, before the final decision was made on Friday.

Here in Australia, three print titles remain, each in various operating states. Tracks have temporarily suspended subscription sales, stating, "a decision is yet to be made regarding the future schedule as this largely depends on international developments," while Australia's longest running magazine, Surfing World, was recently purchased by Sean Doherty and Jon Frank, and White Horses - the Oz version of TSJ - keeps galloping along.

Comments

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 10:36am

Sad but inevitable.

1173

dr-surf's picture
dr-surf's picture
dr-surf commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 11:03am

Swellnet is the Modern iteration of Tracks and Surfer. Surfline has replaced Surfer and Surfing all for the Better I Say.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 12:41pm

As a corollary, what then were the 1960's versions of Beachgrit and Stab?

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 3:07pm

Tracks. It wasn't the tame title it is today.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 4:10pm

Yes! Wasn't there in an able-to-read capacity, but I do have the '25 years best of' from about '93 and the writing was loose. Not to mention pig of steel, and toilet paper friendly page format

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 6:54pm

Not sure what is was about the green paper format as a motorcycle rag had it as well and it was colloquially called the Green Terror. Did get very depraved with tribes of marauding surfers travelling up and down the coast pillaging waves, savaging the opposite sex, and regurgitating into the porcelain telephone. They were very different times, articles which headlined were things such as "It's a long way to shop if you want a sausage roll' in which they would go into forensic detail about the distance between milk bars then and ten years earlier with a verdict that it had indeed become a longer way to shop if you wanted a sausage roll. Things of great importance!

Panman's picture
Panman's picture
Panman commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 11:28am

Who would of thunk it .

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 12:16pm

I used to love Tracks with its looseness and its irreverence but I think in some ways Swellnet is better, especially the tech weather and wave articles and the quality of most of the "interest" articles.

The opportunity for people to comment in real time is also pretty good.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog commented Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 5:10am

There was a time when sighting a new issue of Surfer (and other quality mags) in the newsagent was moment of excitement promising an afternoon of pleasure reading every story, letter and even the words in the advertisements. It was all so "new". And, surf media content was so scarce. New stories, photos of unseen spots, insights into surfing's rapid progression and, best of all, the travel stories. Copies were treasured and read ten or twenty times post surf sitting in the sun.

Over time, even before the internet, content engagement dulled with repetition interspersed with occasional story gems and new angles. But these could be speed read for free standing up in the newsagent to the annoyance of the staff.

Then slowly, after liberal doses of videos, then endless written and visual content on the web, most surf content became a bit of a blur of sameness, consumed with all the excitement of a daily bowl of muesli. Even perfection has lost its ability to amaze. If the boys stumbled over the dunes to find Cape St Francis today we might not even watch the full clip. Familiarity did not breed contempt for Surfer. Rather we all develpoed a form of RD (reader's droop) where only occasionally super hot content raises a bit of a chubby and desire enough to pay.

Surfer's passing is sad but not really a loss. The loss, for me, happened way back in the 1980s.

Frogg

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 3:09pm

Yes frog I still remember a copy I had with Wayne Lynch around the time he did that thing with Nat. Read it over and over as it was a story close to home.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 4:15pm

"Then slowly, after liberal doses of videos, then endless written and visual content on the web, most surf content all became a bit of a blur, consumed with all the excitement of a daily bowl of muesli. Familiarity did not breed contempt, just a form of reader's droop occasionally interspersed with a bit of a chubby."

Really good point, you have to look really closely now for little doses of 'new', eg the subtleties of a board change in a contest that makes a meaningful difference - like Italo in Portugal. I think I've been 'perfectioned' out via the internet and welcome more everyday images and stories.

lucky-al's picture
lucky-al's picture
lucky-al commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 5:47pm

This news makes me miss the sights and smells of the local newsagency, all the new mags shining like stars in their racks and smelling like girls on the wall behind the PCYC on Friday night - ready to go! Jon Damm cover in mid-80s one of my favourites - HELL SURFING MASSIVE OUTER PIPELINE! That was my motto when the Northern Bank was pumping, and even when it was dribbling. Mostly when it was dribbling come to think of it. Anyway those mags sure smelled good, maybe from something petroleum-based? Gee I miss them.

NDC's picture
NDC's picture
NDC commented Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 8:08am

‘Perfectioned out’ is a fitting expression - I find regrettably this deuce of perfect content makes me less enthusiastic to surf the comparatively mediocre fare at my local - once was a frother for pretty much anything, now not so much - expect age and exposure also plays its significant role

bipola's picture
bipola's picture
bipola commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 1:56pm

sad to see it go

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 2:25pm

ahh what a shame. They put out some quality over the years. I remember the first issue i got of theirs, it had a pic of a Mavericks bomb on the cover and the title "Cold Sweat'. It was the first mag exposure of Mavs and Jeff Clark riding it solo. Still feel there's nothing better than a surf mag next to the dunny to thumb through.

spencie's picture
spencie's picture
spencie commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 2:30pm

Frog said it well!

easterly

Brian from Brissy's picture
Brian from Brissy's picture
Brian from Brissy commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 4:50pm

We are all mourning the passing of a soon to be extinct magazine... youtube has replaced it with instant access to daily vlogs of the worlds best or watching live broadcasts of uluwatu... i will miss derek hynds decimation of the top 44 and Long Live Wilbur Kookmeyer!!!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 4:16pm

Deep was paper Swellnet.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 4:52pm

Always thought all those American mags were pretty shitty packed full of adverts and very same same in content.

Surfer's Journal easily the best of the on Aussie mags.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 6:58pm

Agree indo however between the adverts there was often some great writing.

Mango Carafino's picture
Mango Carafino's picture
Mango Carafino commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 5:55pm

The greatest thing about Surfer magazines was the long line of hot chick in Bikinis that stretched across the sand on school days, just waiting to get their photo taken and be a double page spread. Instagram and Mark Zuckerfag mucked that all up.

Michael Bourne's picture
Michael Bourne's picture
Michael Bourne commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 6:51pm
I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 8:27pm

I ended up only reading surf mags flying out of Perth going to Indo just some thing I did buying Surfer was always a line ball decision depending on content.

Coops70's picture
Coops70's picture
Coops70 commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 9:14pm

At least the USA mags didn’t suck off pro surfers as much as surfing life and other Australian mags in the latter years anyway. It had more of a surfing for surfers. Maybe I’m wrong it’s just my recollection.

Cetus's picture
Cetus's picture
Cetus commented Monday, 5 Oct 2020 at 9:30pm

I think that was just a Sarge thing

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 8:19am

For most surfers, nothing will change from this week till last, but for myself at least the sinking of Surfer ignites a small spark of nostalgia. Magazines were the one and only connection to the culture, and while that changed decades ago, this annnouncement makes it complete. End of an era and all that symbolic rubbish.

lucky-al's picture
lucky-al's picture
lucky-al commented Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 2:51pm

You've done well there, Stu. Complete?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 3:03pm

Complete from about '74 to 2014, Al - same with Surfer.

ASL is complete, same with Deep, Underground Surf, and White Horses. SW three-quarters so, Tracks the same.

Gotta get it all digitised someday.

lucky-al's picture
lucky-al's picture
lucky-al commented Wednesday, 7 Oct 2020 at 6:17pm

Show us your favourite cover, Stu!

the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn's picture
the-u-turn commented Sunday, 11 Oct 2020 at 5:01pm

We'll start calling you, Mick Mock, Stu.

The U Turn
...a little Aloha goes a long way.

SurferSam's picture
SurferSam's picture
SurferSam commented Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 10:21am

White horses is an epic mag and hoping with its different model it might survive?

Michael Bourne's picture
Michael Bourne's picture
Michael Bourne commented Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 10:29am

Nah its all ok, it never really ends. Surfing's just like everything else in the wild west show. It just evolves into something more permanent! More advanced and available for all to enjoy! A couple of shatterproof, insulated, glare resistant, temperature controlled, alarmed glass sliders will do the trick! Be worth a few quid in a few years too!

https://australian.museum/learn/australia-over-time/extinct-animals/the-...

Michael Bourne's picture
Michael Bourne's picture
Michael Bourne commented Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 10:32am
thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Wednesday, 7 Oct 2020 at 7:10am

This is a little weird.. I seem to be on Surfer's mailing list, and given the weekend's events, was surprised to receive an EDM this morning. I'm even more surprised to see the content (initially, the image didn't load, so I had no idea it was for Men's Journal - it came across as a Surfer Mag comp).

Are they just gonna spam everyone with competitions for the other titles that haven't been shuttered yet?

lindo's picture
lindo's picture
lindo commented Saturday, 10 Oct 2020 at 8:54am

'In this crowded world, the surfer can still seek and find the perfect day, the perfect wave, and be alone with the surf and his thoughts.' This idyll was seized upon by canny advertisers, with the 'The Search' and 'The Crossing' being two classic examples. Although still true in some places, it's certainly a lot more difficult to achieve these days, Covid lockdowns notwithstanding. Even if you pay thousands of dollars for an 'exclusive' surf camp or boat trip, chances are there'll be other punters also along for the ride. I guess for most younger crew, this is not an issue, but for many of us who started surfing in the 1960s, we had no idea of how popular it would become, and how challenging it would become to be alone with the surf and one's thoughts in perfect waves. I learned to surf in Noosa, initially as one of the original Nippers (Sea colts) there back in 1963. Having witnessed the changes that have occurred, I gradually shifted from surfing Boiling Pot to Tea Tree and then Granite, before bailing for less busy waves across the ditch more than a decade back. Here I still occasionally achieved Severson's lauded goal at my local break, up till a couple of years ago that is. Two days ago, when the waves were ok (far from 'perfect'), there were 40 cars at the end of our street. I guess that when Severson penned that now famous quote, way back at the end of the very 1st issue of Surfer, he had no inkling of the irony in his own contribution, via Surfer popularizing surfing, to destroying that idyll. All that said, friends who surf on the NSW central and N coast tell me that they NEVER surf alone these days, for obvious reasons.

Lindo

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Sunday, 11 Oct 2020 at 7:03pm

I pretty much gave up on surf mags once Tracks flagged the news print format. Swellnet is a worthy successor I reckon.