Review: White Horses - 'Southerly'
Need I bore you with yet another history lesson?
OK. I promise I’ll be quick.
As the internet revolution usurped print as the medium of choice, legacy media was forced to redefine itself. This wasn’t a simple repositioning but a desperate rush to adapt or perish. Not all mastheads survived - in fact, most didn’t. Despite their previous standing at the top of the totem, surf magazines weren’t spared the knife. Once considered the arbiters of cool, vital mouthpieces for cultural messaging, surf magazines suddenly found themselves redundant in that role.
So, what to do?
Those that survived - and keep in mind there are no mainland US surf mags left - largely shifted to doing what the internet either can’t do or does with muted success. Think longform journalism, deep character studies, and full-bleed, high-res surf photos - the kind of images that can be stared at for interminable intervals, the reader lost in the hypnotic visage, and that can be returned to time and again with each visit revealing new qualities.
If we were to describe it, the shift is towards discernment. Less readers, yes, but readers who care about a particular facet of our culture, and to how it’s presented.
White Horses celebrated its tenth birthday this year, meaning they printed their first issue just as the cliff top was approaching, and perhaps because of this they didn’t have to adapt or perish. From the first issue they set their own agenda with a healthy mix of storytelling (their tagline: ‘The sea has stories’), a clean design layout, and photo contributors operating at the top of their game. Conspicuously absent was pro surf gossip, pro contest results, pro anything, including the once-ubiquitous advertorial boat trip. In a decade, White Horses hasn’t deviated from the formula.
My interest in magazines has waxed and waned over that time, yet the latest issue - number 41, winter 2022 - caught my eye owing to the list of contributors. Thus did three days pass in anticipation for the evening lounge session, when I'd log off the computer and cosy up with analogue media. The issue is titled ‘southerly’, and each evening I read a different chapter on the theme.
The thematic issue is a print mag favourite. Think, ‘the Hawaii issue’, ‘the Indo issue’, the photo issue’, and when I put this to Editor Gra Murdoch he downplays the way White Horses do it as a way of reducing the moving parts. Less contributors, less correspondence.
Though fewer, it means each contributor gets a greater say. A twist on the maxim about still waters running deep. So for each ‘southerly’ location there’s one essay, and one photographer choosing their best work, and also providing extended captions to the photos. As well as some editors can caption, the most revealing insights will always come from the photographer themselves. They’re the equivalent of liner notes to a band’s music, holding fans in thrall while revealing yet more about the artist’s mind.
In this case, the artists are Peter Jovic (West Oz), Hayden Richards (South Oz), and Stu Gibson (Tassie), and they’re paired with writers Rob Holt, John Ogden, and Dustin Hollick.
So Murdoch deliberately (and modestly) takes a back seat to the contributors, for which he should be applauded, yet he’s not entirely invisible, running a full page meta conversation with himself in the introduction. That playful tone is matched wherever his pen meets paper.
On that point: In the foreword, Murdoch reveals his admiration for Surfing World through the 1980s. “All we’re really doing,” writes Murdoch, “is trying to recreate the spell cast decades ago by Bruce Channon and Hugh McLeod”. They being the duo responsible for SW’s “matchless golden era”.
Granted that period was a high water mark for inventive design layout, however this reader often found the copy sobering - Derek Hynd’s contributions notwithstanding - and could’ve done with a sprinkle of irreverence here, a dash of cheek there. Some levity to match the graphics. Did they think it would ruin the tone of the magazine? Lower the bar? Murdoch shows how both are possible. Discerning surfers are still up for a chuckle.
Fuck mate, surf mags kept me sane when I was a grommet. They really, truly did. They gave me hope. I was so miserable at home, seeing these young men having so much fun....... HOPE! And then later, Kidman, Hynd, Derek Reilly etc. Depth and soft philosophy, literature, heaven. I'm still so grateful; hard wired even, by these publications.
Great review, have always loved a good mag. Added bonus of 3 top notch, and creative photogs!
"and keep in mind there are no mainland US surf mags left..."
The Surfers Journal?
stumbled across White Horses in a cafe at Angourie a few years ago, asked the wife for a birthday subscription and have kept it rolling since. absolute quality. my method is turning it one page a time, slowly, taking in every piece, never looking ahead.
That last elevated image of the river mouth bar looks so dreamy!
Thanks for the kind words Stu. Unmarked bills? The usual drop spot?
My Valentine’s Day (yes it’s corny I know) present off the ball and chain every year is a renewed White Horses subscription. Been about 7 years now and I’m proud to say I have every issue. Love it!
Great ode to surfing magazines by Go betweens and cool vid
Be the kind of people the authorities can’t reach
Great band, great tune, great vid!
Have only ever flicked through 'White Horses' but will now go and buy an issue...
Andy-Mac if you like the go between its worth reading the book “my rock and roll friend” written by Tracey thorn the lead singer of everything but the girl about her friendship with lindy Morrison the go betweens drummer.
Thanks for heads up! :)
Went to the newsagents the other day,first time in awhile, just to see how the surfing magazine situation was going. Surfing life and tracks mag full of nothing of interest, skimmed through so fast I didn't even stop on one page of either.
But White horse southerly had me at the register within 5 seconds or so of picking it up.
You've made me want to go and buy it now! The southerly coasts captured my heart as life took me all around them. That wave, looking down it's throat from the shoreline, knowing it's so far away, holding my breath as the barrel continued to peel - hooked.
My sister bought me a subscription for Xmas when this mag kicked off, had me hooked from issue one! The only surf mag I've bought since Tracks went glossy.
I've got a couple of white horse mags. Nice quality. Good writing. Great pics. Probably should subscribe. Surfing World is one I'll always look out for in the newsagent and there's smorgasboarder as well - not sure if they do hardcopy anymore, but it's free online. Pretty good deal.
Latest version here: https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/66884267/sb-issue52-digital-ed
I had every copy of White horses through subscription. They used to turn up delivered in cool cardboard box at work address and I would be pumped, itching to get home to read it.
Unfortunately. Ive since lost the lot through flood. I had them stored in our basement which was swamped when the river we lived on flooded.
I was heart broken. Have'nt bought one since.
Hey DBID, Fark, sorry to hear that fella! Just yakked with Horsies' benevolent commander Craig Sims and while we can't replace your collection, (a fair few editions are rare as hen's teeth etc), we CAN send ya a care package of, say, the last six or seven issues if you want. Just sling us an email to [email protected] and we'll swing into action.
You’re a bit of a good cnt hey
yeah... but note how publicly the offer was made. shameless really.
You're yet to bore me.
Blue Minded was your crowning achievement, Gra. Really enjoyed that issue.
Down the line I think Horses became just a little too cuddly and inclusive for my taste. Others will obviously differ, but it made me cancel my subscription. I would love to find that that is no longer the case (tastes and magazines both change), in which case I'd resubscribe quicksmart.
I reckon that's a fair criticism IB. Loved Blue Minded, (and it's companion, Take A Moment.) Probs my favourite was Conversations I reckon.
Just to reiterate how hard it is to speak one voice to many people: An old boy at the local is a long-time subscriber of Horsies, he loves it and often chats to me about what he's read in the latest edition, and he HATED Blue Minded (my capitals, his emphasis).
"Tell your mate I'm gunna cancel my subscription if he keeps that up!"
Though I note his name is still there in 4pt lettering on the subscriber page.
Haha! Wasn't much middle ground in the reactions to that issue, (or Take A Moment). Either love or all-caps hate!
We're funny creatures, us humans :-)
That wide range of views, tastes and experience was one of the things that I loved about Blue Minded; that it ran the gamut from Ayn Rand to Eckhart Tolle, and blessed Viz mag. It was the antithesis of what public debate has become - and both deep, challenging and fucken funny.
Take a Moment was a great segue, and a good issue. True. And any issue with dogs in it, come to think of it.
is that Addy on the front cover?
which issue FR? On 'Southerly', the fella's Sam Golebiowski – a tiler from Margies.
shot used above.
Oh for the smell of fresh ink. As a grommet in the early 70's the only time you saw surfing was on a film in a hall or in surf mags. I would buy a pie and the latest mag take it home and stare at the photos and read every word over and over for hours and to this day whenever I smell ink it takes me right back there. Tracks was good and down to earth Aussie humor, Surfing world was always a bit deep for me but the U.S. glossies were the ultimate in quality, even the ads were good back then.
I just opened my copy of White horses the sea has stories and had a sniff, not bad.
Eagerly anticipate the arrival of my subscription – childishly wondering what little pressie awaits in the subscription box. Love settling down (often in the head) learning about true underground characters, chargers and local legends – long live the horse…
That you Fenner? We'll have to catch up mate.
Has a batch of White Horses, including the first year’s editions. Can’t remember what happened, whether I just allowed the subscription to lapse or got sidetracked by life which became impossibly busy and pretty stressful, probs around 10 years ago.
Think I’ll have to fire up another sub. Those photos are glorious.