Guest editor Ron Blakey discovers a magazine run according to a strict set of rules and governed by editors prejudiced by big names and shallow gimmicks…
It’s that time of the year. When men of substance leave their families and homes for ports abroad. With credit cards laid down, these men are gifted a month of inertia. Strong fingers are employed to knead knotted muscles and grease tired corn.
Editor one, Wheels, therefore, sets off for a week of transactions in the fleshpots of Pattaya while the magazine’s co-founder, DR, flounders around Grozny, searching for a woman who’ll love him for who he is and not for his money or fame.
Which is where I come in. As guest editor while the editors vacation. Before starting on my guest editor issue, editor one hit me with an editorial decree via electronic mail:
“The rules: A-list. We get the big guys and we are international. Favourite subjects include, Bruce, Dane, Clay, Mike, AI, Jules and our perennial fave Jamie O. We insist upon one serious story (Branno, Davo, Clipper and The Ice Storm) per issue. Make this issue under the assumption we’re not sitting on any photos and we’re filling it with exclusive hi-fi action. And no tow. Boring. Easy. Decidedly homo.”
I sat down with these rules and began to construct a flatplan [a blueprint of the magazine showing all the pages]. I endeavored to tick all the boxes for these ball-breaking sons of bitches and in the end felt I’d done a reasonable job. But something was missing in my mag. I couldn’t work it out so I referred back to that email…
Were there A-List players? Check. Bruce, Andy, Ozzie, Parko and Kalani were all pencilled in.
Was there a big, written piece? Yep. I’d commissioned Walkley-nominated writer Fred Pawle to hunt down Zane Harrison and report on his disappearance, depression and fling with the drink. You remember Zane, right? He won Sunset as a young buck and your girlfriend used to visualise his head on your shoulders while you were jackhammering her unfortunate pubis.
To ensure quality images, I sent a gofer to Bali with a hard drive. He returned with a terabyte of hi-fi shots taken during the island’s recent pro surfer invasion. And as instructed, I left no room in the mag for men in straps galloping bow-legged into closeouts.
I could sense something was missing, however; something not listed in the email. I flicked through back issues. I got half way through the first 10 editions when it hit me like a squash ball between the eyes. I had no helicopter photo shoot! And wavepools, where were the wavepools? And, most obviously, I’d forgotten Taj Burrow? As any reader will testify, you can’t make an issue of Stab without Taj.
I’ve always lapped up Stab gimmicks. The fresh perspectives from above, remarkable images of guys flying upside down in front of wild backdrops in that Malay swimming pool. This mag always feels so damn fun and that’s what was lacking. I needed some of those good times in my installment. I needed gimmickry but I also wanted to put together something fresh.
The helicopter shoots are a Stab staple but the other mags have started getting into em too. And wavepools? All over the mags. I searched the right side of my brain for a semi-original novelty feature but all I kept seeing was Taj acid dropping out of a helicopter into the Sunway Lagoon.
Then one sunny morning I received a link to a Youtube clip. The video played and showed vision of Will Webber [younger brother of shaper Greg] thrashing about like a WQS veteran across a perfect wave generated by the wake of a trawler boat. This old fishing vessel was moving close enough to the mangroves in the Clarence River for the wake to actually start breaking and in some places even barrel. Yeah, the wave was small and yeah, it was some one els’es idea but it was exactly what I was looking for.
I figured if Sam and Derek could milk two covers out of that crumbly wave in the Sunway Lagoon, I’d certainly be able to squeeze at least one front page out of a session on the river. All we needed now was a couple of A-list surfers. I put the call out to CJ Hobgood and he pounced on the idea. Julian Wilson was easily sold.
And then, with the flatplan for the mag looking close to complete, there was only one thing left to do… “RING RING… RING RING… Hello Taj, its Stab, wanna come on a trip?”