Stab Magazine | Long Live The Encyclopedia Of Surfing
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Long Live The Encyclopedia Of Surfing

Matt Warshaw’s glorious, sprawling internet archive lives to fight another day! (And how you can help it stay that way.)

news // Dec 21, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

I love Matt Warshaw.

Over the years he’s been a truly unbelievable resource. Always willing to help, quick to dig through his archives in search of surf minutia. We surfers certainly love our stories, but it’s damn difficult to separate myth from fact, especially when you’re struggling to dig half-remembered tales from the murky depths of recreational drug-addled minds, not least of which my own.

He’s come through nearly every time.

Who was the only female professional surfer suspended for fighting? (My brain says Melanie Redman.)

The answer is Lynette Mackenzie. “Fightin’ Lynn! ‘Fierce’ doesn’t even begin to describe her.”

What’s the name of Titus Kinimaka’s brother?

“Alekai.”

Do you remember the time some guy pretended to be a surf photographer and murdered a teenager,  I think it was the early 90s?

That’s the only time Matt was stumped. Which makes me question whether it really happened. Did I dream it? Can anyone enlighten me?

warshaw new yorker

MATT WARSHAW, AS IMAGINED BY THE NEW YORKER EARLIER THIS YEAR.

I’ve long begged him to come on my podcast, only to be rebuffed by Matt’s fear of public speaking. Understandable, it’s a common phobia.

You’ve gotta be a real attention whore to embrace emotions bred by yammering on to an audience.  

Matt prefers his privacy. Plugs away day after day and lets his work do the talking.

That reluctance to publicly engage left me slightly nervous when he initially switched the EOS to a subscription model. I’ve no problem dropping three measly bucks a month in exchange for what amounts to the surfing’s best fact checking service.  If anything I feel a bit guilty, thirty six bucks a year doesn’t come close to fair recompense. But would others feel the same way?

Matt’s not in it for the money, but the amount of subscribers he was aiming for seemed high. Surfers are cheap, often selfish. While he’s an institution that deserves patronage, I didn’t expect the subs to start rolling in. And they did not.

In October he told me that he was planning a final push come December. Thirty one days to hit thirty thousand dollars worth of subscriptions and donations. A yearly wage that amounts to barely the legal minimum, when one factors in the amount of time he dedicates to his craft.

If it didn’t work he’d be moving on. Writing books again, figuring things out.

I expected it to be close. Subscriptions would trickle in. As the month wound down we’d see what happened. Matt’s not a self-promoter, whether he could pull it off seemed dicey.

I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

He went on a whirlwind of promotion, hit his mark in ten days, but the money didn’t stop.

EOS body

You guys—surfers, that is, as opposed to the big biz—came through in a huge way when it counted most.” – Matt Warshaw

“I spent all of last week in a mild state of shock as the subscriptions and donations continued rolling in, even after I announced we’d hit the 30K goal on Sunday,” Matt told me. “I’m still processing, literally and figuratively, what happened with this drive. For the moment, it’s enough to know that EOS will live and thrive in 2018 and beyond, and that you guys—surfers, that is, as opposed to the big biz—came through in a huge way when it counted most.”

At last count he’d hit $50K, with the end not yet in sight. The money came solely from private individuals, without a single big money corporate sponsorship to be seen.

Which is, in itself, a sad commentary on the state of the surf industry. An opportunity arose for deep pocket corporations to pitch in, provide a pittance in order to ensure that surfing’s history be preserved. But when the call came, not one stepped up.

It’s enough to make a surfer wonder if they care at all.  Is it just a money game? All about sucking money from pockets without contributing anything to the culture that supports them?

Of course it is. No CEO is going to drop a dime toward any cause unless it comes with a hefty PR benefit. Of course, there’s ten days left for them to prove me wrong.

But, maybe, it’s for the best. 

Surfing’s myths, legends, the misanthropes and burnouts and tales of toxic athletes who just couldn’t find peace, they belong to us all.  

If you haven’t subscribed, you should do so now. (https://encyclopediaofsurfing.com/)

 If you’d like to listen to us chat, you can do so below, or here

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