Let's Discuss The Current State Of Surf Media - Stab Mag

Let’s Discuss The Current State Of Surf Media

Surf media is yours. What are you going to do with it?

Words by Brendan Buckley

Ed note: the following is the 634th installment of our new weekly email chain called the Stab Fwd. If you’re into it, subscribe here.

It was like being able to pick the brain of somebody more intelligent than you, get validated by somebody cooler than you, glean technical insight from somebody more skilled than you and get told a really fucking good story all at once. 

And, the photos — they haunted my mind in the best way. 

Yep, I grew up on surf mags. 

Late last week, news broke that Surfer Magazine died. It wasn’t my favorite growing up, but it was the last survivor of what was once known as America’s big three. Surfer, Surfing, and Transworld Surf — a cluster of mags that seemed to make up the entire universe (at least to a demented teenager’s brain). 

Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t have believed that 3/3 would be gone by now. My best guess would have been that some form of meteoric event occurred, triggering a surf exodus, perhaps leaving our lineups as empty as they were 60 years ago when Surfer was born.  

That didn’t happen. 

The meteor came, but it only hit news shelves — which just so happened to be where all the money was. That wasn’t unique to surfing. 

I struggle to arrive at a stance on this. Part of me feels sad that today’s young surfers will never know the feeling (remember the smell?) of picking up a new magazine. Another part of me thinks about how much 14-year-old me would have enjoyed the ability to watch a new edit from my favorite surfers every single day with the swipe of a phone. Evolution gives and takes. 

And I struggle to arrive at a stance on surf media outlets in general. What’s the purpose? In my opinion, it is to inspire and inform with an x-factor of making shit feel cool — what you might call a brand. 

The digital age has only given us more tools to do all of these things. And yet, with more and more people falling in love with surfing every day, traditional surf media is dying. 


It obviously became a tradition to rely on advertisers to fund one’s business. Google and Facebook had something to say about that. Although I still don’t think tech companies can compete with a thought-out piece delivered to a trusting audience. 

But where are we going from here? 

What does untraditional surf media look like? 

The truth is, that’s up to you. 

Maybe it’s every surfer having a vlog, regardless of their ability to articulate anything of value into their filmer’s lens. Maybe it’s “optimized” content directed by middle-aged people wearing mid-priced button ups who spend days trying to wrap their brains around what’s trending on TikTok. Maybe it’s a WSL highlight reel cut to intense music with a graphics treatment flashier than the Las Vegas strip because somebody said that 94% of the 3.3 million “audience” has been dropping out after three seconds. 

Or maybe surf media can still be designed for surfers. And maybe surfers can still make our own rules. 

I’m optimistic. I think the stage has officially been set for the next phase. Print is dead. Playing the digital game with a paint-by-numbers isn’t working. Let’s start fresh. I can see a future in which surf media outlets — as well as filmmakers and photographers — create content not to please an algorithm but to inspire and inform people who truly love surfing. 

Stay engaged, help shape it. Let’s have some fun. 

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Surfer Mag’s Entire Staff Was Furloughed Today And The Bible Of The Sport’s Future Looks Very Uncertain

Umm. In case you skipped the intro. 

Watch: Matt Wilko’s Brush With Dismemberment!

You ever think about how many times you almost died without knowing it? Like, potential car accidents that slipped under your radar? Trippy. Anyway, if you want to feel really uncomfortable next time you’re somewhere even vaguely sharky, think about how many sharks have eyed you up and decided against a bite. This will help. 

What If Margo Competed After All?

The short answer: He probably would have won some shit. Click above for the long answer as well as coverage of the WSL’s South Straddie Surf Showdown, or whatever their alliteration department came up with. The waves were cooking and Michael Wright won. 

Are we the worst? 

Because it is often said that surfers are the worst, that there is no collection of human beings on the planet more bad than us. I disagree. Some are pricks, sure, but pricks exist everywhere. Death, taxes and men who behave like penises — all inevitable. Anyway, most surfers I’ve met are great and they even have each other’s backs. Surf photographer Mark McInnis recently lost everything in an Oregon forest fire and the community is rallying to help get him get back on his feet. If you’re in a position to contribute, you’ll get a towel out of the deal. Nice. 

Want to catch up with Lark? 

Wait, don’t call him that. Or maybe do. I think he said it’s OK. Here’s a new episode of First And Last with Eric “Larney” Gieselman. Remember when people used to keep tabs on the best surfers who never qualified for Tour? I feel like he at least qualifies for that conversation. It sounds simple, but he just looks good when standing on top of any surfboard on any wave. 

Do you feel like being greedy when others are fearful? 

There is still a pandemic killing people. It could kill you. Oh, and there’s a giant recession or a civil war or the world’s ending or something. It’s all pretty hard to keep up with. Anyway, for a lot of reasons, a lot of people are still not that into the idea of travel. It feels like our obligation to constantly remind you that right now is a good window for the best surf trip of your life — if you’re willing to do the work and take the risk. Here’s an update on how that is becoming increasingly possible. 

One last thing: 

Bad waves are 70% more fun than they look.

Subscribe here to the Stab Fwd.


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