It's about life - not "lifestyle"
The latest issues of SURFER and SURFING are on the stands right now (mid-March). These are the first issues of these magazines put to bed since the passing of Miki Dora, and their coverage of this event provides a chance to take a snapshot of where both surfing and the individual publicatons within surfing may be at.

There is no question that
Surfer created the surf media and was the challenged "Bible of the sport" during the 1960's and beyond. Surfing was around by the mid-60's, and was the primary challenger. One would assume that Surfer has the deeper photo files, but the internet start-up scramble of a couple of years ago may have shifted that a bit. I would still give 'ER the edge due to their reprint rights. Things have pretty much been on an even keel since the 1970's however.

Both magazines were around for the final phases of Dora's "celebrity youth", which in his case went until he was about 40 years old, and it can be reasonably assumed they were aware of the man. Certainly
Surfer ran many articles of his, and they both kept him just enough out of the limelight to keep his legend alive and his ass out of jail during his "missing years".

So now comes the final act of the drama of Miki Dora. Quite improbably he led his life by all accounts the way he wanted to, paid the prices for errors of judgement, and in the end returned to his remaining family when diagnosed with a terminal illness. He didn't die by the hand of another, didn't OD in some Hawaiian backwater hovel or palatial Malibu "Santa Fe style adobe", and he never just faded away. At age 67 I think we can safely attribute pancreatic cancer to the unfortunate ravages of old age. 

Of course Dora wasn't the first or even one of the first surfers to die in old age. He was the first media superstar to go along naturally, however, and that alone should warrant major coverage. The fact he was also such an influential innovator and has had such influence on performance surfing for half a century should have earned him the covers of every surf magazine. If you think Dora didn't have that influence you need to think about the media coverage he has received in the past decade. Name one other 60 year old who so consistently receives the left-handed compliment "surfs pretty good, for a man his age." Implicit in that type of comment is the speaker saying Dora wasn't world class or as good as some other surfers...
and the guy was 35 years older than the top surfers of this day!

Hey kids, the future's so bright I gotta wear shades...

Surfer had a cover blurb noting Dora's death, and a contents page shot of the Malibu wall. Their actual coverage was simply an uninspiring two-page B&W photo collage which paled in comparison to the B&W cover shot which Longboard ran on its cover. No effort was taken to educate or illuminate newer surfers about the man. It could be construed to be nothing more than a reinforcement that photos are what the whole thing is about.

Surfing did abysmally worse in some ways, but Surfing never did run much Dora coverage anyway. They gave Dora one very small paragraph with no photo. He got that much in Sports Illustrated. To confuse matters they ran what I would call a fairly amazing and important piece by Matt Walker on their endpaper "Rant" section wherein Walker decries the lack of surfing historical knowledge and media responsibility. In it he gives a full big paragraph within the context of the article summing up Dora and his history and mystique. Surfing ran a nice Dora trim picture on the page. Which leaves me with the impression of...."HuH?"

Contrast this with the obituary which ran, with large photos, for three-quarters of a page in the
Los Angeles Times. Really, the Times ran more words than Longboard, Surfer, and Surfing combined. They also came within about an inch of running more coverage in terms of actual physical space than these magazines. To say it was easier for a newspaper to come up with something quick is disingenious; I never knew Dora but was aware of the specific ailment and that he had returned to California. Material could have been prepared in advance (but that's journalism - this is surfing). To be sure they were writing to an audience which predominantly knew nothing of Dora, but how many surfers can say they knew the man?

Surfer's Journal remains to be heard from, working as they do with a longer publishing schedule. We can also hope that the other magazines are working on more detailed articles on Dora. Otherwise they will seem more clueless than they already do.
Surf Media
Copyright (C) 2002. All rights reserved.