It's about life - not "lifestyle"
SURF MEDIA REVIEW CHANGES has taken some hard shots at the surf magazines in the past year and a half. I'm not shy about blasting both barrels at particular features which offend me. Many times I get a reply that "it's just an F##ing magazine, grow up".

But it isn't, you know. Like it or not, the surf magazines are the "bibles" of our sport. They define the various special interests for the sport itself and also for the rest of the media in general. When archived, they will provide the history of the different eras. They will tell the story of surfing.

Once surfing wasn't just a "them and us" thing . Once money became such a defining factor not only among the magazines but among the whole culture, things changed.
Change isn't a bad thing, and certainly time marches on with or without us. The thing the commercial surf world
doesn't seem to want to acknowledge is that in time
it will be without us. Going to the gym 6 days a week, being a sportswear sales rep, riding a 6'2" thruster or a 9'6" longboard - none of this will keep you young. Your brain won't notice - mine seems to think I'm still 24. My knees and shoulder say otherwise. I'm so old I still wear Hawaiian shirts.

The U.S. media, with the exceptions of LONGBOARD and THE SURFER'S JOURNAL, are so fully aligned with the surfwear advertisers that they do not acknowledge anyone over the age of 24 who was not part of pro surfing at one time or another. If you think otherwise, you need to start reading something other than the photo captions and the "industry news" sections. They segregate the various aspects of riding waves into their marketing demographic to appease readers, advertisers, and whatever general editorial criteria they want to push. Long-term surfers will note how every 5 to 7 years the wheel gets reinvented to one degree or another. Kelly Slater wipes out on camera trying to do an old bodyboarding manuever on a standup board and gets the messiah treatment...if you don't follow bodyboarding you probably didn't know that. Besides, bodyboarders should learn how to standup... huh???

Two things are heavy on my mind today, the 17th of June, 2002. One is a Los Angeles Times article on the changing of the guard at Rolling Stone magazine. This one hits right to the heart of a lot of criticism which comes the way of Their new editor is named Ed Needham, an Englishman who has had success with FHM magazine. His charge is to get a younger demographic. A magazine needs to keep new readers coming to survive, and this is outwardly a good move for RS, which years ago got that infamous National Lampoon (now defunct) label "Rolling Tombstone" once the earlier rockers started popping off. But here is a quote from the article:

     "While Needham has no intention, he says, of turning his back on Rolling Stone's longtime readers, he does hope to better captivate 15-29-year-olds by 'employing a little more magazine craft, making it easier to get into a story.' "

Needham then went on to comment on how things have to be shorter and simpler to be user friendly to the reader of today, mentioning "I don't know what it was like in the '50's, but clearly therre weren't so many things demanding attention from people".

Of course, it says right on Rolling Stone that it was founded in 1967; perhaps accuracy isn't seen as important so much as accessability is. What the guy intends to do is to dumb the magazine down to more closely fit the target audience. What RS did when it started was figure the target audience were rock and roll fans, and age wasn't important.
It was about information - not sales revenues. This is exactly the same as with magazines like SURFER and SURFING. The early readers aged, some moved on, new people entered, new cultural twists appeard within the sport, people came back, and then evrybody went surfing in the late 90's. The all-around watermen and women aged and faded, tradition and innovation was ursurped by fashion in the relentless corporate drive for profits; anything regarding what came before was relegated to snide comments.

The second thing which this day brought was a television fairly weeping with crocodile tears: the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break in. I won't rehash the whole thing - I'm more bored hearing about it than any teenager. But here is the stickler. What I may see as the generation of journalists who grew up in the heat of Watergate getting yet another chance to celebrate their power by reviewing the downfall of Richard Nixon is certainly what a lot of people think of when they read a negative review of the content of a current magazine. While I take great pains to not be negative or too backward thinking - you haven't read any editorials exhorting people to abandon their leashes, for instance, and they certainly contributed to the morass we see today - it still is subject to opinion.

I don't, however mistaken a critic might be, want to be thought of as the Judy Woodruff of surfing. It's a thankless task to begin with on either end of publishing, and trust me - reading 3-6 surf magazines in a sitting will bore the crap out of you. Photographs which barely register will blow your mind months later when you come across them in idle review. Too much of a good thing makes it ... not good. Not appreciated.

So the surf magazine reviews are going to hibernate, at least for a while. I'll still mention articles which I come across and think are interesting and important. We'll try to step up the video reviews as best we can, and the entire staff will keep an eye in the industry and the magazines for you, but we aren't going to be flogging the beasts anymore-at least not on a regular basis.

-Nels Norene
Surf Media
Copyright (C) 2002. All rights reserved.