It's about life - not "lifestyle"
Unquestionably the Grand Old Man, or Person, of the surf magazine genre, today we are taking our first full look at  SURFER Magazine.

I really meant to hit the summer monster issue with the picture of the kid and John Kelly, but every time I opened it up I would get lost in the shoe ads. What I had to say mostly had to do with the strange, almost haunting pictures of the kid and Kellly. One of these days I'll dig it out and get it online.

What brings me to writing about this particular issue of SURFER, cautiously reviewed at a local Border's bookstore, was a tremendous article by Steve Barilotti about drug use in surfing. This was a true milestone in the evolution of SURFER, make no mistake about it. It also goes a long way to make amends for the unfortunate posting on their website of a "Sex and Surfing" article on the day the news of the death of Miki Dora became known. Bad timing, but then timing is the essence of surfing, right?

What makes Barilotti's article so important is the fact that it is the first true, realistic drug article SURFER has ever run. And what that means is during the entire history of surfing as a sport/art/lifestyle from 1960 to the present, including the 60's, 70's, and 80's, plus the street drug crack/meth/heroin boom of the 90's, SURFER pretty much glossed over the toll drugs and alcohol took on people in our little town.

Sure, there were some comments, but for the most part it was vague references for the other "in crowd" types. That isn't journalism. It took this article to answer a decades-old question of mine concerning the death at age 39 of Bruce Valuzzi, one of the top East Coast surfers of the 60's/70's who had earned quite a Hawaiian and International reputation as well. In fact, around that time several surfers died at approximately age 39, which scared the holy piss out of me as I saw that number looming. I eventually found out Butch Van Artsdalen drank himself to death (reported in either LONGBOARD or SURFER'S JOURNAL), which was actually a bit of a relief to find out. I'd seen him a time or two in Hawaii as a lifeguard and a more fit looking person is hard to imagine.

Like it or not, surfers of any age tend to look at how other surfers live for reference, if not guidance. When young it may be for style and fashion sense, and when older it may be for career guidance, or health, or the (dreaded) lifestyle influence. This isn't just a lemming kind of trip - think of it more like life-calibration. Everybody does it, especially those who protest too loudly that they don't.

It has been one of the great ongoing disservices to surfing that the established magazines like SURFER and SURFING have not traditionally treated unfortunate subjects as true journalistic outlets should. Their competition of the 1990's, most notably LONGBOARD and THE SURFER'S JOURNAL, have opened up these self-imposed boundaries through their biographic articles on notables in our sport, warts and all. This is no call for a witch hunt, and no blanket condemnation against drug or alcohol use. Many things are nobody's business, including what people do in the privacy of their own homes and lives. Yet it is very important not to be selling false impressions. If a prominent surfer winds up doing a couple of years in prison for running drugs, the knowledge of that persons failure might keep someone else from making the same mistakes. Part of extreme sports is sort of an unnatural belief in one's own invincibility. That may help in the water, but it can be a recipe for disaster elsewhere.

So here's to SURFER Magazine, the editorial staff which ran that article, and Steve Barilotti. This was one of the most significant steps in SURFER history.
Surf Media
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