Surf magazines are extremely popular and perpetuate the surfing lifestyle particularly for the youth market. Although the magazine media does cater for all market segments within surf culture. There are magazines aimed at teenage males that use images of beautiful young women surfers. Other surf magazines cater for the slightly older 'soul surfer' with a more nostalgic flavour (a soul surfer is a surfer that essentially lives to surf and can be known to live or camp by the sea and surf whenever possible). There's the more recent addition of surf magazines aimed at women. And more recently, the more surf culture orientated magazines, converging surf, life, style, fashion, art, music and more.
The very first surf magazine, was a publication called 'The Surfer' in 1959, from a man named John Severson. The publication was a small book of photos taken largely from his recent surf film 'Surf Fever'. Severson's book of photos was very popular, and it evolved into a quarterly magazine. Its subsequent success spawned many more magazines in the ensuing years. 'The Surfer' still remains one of the biggest and best surf magazines around even today, though it is now called 'Surfer'.
It was magazines like 'The Surfer' that helped to accelerate the growth of interest and development in surfing in the early 60s. They made the sport visible to an audience all over the world.
Surfing magazines created a new breed of photographer, the 'surf photographer'. Suddenly more and more photographers took to the trade, which attracted more eccentric surfing from some of the world's best surfers, all competing for exposure in these popular magazines, and so surfing heroes were 'born'. And all this of course, predictably, led to advertisers becoming interested, and the rest is history.
Content wise, surf magazines are heavily visual based. Lots of full-page images of surfers, beautiful landscapes, 'surf chicks', athletic male surfers (etc…). Then there are the masses of advertisements that come with any magazine. Travel is a big theme, articles by surfers and photojournalists that chronicle their surf trips to exotic (or harsh) locations, playing on 'the search for the prefect' wave that all surfers have at heart. Interviews with professional surfers, surf enthusiasts and people in the industry, profiling their lifestyles, selling the surfers lifestyle (and surf culture) to a captive audience!
Surf magazines aimed at a more mature audience, focus on a broader set of issues surrounding surfing, anything from the environment, to discovering surf destinations in foreign uncharted lands, to articles on surf art and surf culture. There is a surf magazine for every type of surfer.
The main concentration of content in any surf magazine though is photography. Stunning photos of waves, coastlines, and surfers carving waves! This again takes us back to the power of imagery. The amazing imagery of people risking their lives doing amazing stunts on boards in small to HUGE waves is enough to impress and captivate anyone!
A surf magazine could sell surf culture and the sport without even the use of words, that is the power of surf imagery!
Magazines are an advertising haven! Surf magazines are no exception. Magazines sell huge amounts of space in each issue to advertisers and brands. Surf magazines are crammed full of adverts promoting surfing equipment and accessories, travel companies, surf tournaments or events, extreme sports on television, surf brands, cars (etc…). Another example of the mass commercialisation of surfing and surf culture! And again of how stronger hold or influence the media has over everything it manipulates.
The look, feel and design of magazines is shaped by trends, fashion, popular culture and technology… surf magazines are no exception. Recent trends in environmental awareness have persuaded some magazines to consider the paper they user and their printing processes. The unstoppable rise in popularity of online media (websites & social networks), new technologies (like the iPhone and iPad) and world recessions mean fewer and fewer people buy magazines. So digital alternatives to magazines are now being explored (websites, emails, social media, applications, hand-held technology, downloads etc…).
The future of print is constantly being tested, magazines are forced to evolve with the times. It's interesting to see where surf magazines go from here…