Surfer's Journal magazine, The
High-end magazine geared toward adult surfers, published six times a year out of San Clemente, California; sometimes referred to as the "National Geographic of surfing."
Founded by Steve and Debbee Pezman, who also serve as the magazine's copublishers, the Surfer's Journal debuted in 1992. Steve had been the publisher of Surfer magazine from 1971 to 1991; his wife-to-be Debbee Bradley was Surfer's marketing director. The Journal was conceived and developed as a glossy high-end quarterly with a strict limit on advertising (four advertisers in the early issues, six in later issues), with the idea that readers would pay a premium newsstand rate of $12.95 for a mature, low-hype periodical.
Art director Jeff Girard, another Surfer alum, gave the journal a spacious, elegant look that instantly set the magazine apart from the busy design found in other surf magazines of the period. Columns were kept to a minimum; surf contests were ignored entirely; the number of action photos were reduced to make room for a broader range of surf imagry. Feature articles, including profiles and interviews, travel stories, and photographer portfolios, were often given exhaustive treatment—the 40,000-word "Animal Tracks" profile on 1966 world champion Nat Young ate up 45 pages in a 130-page issue—and the often solemn-voiced magazine switched back and forth from historical to contemporary pieces. The Surfer's Journal was also the first publication to divide its coverage more or less equally between longboarding and shortboarding.
Durable surf writer Drew Kampion was early on a frequent contributor to the Journal, as were Craig Stecyk, Paul Gross, Sam George, Ben Marcus, Matt Warshaw, Gerry Lopez, and Chris Ahrens. Notable contributors in the 2010s have included Lewis Samuels, Alex Wilson, Nathan Myers, and Chas Smith.
The Pezmans have maintained a small staff and kept overhead down, which has allowed the Journal to become a modest but steady commercial success, despite a circulation much less than that of Surfer and Surfing. Longtime Surfer photo editor Jeff Divine was hired in 1998, and Longboard editor Scott Hulet came aboard the following year; as of early 2015, both were still holding down the masthead. Continuity has been a Journal hallmark, and after two decades the magazine has only slightly altered its look and voice. The Journal remains one of the last independently owned surf glossies.
In 1997, the Journal and Opper Films produced 50 Years of Surfing on Film, a 12-part documentary series that aired on Outdoor Life Network; Great Waves, 20th Century Surfers, and Biographies followed. The Surfer's Journal has also produced a series of lavishly illustrated coffee-table books, including Photo: Grannis (1998), Masters of Surf Photography: Jeff Divine (2000), and Masters of Surf Photography: Art Brewer (2001). Other magazines have followed the Journal's high-price, low-ad-page model, including New Zealand's Slide.
The Surfer's Journal circulation in 2014 was 26,000. Newsstand price was up to $15.95. The staff numbered 16, about half of whom are full time.