Surfing magazine


Active and colorful monthly surf magazine published in San Clemente, California; founded in 1964 by Hermosa Beach photographer Leroy Grannis and ex-marine Dick Graham. International Surfing (shortened to Surfing in 1974) emerged from a scrum of early and mid-'60s Southern California-based surf magazines—including Surf Guide, Petersen's Surfing, and Surfing Illustrated—as the sole challenger to American surf media dominator Surfer. "For a while," writer Dan Duane noted in 2017, just after the magazine folded, "Surfing struck an excellent balance between eye-catching design, unabashed obsession with young guns and big airs, and smart commentary.

Surfing began as a fairly conservative bimonthly, had a brief but innovative semi-psychedelic phase in 1967, then fell onto hard times, publishing just two issues in 1968. The magazine in its early years was carried by the first-rate photography of Grannis and Don James; that load was effectivly transferred in the early and mid-'70s to photographers Dan Merkel, Bob Barbour, and longtime photo editor Larry "Flame" Moore.

Former Surfer editor Drew Kampion began writing for Surfing in 1973, and for a few years he almost single-handedly kept the editorial tone in league with Surfer. Erudite South African pro surfer Michael Tomson began regularly submitting features and columns to Surfing in 1976; world champions Peter Townend and Wayne Bartholomew also contributed in the years to come. Surfing, more so than Surfer, focused on the competition scene—particularly the burgeoning world pro circuit. The magazine switched ownership five times from 1964 to 1979 (the year it went to a monthly publishing schedule), and was headquartered in Hermosa Beach, Panorama City, Laguna Niguel (all in Southern California), and New York City, before moving in 1976 to San Clemente.

Graphic designer Michael Salisbury gave Surfing a bright, sharp, playfully aggresive look in the early '80s, and the magazine, creatively and financially, pulled up neck and neck with archrival Surfer. Sales bumped in 1983 when the magazine, following Sports Illustrated's lead, debuted its first annual "Swimsuit Preview" issue.

Surfing staffers Aaron Chang and Jeff Hornbaker by that time had became something close to the Lennon and McCartney of surf photography (with Don King making a valuable contribution as well), while the magazine's voice was strengthened with the addition of Dave Parmenter, Sam George, future X-Files creator Chris Carter, and editors-to-be Bill Sharp and Nick Carroll. Parmenter's 1987 article "Big Time," on Mexico's Todos Santos Island, was a coup for the magazine, as it showed that West Coast surf could rival that found in Hawaii for size and power. 

Surfing's rise during this period was guided by the steady hand of Dave Gilovich, hired as associate editor in 1975, and later serving as editor or editorial director from 1979 to 1991. Publisher Bob Mignogna, also hired in 1975, meanwhile proved to have one of the sport's canniest business minds.

Surfing's target audience grew progressively younger through the '90s and early '00s, with grommet (young surfer) features published regularly, and a special late-2001 issue with cartoon figures on the cover, next to a blurb reading "KRAAK! 20 Surfing Superheroes Blast Into Battle." After the introduction in 1992 of the decorous and semiformal Surfer's Journal, Surfer had also lowered the age of its target audience—but not to the degree Surfing had. As Surfing advertising director-turned-publisher Peter Townend noted in 1996, "Surfing is Teen Beat, Surfer is National Geographic. And that's the way it should be."

Surfing continued to find new material virtually in its own backyard, and on January 19, 2001, photo editor Moore led a one-day expedition to Cortes Banks, a reefbreak 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, and came back with the sport's biggest story of the year, as tow-in surfers rode 40-foot-plus waves.

The magazine hit a creative high point in the mid-'00s, as former Surfer editor Evan Slater took the editor's chair at Surfing, and put together a first-rate editorial team that included writers Nathan Myers, Matt Walker, Nick Carroll, and photographers Steve Sherman, Jeremiah Klein, Hank Foto, and Pete Frieden.

Surfing spin-off magazines over the years include Surf Reflections (first published in 1971), Bodyboarding (1985), and Surfing Girl (1998). Special issues include the Surfing Comedy Annual (1974), the three-issue How to Surf series (1993), Surf Guide (1996), a Kelly Slater commemorative issue (2011), and an annual calendar.

In 1996, Surfing introduced the Airshow, a popular series of pro surfing contests in which entrants are judged solely on aerial maneuvers; copycat Airshow events were soon being held around the world. Surfingmagazine.com was launched in 1999.

In 1997, just a few months before Surfer was bought by Emap publishing, Surfing was bought by New York–based publishing giant Primedia. In a move that stunned surf magazine insiders, Primedia in 2001 bought Emap, bringing both titles into the same publishing house, and leading Surf News magazine to announce, just slightly tongue in cheek, that it was "the end of the world as we know it." By 2013, Surfing, Surfer, and TransWorld Surf, the sport's three-biggest magazines, were all owned by the same company, Source Interlink Media.

In 1966, Surfing created the Hall of Fame Awards, in response to the Surfer Magazine Poll Awards. There was no actual hall for the hall of fame, but in '66 and '67 members were inducted at a lavish black-tie event at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Winners included Duke Kahanamoku, David Nuuhiwa, Nat Young, Bob Simmons, Dale Velzy, Mike Doyle, Dewey Weber, Mickey Dora, Greg Noll, and Buzzy Trent.

Surfing's monthly circulation in 2013 was 91,555.

The internet proved to be Surfing's toughest competitor, as young eyes gravitated to surf media instant gratification found on their computers and smart phones. After years of declining ads sales and subscriber numbers, the print version of Surfing was decommissioned in early 2017.