Say “Surf journalism.” What are the first magazines that come to mind? Surfer, then Tracks, and then the rest of the glossies following by the coattails: Transworld Surf, Waves, Surfing Life, Surfing.
But if you’re just starting out, and you’re a freelancer operating outside this small bubble of industry professionals (what Surfer calls “The surfing world”), your chances of even getting read are quite slim. Unless of course you’re an esteemed novelist, like Jaimal Yogis, or have an exceptional story, as adventurer Greg Drude did for his Surfer column The Van Deiman Report.
Luckily for new writers there are alternatives. And there is also a lot more to write about than the world tour and Kelly Slater (don’t get me wrong — he’s the man, and someone needs to be documenting what he’s doing).
What follows is a list of publications more ideal for the emerging alternative / modern creative surf writer. These pubs range from quarterly books, to highly trafficked blogs, to nonprofit literary journals, to local bimonthlies. Within each of these there is room for new writers to break in with narratives, creative prose and poetry, guide and service pieces, and essays.
What some lack in creative / alternative aesthetic is made up for in accessibility to new writers. They’re ordered from lowest paying to highest.
Does the sound of Independent trucks 5’0 grinding pools warm the cockles of your heart? Do you drink PBR? Here’s a widely circulated US zine — one with a long and distinguished history — that encourages contributions, though pay will be zero to low. They cover skating, surfing, and punk rock.
- Submission instructions: http://juicemagazine.com/home/submissions/
The key here is wide circulation. Eastern Surfing Magazine is long-standing and available for free in most surf shops up and down the Eastern seaboard. While the writing can sometimes come off as Surfer rehashes, this mag is read by one of the most concentrated surfing populations in the world. (The ESA is the largest amateur surfing association in the world — pretty strange for a region without consistent surf, aye?)
They have a large, non-paying travel section online. Speaking from experience, the editor Nick is friendly and approachable, and stoked to work with new writers.
- Website: easternsurf.com
- Editor: Nick McGregor, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Submissions: query with clips
- Online issue archive: http://www.easternsurf.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=105&Itemid=102
SW is a respectable surf blog based out of northern California. Though it regularly features NorCal writers and photographers, they’re in need of travel pieces and photography from distant locales. It’s very well put together, with a considerable amount of internet presence. Another plus is freedom in editorial forms and content.
- Website: http://surfwanderer.com
- Submission instructions: http://surfwanderer.com/contributers/
Pay might be zero, but prestige is high if you can get in this annual “publication of literature from the sea,” as they call it. Emphasis is on creative writing inspired through surfing, with fiction being fair game, as well as poetry. The mag is only found in coastal NSW, Australia, with a tiny circulation of 3,000. It could be hard to get in because of the low publication frequency and expert writers it attracts. Edited by Sarah Miller, Rusty Miller’s (surfer in the seminal film Morning of the Earth) daughter!
- Website: kurungabaa.net
- Editor / contact: email@example.com
- Submission instructions: http://kurungabaa.net/submission-guidelines/
Again, pay is nil, but prestige high.
The Inertia is an online magazine based in California, started by the illustrious Zach Weisberg, formerly of Surfer. The site receives one and a half million visitors a month. Writers have included giants Kelly Slater and Gerry Lopez, as well as the current established regime of surf scribblers including Michael Kew and Pete Bowes. Contributions are welcomed and the travel section is only just beginning.
Getting in should be easy because The Inertia is about international dialogue, and creating a space for everyone in the surfing community, from pros and industry names and glossy magazine editors to the weekend warriors and long-time Cali locals. There’s a large diversity of writing coming from all skill levels and angles.
- Website: theinertia.com
- Editor / contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Submission instructions (from the website): “If you would like to contribute to The Inertia, please send us an email. Please include a brief bio, a headshot, and a writing sample (presumably your first contribution).”
Based out of Carpinteria, CA, Deep is a free bimonthly distributed from Huntington Beach to Santa Cruz that underscores the local surf culture, complete with tide charts for Ventura. Billed as “Central Coasts Surfing and Aquatic Adventure Magazine,” this mag features multiple travel narratives per issue. The narratives have been on any number of surf destinations abroad, including the South Pacific and Nicaragua.
- Webste: www.deepzine.com
- Editor: Chris Graham
- Submissions: email@example.com
- Issue Archive: http://www.deepzine.com/site/magazine
Matador is a large network of blogs that tackles travel culture worldwide. It’s read widely, attracting well over a million monthly visitors. To write for this publication is to become part of their online community of writers, who bravely confront difficult subjects (from social justice to cultural relativism), assemble detailed guides to just about everything, and focus heavily on well-crafted narratives. They frequently publish on surfing and skating.
- Website: www.matadornetwork.com
- Submission instructions: https://matadornetwork.com/content/contributors-and-job-applicants/
- Pay: Starts at $20, through Paypal
Paper Sea Quarterly
Paper Sea is a recently started book / zine out of Australia. The interspersed typewriter fonts — and the handwritten edits — make PSQ feel like an artistic statement, along with the pencil artwork, and the nude photography (which is a long way from the degrading images of a Reef girl’s ass in the glossies), and how the bulky, recycled paper feels in your hands.
They publish surf travel narratives, creative fiction, short poems, and personal essays, along with artwork and professional photography — the latter of which can be ordered as large prints online. The editor describes it as a creative alternative to existing surf media.
In it writers are free to be critical, delving into issues such as consumerism, lack of cultural sensitivity while traveling, and the trappings of surfing modernism, while others finally have a platform to unleash creative genius.
Volume one, issue one was published April 2012. The photography emphasizes Australia, but they are looking for contributors across the globe.
- Website: www.papersea.com.au
- Editor: Andy Summons, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Frequency: Quarterly
- Rates: Unknown
Originally a longboard magazine, Slide has expanded to so much more than logs these days.
The recent article (in issue 22) by distinguished writer Nathan Myers, “The Warung of Knowledge,” is essential reading; in it he traverses Bali looking for a new board and finds a commune of unconventional shapers and surfers.
The publication is drenched in this ride-anything ethos, and caters to a breed who, while perhaps being 9-5er’s by day, are mad lusting dreamers by night, the types who shape their own boards and disappear for days when the wind goes offshore.
Expect heaps of shaper profiles, seriously inspiring travel writing, and stories about creative types pushing the boundaries of film, photography, music, and surfing.
- Website: http://us.slidemagazine.com
- Editor: Ryan A. Smith – email@example.com
- Frequency: Quarterly
- Pays at “current rates”
The Surfer’s Journal
Want to start at the top? TSJ is a supreme journal, no doubt exhibiting the highest form of surf writing today. The writers taking bylines in the 120 glossy pages of editorial are well established. The interviews of shapers and surfers are just as inspiring as the epic and timeless travel tales in each issue. What’s truly journalistic about this publication is its ability to capture the people and places that either influence and change the sport for years to come, or manifest the true depth and creative abilities of wave-riding multi-culture. Often these stories are obscured in some far-flung corner of the globe.
While getting a byline isn’t impossible for new writers, and a good pitch would never hurt, this mag is probably better suited as essential reading, and a long-term goal.
- Website: www.surfersjournal.com
- Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Frequency: Bimonthly