JAN. 04: TAKEOFF

posted by / Magazine / December 9, 2003

I’ll never forget my first issue of SURFING Magazine. As an 11-year-old towhead who recently decided that chasing waves at C-Street was much better than chasing balls on the soccer field, I devoured every single word and image in that Jan. ’82 edition. From cover boy Ron Baron’s committed Pipe bottom-turn to the dreamy Burleigh Heads lineup; Shaun Tomson’s analysis of the still-unproven Thruster to a shot of Bobby Owens backhanding a Banzai macker, I was convinced, as a caption said, that “my first ride in Hawaii would be a memorable one.” Even better, it gave me all the inspiration I needed to rip mushy C-Street until that fateful day finally arrived.

Chances are you had a similar experience with SURFING, no matter what issue you first picked up along what is now its 40-year-long road. From International Surfing‘s premiere installment in 1964 to the annual Surfboard Design issue you’re holding in your hands now, the message here hasn’t really changed. In short, SURFING makes you want to go surfing.

That’s certainly what founders Richard Graham and Leroy Grannis had in mind when they rescued the mag from Petersen Publishing’s waste bin. With the financial help of a couple of Grannis’ Palos Verdes Surf Club buddies, they set out to make a surf magazine that celebrated the act above everything else. “The best way to do that was to run the best surfing pictures in the world,” remembers Grannis. “And it was my job to get those.”

Graham felt this celebration had another component: the raw, unbridled stoke of the up-and-coming surfer. “We wanted to speak less to the established order and more to the kids who were on the rise,” says Graham. “We had this column, ‘Pick of the Hot Young Crop,’ that really went over well. Everyone wanted to be in that.”

Here’s the cool thing about our founding fathers’ Bill of Rights and Lefts: aren’t we all “surfers on the rise”? Aren’t we all interested in seeing the best surfing in the world on any given month so we can push our own performance levels? If there’s any surfer — from Kelly Slater on down to the Unknown Softboarder — who has no interest in improving his skills, I’ve yet to meet him.

Which is why SURFING’s never needed much decoration. We don’t need to dress our first love in cherry-red lipstick, fake eyelashes and weighty ponderings on our mysterious connection to Jimi Hendrix; surfing is most inspiring when it’s in its purest form. And, last time I checked, this purest form still required nothing more than a wave, a surfboard and a surfer. (Yeah, we know it gets even purer, but we’re not Porpoise Monthly.) Fifteen years ago, during the magazine’s 25th anniversary, the SURFING editors highlighted these essentials by creating three special issues: Waves, Surfboards and Surfers. At the time, they stood as the ultimate guides for the things that matter most. And to this day, they remain some of the best surf magazines ever made. But as we all know, a hell of lot happens in 15 years. So, for this, SURFING Magazine’s 40th year, we’ve decided to revisit the holy trilogy and give each its own 21st-{{{Century}}} spin. Next month, we start with the source and cover the wild world of Waves. In June, it’s another Surfboard issue, this one devoted to the greatest craftsmen of all time. And in October, the issue dedicated to Surfers, we take a good, long look at ourselves.

It’s clearly an anniversary worth celebrating. Because if there’s one place you can always find justification for the incurable obsession we call surfing, it’s in the pages of this very publication.

I know I have. A number of times. Five years after reading that prophetic caption about memorable first rides in Hawaii, I found myself at Queen’s Medical Center, nursing 30 stitches in my face and wondering how my very first drop on the North Shore could go so wrong. Looking back on it, I should’ve known how closely surfing and SURFING are intertwined: in order to fully enjoy either of them, you gotta pay your dues. Evan Slater

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