Ken McKnight likes to lay low. He reminds me of a character actor you see alot in movies, but are always hardpressed to remember his name or what movies he was in. Well, as much as he likes to fly under the radar, I cornered McKnight the other day to conduct a little Q&A regarding his latest endeavor, a hardcore surf e-zine called ALLABOUTSURF.COM.
SURFERMAG.COM: First off, tell me how ALLABOUTSURF.COM came about?
KEN MCKNIGHT: Pretty much it was just a release. I’ve had a water camera for a long time, shot pictures, but was never quite good enough to get ’em published in a print magazine because I am not a professional photographer. I was just a guy that could swim out in the water and take pictures. My wife bought me this camera, got me this state of the art Nikonos 5. I started taking pictures and I went to Art (Brewer) and said, “dial me in on this camera a little more.” So Art showed me a couple of things, showed me the film to use and then cut me loose.
I went to Maui about a week later and shot Honolua Bay on a really good swell, and got back some pretty cool pictures. So, I started shooting more winter shots here, that was in January a couple of years ago, and I kept all these pictures and I didn’t know what to do with them. So, a friend of mine said why don’t you go the magazine. And I showed them to (Rob) Gilley and I showed them to Art, and they both said the same thing, “they’re really good but the magazines aren’t gonna touch these pictures.” There are too many guys on retainer or whatever. So my thought was why not do something else with ’em? But I didn’t know what. A friend of mine suggested I put ’em on the Internet. I went “it’s kinda not me to put my whole act on the Internet.” I’ve never kind of been…my ego has never been that big. So I was driving up to Irvine everyday and thinking the whole time…just brainstorming. I thought why not do a magazine online, and then I could sneak a few of my pictures in.
SURFERMAG.COM: Did you have magazine experience or media experience or any tech background?
KEN MCKNIGHT: Well I have been around magazine work. I worked at SURFER, I worked at BREAKOUT, and I have contributed to them as a writer, and I have worked at newspapers and stuff. So I started formulating this idea and coming up with article ideas. I talked with this techy guy I was working with and he said “yeah, I could do that.’ And I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to do an interactive magazine where we just pumped video and music and built it around an editorial story.” I wanted a package so that when someone read it, they were looking at videos too, and they were listening to music and they were reading copy all at the same time. So that you just have this full visual act coming down at ya. As a surf magazine, something the print magazines couldn’t do. And I was seeing lots of cool video on the Internet, seeing tons of good music on the Internet and I was seeing good photos but I wasn’t seeing it all together.
SURFERMAG.COM: Well, you must not be logging on here much (laughter).
KEN MCKNIGHT: Yeah..no I dig your stuff. I want to project a Surfer’s Journal type mentality. That was kinda my barometer, if I wanted to do anything, I wanted to copy (Steve) Pezman. Just the way he does it with great shots, great editorial and put it up there real clean, real simple so I wasn’t trying to toot any horns.
SURFERMAG.COM: What about the video element of ALLABOUTSURF.COM?
KEN MCKNIGHT: What got me going on the video was my buddy Dave, a guy I grew up with in Malibu surfing in the 60s and 70s…I knew he had classic footage. There was a crew of Malibu guys a hung with in 68, 69, 70 to 72…and I was part of this group that rode short round boards. We had tons of photos and I knew Dave had footage of it so I started formulating the idea and in the mean time I was putting ideas together for other articles and I was putting in live pictures wherever I could.
SURFERMAG.COM: How are you getting content now?
KEN MCKNIGHT: Basically my whole mentality was stick with your friends and take care of all the guys that have been cool to you over the years and give them as much publicity and spotlight as you can and you can’t really go wrong. I give people links to their sites, and pretty much people have been great. They understand this is a labor of love.
SURFERMAG.COM: So ALLABOUT SURF.COM is a surf lifestyle/culture magazine. I take it you don’t focus on pro surfing, or do you?
KEN MCKNIGHT: In the old days I worked at a magazine called Beach Culture, which SURFER put out, and they only did about six issues and we had this great idea to do all this cool stuff. You know, art and music…and lifestyle. So that is where the idea came from, to do another Beach Culture type magazine–but online. Once again I came back to that beach lifestyle of music, art, surf, characters built around pretty pictures and video and that is what the Internet offers.
SURFERMAG.COM: What does the user experience when he goes to ALLABOUTSURF.COM. What does the site look like and how is the navigation set up?
KEN MCKNIGHT: Hopefully it is easy to use. The thing was set up to be as simple as possible. That’s why we went with Flash. For the video we wanted to make it really easy. You click on a picture and it takes you to another picture, the pictures pretty much have captions with them and it was supposed to be really simple, really easy so it wasn’t something you got lost in. I wanted something that you could always get back to. If you look on the left hand side you are gonna find just a few things – table of contents, cover shot, all about us, which is just a little blurb on us and what we do, and the rogue gallery and a little policy thing. The other thing that I wanted to do was make the site have lots of links. So that people can go and experience other people’s web sites and be tied into the whole thing–like a web, that’s what the web is for right. Interactivity was the whole thing. Make it user friendly and make it interactive. So the user can do the whole visual thing at one time. And if I could do the smell vision I would do that. All that stuff is part of what we do. It is hard to explain to my wife and to my mother in law about why I do what I do at 5 o’clock in the morning on the dawn patrol. With ALLABOUTSURF.COM that is what I am trying to do — bring in all the sites and sounds so that can people experience everything about surfing.
SURFERMAG.COM: What plans do you have for the site right now?
KEN MCKNIGHT: More video, more surf, more of everything. I’ll tell you what I’m not doing. I’m not doing forecasts, not doing cameras, absolutely. The whole thing is that it is a magazine on line and that’s all I am trying to do is put a 100-page magazine, like a print magazine, online. I can’t compete with the print magazines, I don’t have the money to compete with them and I really don’t want to compete with them because they are based on subscription and advertising. Right now this website is a labor of love. Down the road I would like to sell ads because I can’t sell subscriptions. People are not gonna subscribe to an online magazine…I know that. So I am just trying to give the world…I want a guy in Japan to be able to check out what surfers in South Africa are up to…on a daily basis and when I say daily basis on an editorial basis with articles, without having to go somewhere and buy a magazine to do it.
SURFERMAG.COM: Do you have an editorial calendar?
KEN MCKNIGHT: I’ve got stuff set up two months in advance.