Don’t Know Much About History
I’m the wrong person to pilot a 50th Anniversary issue, which is exactly why I’m right to be the editor of SURFING Magazine. For the most part I’ve ignored what happened before the year 1990. I know the ‘80s had Occy and Curren and the OP Pro riot; the ‘70s had PT, M.R. and the twin fin; the ‘60s had Greg Noll, big boards and The Endless Summer. But before starting this issue, that’s about as deep as my knowledge ran. I’ve always considered our sport’s history important; it just never excited me. Which is an appropriate — almost necessary — attitude to have when making a forward-thinking magazine. Since 1964 we’ve been too busy with today and tomorrow to be checking the rearview mirror for what happened yesterday.
But this issue was different. I knew we needed to dive deeper, go back through our entire history — all 50 years of SURFING’s pledge of progression. What you now hold is a retrospective, sure, but it’s not surfing’s history. It’s SURFING’s history. Declaring the shortboard revolution in the ‘60s; hiring a world champ in the ‘70s; pushing a new realm of surf photography in the ‘80s; creating the Airshow in the ‘90s; and pioneering a new realm of surf exploration in the ‘00s. Fifty years of trendsetting, inspiring and discovering. Fifty years of relentless progression, starting with founders LeRoy Grannis and Richard Graham’s first issue back in December of 1964.
Richard, now in his late 70s, recently visited our office. We expected him to be a grandpa-type and so, when we met him, we spoke an octave higher and watched our language. But Richard was sharp. He laughed easily and cursed and told us stories about fistfights on the North Shore, dodging the draft and his bitter rivalry with Surfer.
“When we started the magazine, surfing was rigid and serious. We set out to change that,” he said during an hourlong conversation. “We were always looking to f–k with something, to make some noise. And we were constantly pushing for the next big thing.”
While the world has changed a lot since 1964, we’d like to think SURFING is still marching to the same beat and pulsing forward. In the same way that Richard and LeRoy created it: never looking back.
Until now…and just this once.
And since it’s not in my job description to make magazines about the past, I enlisted some help. Guys like Richard Graham, Peter Townend and Nick Carroll. Dan Merkel, Aaron Chang and Pete Frieden. Surfers, writers and photographers who, during their tenure at SURFING, were just as unqualified as I am to look backward. Because, like them, if my knowledge of the past outweighed my passion for the future, I wouldn’t be an editor here. As 1980s editor Dave Gilovich said, “This is not your father’s surf magazine.”
Enjoy this brief detour off our preferred course. It’s time for me to get back to writing about the future. It’s what SURFING has always done best. —Zander Morton