OCEANSIDE — Aaron “Schmidty” Schmidt, co-founder and editorial director of Osider Magazine, died late last month following a battle with cancer.
He was 50 years old.
Schmidt first moved to North San Diego County from Jacksonville, Florida, in the early 1990s. Schmidt was an avid surfer, skateboarder and snowboarder who moved west to further pursue his passions.
After moving to the San Diego region, Schmidt began writing and editing in Oceanside for TransWorld Surf and SKATEboarding magazines.
Fellow Osider co-founder Zach Cordner met Schmidt while the two worked at TransWorld. After they both left the magazine in the early 2000s, the two began working together as freelance journalists — Schmidt as the writer and Cordner as the photographer — covering music articles for outlets like Thrasher Magazine.
“(Schmidt) would do the interviews and I would do the photo shoots,” Cordner said.
The pair would continue to work together over the next two decades, later collaborating with Nick Cannon on Project C.A.N.V.A.S., a shoe company that allowed individuals to design and make their own shoes.
In 2014, Schmidt and Cordner joined Oceanside native Jamey Stone to create The Osider. The team also revived Encinitas Magazine that same year with former TransWorld teammates.
For the next eight years, they would balance publishing both of the magazines every other month until last year when they created the Riversider Magazine to focus on the city of Riverside, Cordner’s home town.
“We drove together to Riverside every week, sometimes even two or three times a week,” Cordner said. “We wanted to set up a good magazine there with local writers and photographers, and it hit off really well.”
This past spring, Schmidt fell ill. Doctors later found cancer had developed in his lungs and liver. Schmidt began chemotherapy while his family, including his two sons, Avery and Kagan, and his ex-wife Kristi looked after him.
After two months, doctors announced that he was cancer free.
“(Schmidt) was given a clean bill of health,” Cordner said. “Doctors were even amazed.”
Schmidt started gaining the weight he lost in chemo back and changed his lifestyle, eating better and returning to his first love – surfing.
“As soon as he finished chemo, he wanted to get back in the water,” Cordner said.
After a few months, Schmidt was hospitalized again — cancer had returned to his liver — and he started radiation therapy again, growing physically weaker by the day.
Then one day, after no one had heard from him, a welfare check was called. He had collapsed in his home. At the hospital, doctors found that cancer had spread to his brain.
“He had a huge brain hemorrhage,” Cordner said. “By the time I got there, he couldn’t speak.”
Cordner held his best friend’s hand and talked to him, along with Schmidt’s two sons and Aaron Regan and Dwayne Carter, design directors for Encinitas Magazine and The Osider, respectively, to let him know they were there with him.
Schmidt passed away a few hours after the group left.
“It’s hard to talk about – it was a huge loss for us, for everyone,” Cordner said. “It’s crazy hearing the outpouring of love and support from people who I never knew that were touched by him.”
As a writer and editor, Schmidt was passionate about local journalism.
“He was all about putting together community journalism in a nice package and producing a magazine with high international quality at a local level,” Cordner said. “He was fascinated by people, and he always worked hard to get the story right the first time.”
Schmidt, who was also passionate about history and heavy music, surfing and other extreme sports, had created a formula that worked incredibly well for The Osider stories: talk about the past, transition to the present day and then discuss the future.
“He trained all of our writers,” Cordner said.
Schmidt’s family and friends plan to have a paddle out on Oct. 23 at Oceanside pier to spread his ashes, honoring his memory and love of the water. The Encinitas, Riversider and Osider magazines will each feature dedications to Schmidt in their respective publications.
“He was an all-around awesome guy and he’ll be greatly missed,” Cordner said. “I lost my best friend and my right-hand man.”
Schmidt is survived by his mother, Barbara Thies, who helped take care of him during treatment, his sons Avery and Kagan, and his former wife, Kristi.