The Coast News Group
Surfer magazine, which started in 1960, suspended operations last week. Courtesy photo

Waterspot: Farewell to Surfer

The world stopped in 1961 as I laid down my 75 cents in exchange for my first copy of Surfer Magazine. I read it as I walked home with romantic visions in my head fueled by images of Pipeline, Rincon and Malibu.

We lived inland and our main lifeline appeared every other month. I took the mag to school, placed it between the pages of my geography book and studied every photo, and every word until I knew more about the world of surf than I ever would the paper realities of schoolbooks.

Like every 13-year-old gremmie I longed to hang out with the featured surfers, including Lance, Phil, and Butch. To do so, I would have become a great surfer or purchased a 35-millimeter camera.

When it became apparent that neither my athletic ability nor my paper route money would allow me access to my heroes, I decided to become a writer.

The only thing in the way of my brilliant literary career was the F’s I regularly received in all things English related. Still, I read and reread Surfer, and within a decade I had submitted a story and achieved my first byline.

By then I had quit pulling full-page images and center spreads from their staples and fastening them to my bedroom walls. I was a real surfer, living on my own in Hawaii before moving to Encinitas in 1970. Because of the guidance provided by Surfer Magazine, I correctly identified the guy ripping Swami’s as U.S. surfing champion Rusty Miller, the cute blond ripper as Linda Benson and the tall kid as Cheer Critchlow.

Through the ’70s, I hand-wrote surf stories and popped in to see if editor Steve Pezman was interested in printing any of them. At first they were rejected, but in time I found success and saw my name in print for the first time.

Once Pezman started his own publication, Surfer’s Journal, he was followed by editors Jim Kempton, Paul Holmes and Matt Warshaw. And I followed them, placing my now typed stories smeared with whiteout into their salty hands.

Once a year, I attended the Surfer Magazine poll where I ate and drank freely with the best surfers in the world. I was shocked to discover some of them even knew my name.

I never knew if I had outgrown Surfer, or if it outgrew me, but by the late ’80s I rarely glanced at the magazine. Surfer and I had not been intimate for decades when I got the news last week that the magazine had folded.

I guess that was inevitable since international surf content is currently available free, on tap 24/7. I was sad, but not deeply sad.

What made me far sadder was the passing of South African surfer Michael Tomson. I met Tomson in 1977 when I did a profile on him for Surfer Magazine.

He was articulate beyond most other saltwater creatures, and he proved himself among the top surfers in the world by tearing into 6- to 8-foot Steamer Lane.

Later that year, Tomson moved into a house on Oahu’s North Shore with my brother, David. Soon afterward came the company he founded, Gotcha, and crazy rumors and ads featuring hard-core riders like Martin Potter. Aloha Michael. Aloha Surfer. You have made a lasting impact on us all.