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Surfer Magazine Suspends Publication

A undated photograph used for the cover of Volume 61 Issue 3 of Surfer Magazine.
American Media LLC
A undated photograph used for the cover of Volume 61 Issue 3 of Surfer Magazine.

Surfer magazine, which helped legitimize wave-riding as a global sport through its lush photography and California-cool stories, printed its final edition this month and suspended its Carlsbad-based operations, it was reported Wednesday.

Founded in 1960 and beloved by pre-Internet-age surfers from Mission Beach to Biarritz, the magazine furloughed staff on Friday and ceased further print and online content offerings, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Though founded in Orange County, the magazine was based in recent years in Carlsbad.

"The whole staff got let go yesterday (no, nothing to do with the heat from the Biden endorsement, just the COVID economy), but I feel like we're ending on a high note with this one," said Editor in Chief Todd Prodanovich, in an Instagram post about the final issue. "Funny how you can work a job like this for 10 years and each issue is a completely new and different journey. I'll really miss that part, and the mag in general, which ends on this issue after 60 years of publication."

While many in the surf community say they saw this coming, the demise of Surfer still stings for aging surfers who couldn't wait for the monthly magazine to arrive, according to the Union-Tribune.

"I have watched many great publications go out of business over the past few years, but this one hit me really hard," Steve Hawk, who edited the magazine for eight years in the 1990s, told the Union-Tribune. "It was so much more than just a magazine for a lot of surfers of a certain generation. It was a cultural touchstone and groundbreaking in a lot of ways."

Surfer was among the first niche sports magazines of any kind to be successful, with a pedigree akin to Hotrod and Field & Stream, Hawk told the newspaper.

"It was the first. It became the communications vehicle for surf culture, and out of that came other ones," Peter Townend, a legendary surfer and president of ActivEmpire, told the newspaper. "We have suddenly lost one of the most iconic brands in the surf culture over the past 60 years."

Known as the "bible of the sport," Surfer probably reached its peak in the early 2000s. Like many print periodicals, it struggled to get a grip on the digital advertising business model as more and more of its readership transitioned online, according to the Union-Tribune.

After a series of ownership changes, Surfer was acquired in 2019 by American Media Inc., which owned The National Enquirer.

AMI has since merged with another company and has been renamed A360 Media. It currently publishes a handful of other magazines including Men's Journal, Muscle & Fitness, Star, In Touch, US Weekly and Soap Opera Digest.

When AMI bought Surfer, it also acquired sister publications Bike, Snowboarder, Powder and Transworld Skateboarding. Some of these publications have also been reportedly impacted by the furloughs and suspended operations.

John Severson, an art teacher, photographer, writer and cartoonist, founded Surfer magazine to promote a new surf film, said Steve Pezman, who worked at the magazine for 20 years before founding The Surfer's Journal. The artistry of the magazine captured readers' imaginations, he said.

"Surfing is sort of the artful relationship between humans and the ocean," Pezman told the newspaper. "So all the photos and stuff about surfboards, all of it has an art factor to it that gives it a level of being that goes beyond most topical magazines."