Sunday, July 18, 2010

Australian Surf Mags, 1961-62

"Australian Surfing Magazines: The First Wave (1961-1962)"

by Peter Bowes, for KURUNGABAA, July 17, 2010

Reprinting a refereed paper presented to the Journalism Education Conference, Griffith University, 29 November – 2 December 2005 by Mr. Paul Scott, School of Design, Communication and Information Technology, The University of Newcastle


An editor of a prominent American surfing magazine recently remarked that Australian surfing magazines have ‘reduced themselves from sources of national pride to cleverly packaged smut, pandering to the fantasies of adolescent males,’ (George 2001, p. 148). However, the first wave of Australian surfing magazines campaigned against ‘hooliganism’ and anti-social behaviour, seeking to instill national pride and present the sport favourably so as to attract the attention of the clothing, fashion, and entertainment industries. A trans-Pacific youth phenomenon, surf culture has had a significant impact in Australia and like rock’n’roll in the 1950s, cultural artefacts including movies, music, language and fashion were communicated through specialist magazines. This paper seeks to trace, examine and analyse three Australian surfing magazines that emerged in the period from 1961-1962.

The Californian Connection – Screen Mean – Teen to Screen Clean – Teen

Surfboard riding’s popular imagery and its symbolic association with youth, adventure, individuality, freedom from conformity and freedom of spirit over the past fifty years have provided numerous narrative and aesthetic opportunities for media. The swift rise of surfing’s appeal in popular culture can be traced to the September, 1957 publication of Frederick Kohner’s novel Gidget. The novel was based on stories told to Kohner by his teenage daughter Kathy about a surfing fraternity at Malibu Point in California. The novel sold half a million copies (Warshaw, 2003) and Kohner was subsequently hired by Columbia Pictures to write a script for a film of the novel. The film Gidget was released in March 1959 and was so commercially triumphant that there were sequels and television series created for the next three decades. Gabbard writes (2000, p. 33) that to the ‘chagrin of surfers suddenly having to share waves with the hordes, and to the delight of those who would create business out of surfing, Gidget lured inland America to the beach.’ Pezman notes (cited in Kampion, 1997, p.73) the film directed mainstream attention to surfing at ‘a time when it was ready to accommodate new interest thanks to foam, wetsuits and accessibility.’ Australian surf media entrepreneur Bob Evans argues (1967, p.23) that after Gidget’s mainstream success, the awakening of interest in surfing ‘overnight became a raging psychadalic [sic] giant.’

Surfing provided a timely and convenient backdrop for remapping wholesome depictions of American youth that had been hijacked and derailed by the rash of juvenile delinquent films of the 1950s such as The Wild One (1954), Blackboard Jungle (1955) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Doherty (2002) reminds us that juvenile delinquency was a national preoccupation in the 1950s and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had claimed that the domestic menace of delinquency was second only to Communism as a threat to the American way of life.

Wedged between the ‘mean-teen’ films and anti-establishment and counter-cultural films such as Hallucination Generation (1966), The Hooked Generation (1968), Psych Out (1968) and Easy Rider (1969) were more than two dozen Hollywood sand and surf (or beach party) films that caricatured surfing. Examples of such films included Beach Party (1963), Muscle Beach Party (1964), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). Lueras writes (1984, p.127) that the ‘plots woven into those early Hollywood ‘surfing movies’ were unbearably thin.’ Kampion points out (1997, p.74) that none of these films ‘captured anything remotely real about the people and the sport. But because of their success, every year there were thousands of new surfers buying boards and wetsuits.’ Indeed, the success of the films fostered other forms of popular culture, such as the music of the Beach Boys, that exploited a nexus with surfing.

The existence of these low-budget Hollywood surf and sand films owe a legacy to the Californian cult success of the early fifties’ non-fictional films about surfing that helped develop a subculture through the celebration and exploration of a shared experience at independent screenings. There were surfing ‘home movies’ created by Californians including Dr John Ball, John Larronde and Don James in the 1930s, but they were not intended to be profitable as were the films of the fifties made by filmmakers such as Bud Browne, Greg Noll and John Severson. The commercial success of the surf movies of the 1950s stimulated further demand for commodities that might be used to signify some association with surfing and the films helped to transform the individual, physical act of surfboard riding into a communal or ‘tribal’ experience that could be symbolically celebrated out of the water and away from the beach. George claims (2001, p.8) surfers of the early 1960s were ‘a tribe yearning to be brought together.’ According to Carroll (1991, p.208), surf movies were one of the ‘few reasons surfers would gather in public off the beach.

Commenting on the surf films from the 1950s, Carroll writes (1992, p.208) that ‘[F]ew of the movies were any good, either in film quality or structure, but that was hardly the point... They were communication – first between Hawaii and California, then between California and Australia, then all over the world.’ While they were most certainly a type of communication that cemented common interests among surfers in Hawaii, California and Australia, the film events in halls and school auditoriums were, as George argues (2001, p.8), ‘too fleeting, too ephemeral, to galvanise a generation.’

A number of other United States surf filmmakers including Californian trio Bruce Brown (who would direct surfing’s most widely known film, The Endless Summer (1966)), big-wave pioneer Greg Noll and art teacher John Severson emerged in the period from 1953 until Gidget premiered in 1959. Brown released Slippery When Wet in 1957 and Noll released Search for Surf in the same year. Severson, who had commercial success with the film Surf in 1958, released Surf Safari in 1959. Severson viewed Surf Safari as ‘the first surf movie’ because it contained ‘continuity, a score, sound effects, animation and optical effects’ (Severson, 1985, p.110). Severson realised that surfing and its associated commodities were becoming of interest to those who came to see his films. Severson wrote (1985, p.110) that he noticed an immediate demand for any type of surfing paraphernalia and artefacts and saw that ‘surfers would devour any image of wave or surfer. Posters had to be behind glass to last an hour’. Despite its Polynesian origins, surfing was becoming intrinsically linked with white middle class youth and consumerism. Surfing’s links with globalisation, tourism, nationalism, individualism and masculinity would also emerge as dominant discourses in the developing subculture.

In 1960, Severson released his third film, Surf Fever. To promote the film, he organised Parker and Son Printers in Los Angeles to print a 36-page, black and white promotional booklet called The Surfer. Severson set a wholesale price of one dollar per unit and arranged for a print run of 10 000 copies in a unique horizontal format, which Warshaw (1996) claims was unbelievably ambitious for a start-up project in 1960. He took a few new photographs for The Surfer, but mostly used frames from his film stock. The magazine contained only two articles. ‘Malibu Lizards’ was a fictional piece and ‘Surfing for Beginners’ was instructional. There was a photo of a man looking at the surf dressed in a women’s knee-length fur coat and Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman made an appearance. The Surfer immediately combined a flair for innovation and irreverence with conservatism. Early editions contained none of the sections that would later become the staple of the magazine such as letters, contest reports, editorials, travel reports or interviews with surfers. Severson later noted (cited in Gault-Williams, 2003) that he had ‘problems with distribution, mailing, personnel, taxes, printing, finances, politics, competition, advertising pressure, ad infinitum . . .’ While Warshaw notes (2003, p. xiv) at least three Southern-Californian surf magazines were founded in 1960, only The Surfer would continue beyond that year

Assembling particular photos thematically and writing captions, Severson sold 12 advertisements (two full-page at $400 each and 10 partial pages). Warshaw notes (1996, p.89) that Severson played with the layout and design for months (he had started the project just before Christmas, 1959) and that:
"each page of The Surfer was given life by Severson’s money, ego and aesthetic. He photographed and developed the cover shot of Jose Angel at Sunset, for example, then shamelessly tilted up the left-hand corner during the design process, effectively doubling the size of the wave."
Severson and his brother loaded up Severson’s van and hand distributed the magazine to surf shops and bookstores along the Californian coast. Five thousand copies were sold. George claims (2002, p.8).that the relative success of the magazine was due to Severson’s recognition that surfers ‘needed something they could hold in their hands, a banner under which they could make their barefoot stand against the conformity of the age.’

A second version of the magazine was published in the Spring of 1961. Five thousand copies were printed and sold out in less than twelve weeks. In 1962 the magazine became bi-monthly and two years later it changed its masthead to Surfer. Warshaw notes that ‘[W]ithout pause, Severson’s creation went from upstart to institution.’

California Down Under

In 1956, the same year that Kathy Kohner was relating her experiences of a developing surfing culture at California’s Malibu Beach to her screenwriter father Frederick and television was introduced to Australia, teams of surfers from Hawaii and the United States were invited by the Surf Life Saving Association (SLSA) to attend a special Queen’s International Carnival in late November. The carnival was staged at Torquay in Victoria and held in conjunction with the Melbourne Olympic Games. Other countries to compete in that carnival included Hawaii, Ceylon, Great Britain, New Zealand and South Africa.

Although specifically invited by the SLSA to contest paddleboard races, the surfboards the United States’ team brought with them ranged in length from approximately eight feet six inches to eleven feet, were constructed of balsa wood, covered in fibreglass, and had a fin centrally located at the rear of the board on the bottom underside. These surfboards were commonly known as ‘malibus’. Since the mid-1930s, Australian surfers had mostly used the finless redwood surfboard known as the ‘Australian Racing Sixteen’, also known as the ‘toothpick’. The board ranged in size from approximately fourteen to sixteen feet. United State’s team member Greg Noll claims (1989, p.70) that until the arrival of the visiting teams and their fibreglass balsa boards at Torquay, Australians surfed ‘a surf ski type of board, and the idea was to go out and take off on some white water and come straight in the soup, while all the girls on the beach squealed.’ Thousands of spectators attended the Torquay carnival, and at the conclusion of the paddling events, the Americans began surfing in front of the Torquay surf club. Noll (1989, p.71) wrote that the exhibition created a good deal of excitement on the beach and that:
"word got round in the parking lot as people were leaving, ‘The Yanks are surfing, you ought to see the Yanks.’ People turned around and came back to watch. Ampol Oil took films…The films and our boards became the basis of the modern surfboard movement in Australia."
Over the next few years, newsreels and television played a significant role in awakening Australian enthusiasm for surfboard riding. Such fervor was further exacerbated when Movietone News 18/3 (1956) recorded the visitors for a newsreel that was shown in Australian cinemas. Thoms claims (2000, p.64) footage of the American surfers in the film Service in the Sun (1957) at Bondi was ‘a truly decisive moment in Australian surf history.’ Made by Cinesound and sponsored by Ampol, the film was produced to stimulate interest among potential recruits for the Surf Life Saving Association (SLSA).

Yet the inclusion of the surfing sequences of the Americans was perhaps an anathema to the purpose of the film, because the performances on the Malibu boards that the film included ‘inspired many young Australians to ignore the SLSA’s demand for duty in the surf, and pursue surf for pleasure’ (Thoms, 2000, p.63). Booth provides statistics (2001, p.97) that illustrate his contention that it is incorrect to subscribe to the popular mythology that the Malibu boards lead to a ‘mass exodus of youth from lifesaving’; that ‘fears that young men would ‘break away’ from lifesaving did not materialise’, and that ‘[A]ctive membership of the SLSA increased’ in 1958-59. The introduction of the Malibu surfboard, combined with political, social and economic factors, did result in a broadening of opportunities for youth involvement in surf culture beyond the SLSA. Pearson points out (1979, p.57) that burgeoning demand for malibu surfboards was influenced by Australians experiencing the ‘release from the restraints of war; technological advances in surfing equipment; improvements in transport; and a greater degree of consumer affluence.’

While newsreels played a significant role in awakening Australian’s enthusiasm for surfboard riding, Bud Browne’s visit to Australia in 1957 accompanied by his films dedicated to surfboard riding clearly demonstrated that Australian surfboard riders had developed a desire for surf media. Browne created Surfing in Hawaii and The Big Surf during his trip to Australia via an ocean liner by re-editing footage from his earlier films in his cabin. The films ‘premiered’ at Sydney’s Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) on December 14, where an overflowing audience of 600 people gathered to see footage of male and female surfers ride waves on a screen. The Queenscliff screenings were followed by screenings at other Sydney SLSCs. Bob Evans wrote (1967, p.21) that the response from those in attendance:
"was unbelievable. Surfers stood and yelled, they fell on the floor, jumped up and down – in short they were stoked out of their tiny brains . . . The technique of the surfers was revolutionary and immediately everyone was aware that our sport had suddenly opened up for us... Surfboard manufacturers who had been part time backyard operators, were suddenly fulltime production units."

The Australian Surfer

In late July or early August 1961, 19 year-old Bronte surfer Lee Cross published The Australian Surfer. With a background in advertising and print production, Cross had begun surfing at Bronte in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on a fourteen foot toothpick in 1955 and was a member of the Bronte Surf Lifesaving Club, where surfers including Bill Wallace, Serge Denman, Dick Thornett and Charlie Davis ‘enjoyed status as ‘surf legends’’ (Cross, 2001). Cross wrote (2001) that he and his surfer mates were ‘always blown away by any pictorial material on surfing... When Severson’s magazine reached Australia I recall thinking, well if they can do it in the States... we can do it here.’ Cross claims Bob Evans, who was then selling life insurance, was ‘inspirational’ in his support in getting the issue printed by Advertising and Commercial Printers Pty. Ltd. in Sydney

Financed by Cross and his father, the thirty-six page first edition of The Australian Surfer had a pressrun of 3000 copies and was very similar to The Surfer in content and layout. Cross claims (Cross, 2001) the number of copies to be printed was determined because ‘our estimates were that there weren’t many more than that number of surfers actively engaged in the sport at that time.’ After selling approximately half the number of copies printed, Cross reduced the second issue’s run to 2000. The magazine was sold throughout Australia, through both consignment to surf shops and mail order, with requests for the magazine coming from both Hawaii and the United States and from several Australian libraries. Cross handled the distribution of the first issue, while Gordon and Gotch handled distribution of a limited number of copies of the second.

There was difficulty in attracting advertisers interested in forming a nexus with the surfing lifestyle beyond surfboard manufacturers. The first issue of The Australian Surfer contained four full-page, five half-page and two quarter-page advertisements. Advertising included the promotion of balsa by Arthur Milner & Co. Pty. Ltd based in Double Bay, Sydney and Springvale, Victoria. The possibilities of enhanced surf photography through the use of a telephoto lens were pointed to in an advertisement for Vic Joyce’s Camera Store based in Dee Why, Sydney. An advertisement for the Ferris Factory in Caringbah, Sydney announced that one could ‘look like a rider’ in Ferris Bermuda Shorts; ‘feel like a rider’ in a Ferris Rubber Suit and ‘be a rider’ on a new 1962 Ferris Surfboard: Balsa or Poly. Advertisements for surfboard manufacturers included Barry Bennett, McDonagh Scott Dillon and Gordon Woods in Brookvale, Sydney; Bill Wallace in Waverley, Sydney and The Surf Shop in King George Square, Brisbane. The issue also contained a full-page cartoon of sharks threatening surfers, an article on surfing spots around Sydney and an article on surfing for beginners, similar to that published in The Surfer. There was no introduction, editorial, letters page or promise of further issues.

A second issue of The Australian Surfer was released in December 1961. Cross was credited with role of publisher and editor and there were credits for a cartoonist and photographer. The horizontal A4 format and length of thirty-six pages remained the same but the second edition’s cover was not produced on gloss paper. There were articles with pictorials on surfing destinations including North Avalon in Sydney and a celebration of big-wave spot the Bombora, a surf break one kilometer out to sea from Queenscliff, Sydney. The article claims the Bombora has attained ‘ legendary stature in the eyes of the Australian surfer – few have accepted and certainly very few have ridden its mighty curls’. ‘Surfing Interstate’ announces the better known surfing spots of Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. There is a four page liftout section consisting of ‘full page photos – 2 Australian and 2 American – suitable for framing or sticking in scrapbooks’ (p.16). A short article titled ‘Surfers You Should Know’ profiled Sydney surfer Michael Dooley and American Bob Cooper, both of whom were involved in surfboard production. Cartoonist Damo Letts contributed ‘Gilbert the Gremlin Ghost’ in which surfers and rockers fought on the beach after the rockers threw stones at the surfers’ boards. This was timely considering there had been some disturbances between surfers and rockers on Sydney’s northern beaches, but these were not to erupt until early 1962 (Walding, 2003).

Garry Birdsall provided two cartoons commenting on the emerging surf culture. One of these cartoons features two youths in a van with surfboards on the roof and three youths outside the vehicle leering at a female in bikinis. Another youth looking in another direction states that the surf is flat and asks ‘now what’ll we do?’ While clear in its sexual suggestion, its connotation of group sex points to activity that Australian champion surfer Nat Young (1998) later recounted was occurring on Sydney’s beaches in the early 1960s. Birdsall’s other cartoon tackles the ‘ideal’ surfing image and provided five dot points on what one must first do to be a surfer. Birdsall sarcastically suggests authenticity of image can be achieved through never ever washing, spending all your money on lemons, not surfing unless your hair is white, not forgetting a necklace or what ever you call it and keeping away from barbers.

The magazine carried 13 advertisements for surfboard manufacturers and retailers. An advertisement for Pinke Zinke sunburn protection ‘for day long sun protection’ featured three surfboard riders on a wave. There was an advertisement for Bob Evans Legal & General Insurance and an advertisement for Vic Joyce’s camera store mentioning Bob Evans success since ‘changing to 16mm’. Surf photos and a ‘giant Makaha mural’ were offered for sale by mail order from the publisher of The Australian Surfer.

The second edition of The Australian Surfer carried an editorial that admonished the behaviour of those in attendance at the premier screening of Severson’s Big Wednesday at the Anzac House owned by the Returned Services League. The venue was inadequate for the crowd that came on a November night to view the films and the ANZAC mural in the foyer of the auditorium was dislodged (Thoms, 2000). The larger than expected interest in the films may have been stimulated by the media attention surrounding the release of Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) in the same month and the film’s promotion via a ‘Miss Gidget Contest’ held in Sydney’s State Theatre. The editorial stated:
"On Monday, the 20th November, 1961, hundreds of surfers gathered in the foyer of Anzac House, College Street, awaiting the screening of the first feature length film of surfriding in Hawaii and California to be shown in Australia. By 7p.m. the crowd had grown to 1,200 and when the doors to the auditorium were opened a riot almost broke out. A 8.p.m. the police were called in... Damage to the hall was estimated at £300... ANZAC HOUSE IS NOW CLOSED TO SURF MOVIES... Next time you have a spare minute, stop and think – is it really worth losing beaches and halls because of a few high spirits?" (The Australian Surfer, No. 2, p.3)
A letter concerning the same matter written by John Campbell of Newport Beach who attended the film night stated that he was ‘a little disturbed to see the damage that was done. It’s a shame nothing can be done to stop this desire to destroy – it’s giving the surfer a bad name.’

While an advertisement urged readers not to miss the next issue of The Australian Surfer, a third issue would not appear. Cross could not attract the advertisers required to make the magazine break even financially. Walding (2003) claims the short life of the magazine may have been due to the relatively high cover price of seven shillings and sixpence at a time when Australia’s biggest selling magazine, The Australian Womens Weekly, cost one shilling.

Surfabout: Australasian Surfer

In August 1962, Surfabout Australasian Surfer was published as a quarterly that would run for 24 issues until 1968. In the debut issue, editorial staff included Jack Eden who was credited as photographer and co-editor; Garry Birdsall was credited as cartoonist and co-editor, and Bob Weeks was credited as photographer. Like its American and Australian predecessors, it too was thirty-six pages in length. The magazine featured a pullout double – page poster of Sydney surfer Bobby Brown undertaking a ‘Quasimodo’ maneuver.

The magazine was distributed by Gordon and Gotch and the majority of surfing photos in the magazine were captured on Sydney’s southern beaches around Cronulla. Advertisements were mostly for surfboard maufacturers, with one quarter-page advertisement for W. Kopsen & Co. Pty Ltd, Marine Specialists in Kent Street, Sydney. Besides surfing photos and advertisements for surfboard manufacturers was a photograph of Bob Sutherland standing on a dead shark under a caption reading ‘Toes on the Nose’) and a clipping from the Sunday Mirror regarding a seal attacking and biting sixteen-year-old surfboard rider Ron Rudder off North Stockton Beach in New South Wales. There are six surfing cartoons in the magazine that have a surfing theme, an article on surfing the Queenscliff Bombora by surfboard manufacturer Scott Dillon, a pictorial featuring Bellambie south of Sydney and a report on the 1962 Metropolitan Board Championships held at Bondi. Surfing etiquette was outlined through the inclusion of five surfing tips. Surfers were urged to ‘surf with good manners and courtesy’; reminded to ‘never board ride between the flags’ and advised to ‘do the right thing by the person in authority, the beach inspector.’ This concern with behaviour was echoed in the following issue: ‘Let’s Keep the Sport Clean Fun’. The editorial outlined that a ‘get tough campaign’ would be embarked upon by council alderman and beach inspectors against offensive surfers and board riders at metropolitan beaches:
"The dastardly actions – ranging from burying bottles in the sand, to constantly endangering swimmers by catching waves into the surfing area – of these decadent types, as they have been deservedly described, are anything but promotional for the sport which was introduced to young Australians, primarily as a form of activity, both mental and physical." (Surfabout: Australasian Surfer, 1962, Issue 1, p. 4)
The second edition of Surfabout: Australasian Surfer, issued in December 1962, demonstrated a significant number of changes that would be influential in Australian surf magazine publishing. Sales of the first edition had been encouraging and despite this, or perhaps because of it, the cover price was dropped by one shilling. Inside the thirty-six page magazine the masthead carried the sub-heading: ‘Australia’s Premier Surfing Magazine’. Jack Eden was now listed as manager and John Morris-Thorne was listed as editor. There were staff listings for an advertising representative, staff photographers, contributing photographers, an overseas representative and interstate and overseas correspondents. The cover was a shot of American surfer Johnny Fain and there is an article on the sport’s history entitled ‘Ancient and Modern Surfing’ by Dr David Stern from the University of California. There were articles on surfing at Bronte, Maroubra, Dee Why and Cronulla Point in Sydney, the Woollongong area south of Sydney, as well as photos and articles on surfing in South Australia and Western Australia. There was an article on technique and turning, a centerfold pullout ‘Surfing Guide: Port Kembla to Palm Beach’ that listed all surf breaks and desirable swell and wind directions required for idyllic surf conditions. There was a page of surf-related cartoons. Lord James Blears contributed news items under the banner of ‘Hawaiian Scene’ and a gossip column regarding surfers and their travels entitled ‘Talkabout’ written by ‘Wanderer’. There were surfing tips that were to pave the way for surfing etiquette: ‘The rider on the inside of the wave has the rightaway – do not, at any stage, come down on top of him.

There were nineteen separate advertisements for surfboard materials and surfboards. Perhaps most significantly, in terms of the development of surfing as a vehicle for youth culture and consumer goods, were the advertisements and editorial comment that had expanded its interest beyond surfboards. The Australian Record Company Ltd. ‘wants lyrics for a surf song’ with the winning entry ‘set to music and recorded by a top local artist and released on the Coronet label.’ There were advertisements for a food outlet at Palm Beach; Louis Tailoring, a mail-order tailor based in Kowloon, Hong Kong; Kala roof racks; surf photos from ‘Bud Brown’s current movies’ and an invitation to Australian boardriders to attend the 1962 International Surfing Championships at Makaha Beach in Hawaii.

The Surfing World Monthly

The first edition of The Surfing World Monthly was distributed in September 1962. It was founded in Sydney by its editor and photographer Bob Evans and published by Evan Keegan Pty. Ltd. The magazine remains second only to the United States’ Surfing as the longest, continuously produced surfing magazine in the world. The Surfing World Monthly also shared Surfing’s 36 page length and that magazine’s origins as a medium to promote a film made by its editor. Evans was a successful competitive surfer and had organised the touring and screening of Bud Browne films in Sydney in the late 1950s. He arranged a trip of 20 Australian surfers to Hawaii in 1961, filmed it and sold footage to ABC-TV (Thoms, 2000). He used the footage from the trip to create Surf Trek to Hawaii (1962). A surfing magazine provided an ideal vehicle for him to tie in his various interests in films and contests, and his background as a lingerie salesman assisted him in negotiating advertising space and rates in the magazine. The magazine announced that it ‘will be of keen interest to the hundreds of thousands of Australians who find their sport and recreation by the sea. Surfboard riding, Australia’s fastest growing and perhaps most thrilling sport, will be largely featured.’

International adventure was covered by a four-page article titled ‘Surf Trek to Hawaii’ described as ‘the ambition of practically every boardman’. It featured photos of large waves being ridden by a ‘master surfman’ (p.5) and another of a surfer getting ‘set for a lightning descent to the boneyard’ (p.4) Local adventure was covered by a two-page article to northern New South Wales entitled ‘Discovery in the North’. The article claims it is ‘really important’ to record the pioneers opening up new areas and that ‘[Y]our Editor was typical of these explorers.’ Crowded surf was already viewed as a problem in Sydney in 1962 and travel to non-metropolitan areas was seen as a remedy to alleviate that problem:
"Easter of this year, saw the greatest exodus of surf board men ever to leave Sydney in search of surf. Frustrated by crowded beaches, overcrowded waters, no parking places, and other controls, the enthusiastic ‘surfie’ (like his compatriot ‘sports friends’ the fisherman, the spearman, boatmen, water-skiers and other refugees from pressure) are seeking newer and more secluded pastures..."(The Surfing World Monthly, 1962, Vol.1 (1), p.9)
An article dedicated to newcomers to surfing was deemed necessary because of the growth in the sport: ‘[E]very summer weekend that you go down to the beach there are at least 200 more boards than there were the previous week.’ The article urged surfers to cooperate with beach inspectors, not to park across drive-ways, leave boards on the footpath, refuse to pay exorbitant parking fees, swear audibly or walk through private property. Anti-social behaviour issues were further discussed under the heading: ‘Thoughtless actions of a few could handicap our sport’. Readers are urged to think about unwitting behaviour:
"With the rapid increase in the popularity of the sport, it seems that along with thousands of fine people associating themselves with surf riding, a certain small percentage of undesirables has infiltrated the ranks. High spirits are normal in the activities of healthy young people, but hooliganism is the product of unhealthy minds and has no place in a sport such as surfriding, in which good judgment, sound decisions, and physical alertness are primary requirements." (The Surfing World Monthly, 1962, Vol1 (1), p.28)
Articles included a contest report on the Metropolitan Surf Contest held at Bondi that attracted more than 200 entrants, a report on a week of good surf at Narrabeen (pp.16-17), an account of United States’ filmmaker Bruce Browne and surfer Phil Edwards trip to Australia shooting footage for The Endless Summer, a letters page, a comment on the beauty of surfing titled ‘Why Surf?’ and a tribute to Australian surfing pioneer Justin ‘Snow’ McAllister.

There is a three-page account of shark hunter Wal Gibbins including a photo of him holding a spear gun next to ‘nine foot grey nurse the way most people like to see them – out of the water.’ The article discusses Gibbins and ‘his diving mates’ killing a number of grey nurse sharks and points out they ‘they have speared many from as close a range as two feet’. An article on the financial problems being faced by the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia titled ‘Problems of the 56th Year’ discusses the ‘falling off in volunteer enrolments and suggests that there exists ‘a criticism by the youthful’ that ‘the association has not shown appreciation of surfriding as a skilled sport and that the clubs of today do not truly represent a cross section of the country’s surfing talent.’ Surfboards had required registration stickers on Sydney beaches at a cost of five shillings since November 1960, but there was no charge if the surfer belonged to a surf club (Walding, 2003, p.38). There was some tension between surfers and surf lifesaving clubs about fines, board confiscation and flag placement for swimmers and this tension would become a recurrent issue in Australian surfing magazines.

While there were advertisements for seven surfboard manufacturers, The Surfing World Monthly also attracted an advertisement for a camera store, roof racks and youth-oriented advertising for commodities including the Philips Ultraphil Sun Lamp which promised ‘a healthy real golden tan, even in the middle of winter.’ Fashion and clothing advertisements included Hollywood Beachwear, Speedo boardshorts and Speedo shirts. The advertisement for a credit account at Sydney’s Anthony Horderns proclaimed to readers that they did not have to ‘wait till midway through the season for that surfboard and beachwear‘ when credit of ‘up to £50 for young surfers’ was readily available. Borrowing a practice established by both Man and Post magazine, The Surfing World Monthly also included a full-page duotone photograph of a young woman wearing a bikini captioned ‘Surfing World Girl No.1.’ The back cover of the magazine featured a duotone shot of Sydney surfer Nipper Williams wearing Speedo ‘Beachnik’ boardshorts. This was the first advertisement in an Australian surfing magazine whereby a surfer endorsed a product other than a surfboard and can be seen as significant as it ushered in the era of surfers endorsing commodities.


Warshaw claims (1996, p, 92) that it is ‘true that ‘surf magazines everywhere are patterned after American-and to a lesser degree, Australian-models.’ While The Australian Surfer lasted only two issues and was a near direct copy of The Surfer, the following Australian surf magazines helmed by Eden and Evans laid down an archetype that would influence emerging surfing magazine content throughout the world. The hedonistic and anti-authoritarian pre-eminent image of surfers, while starting to gain sway in the mainstream media in 1962, was not dominant in these early magazines. The magazines campaigned actively against anti-social behaviour, viewed surfing almost exclusively as a healthy outdoor sport, emphasised the need to respect authority and promoted masculine values that were conducive to capitalism, including individualism, competition, adventure and risk. Surfing identity was already becoming tied to the consumption of commodities advertised in the magazines. While by the end of the 1950s adolescence had become an industry and popular Australian magazines such as Australasian Post, The Australian Women’s Weekly and People had features and liftouts for teenagers, Surfabout: Australasian Surfer and The Surfing World Monthly provided middle class males in their teenage years and early twenties with their own language, fashion and clothing, customs, hierarchy and a new common interest. This common interest saw mainstream companies view a cultural phenomenon as a consumer market to be exploited. That view, like surfing magazine titles and their contents, would continue to expand over the next forty years


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Stillman, D., Wolfe, T., Surf culture: the art history of surfing. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press.

Thoms, A. (2000). Surfmovies: the history of the surf film in Australia. Noosa Heads: Shore Thing Publishing.

Walding, M. (2003). Blue heaven: the story of Australian surfing. South Yarra: Hardy Grant Books.

Warshaw, M. (1996). 30 years of surf magazines: articles of faith. In The Surfers Journal. Capistrano Beach, CA: S. Pezman.

Warshaw, M. (2003). The Encyclopedia of Surfing. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.

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To view the original reposting and comments, please go to:

Paul Scott: Australian Surfing Magazines

1 comment:

  1. There's a lot of history in the storage lockers of Australia about surfing, and it's great to see how far the activity has become. It's no longer just an activity but a sport and a competitive one at that! Here's looking forward to even greater things from the people who are out there on the waves. Cheers!


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