Surfing World 300. Flashback Feature.

3 Dec 2009 0 Share

Tom Carroll blazing on a single fin.

Tom Carroll blazing on a single fin.

Surfing World is publishing their milestone 300th issue on December 23.

Terry Richo the king of Black Rock ripping in fluoro in the early 80’s.

Terry Richo the king of Black Rock ripping in fluoro in the early 80’s.

From 1962 to 2009, two hundred and ninety nine issues, that’s a lot of feature stories man. How to choose the best of Surfing World from such an enormous pool?

I thought I’d ask the guy who knows it best, the editor/publisher who wrote or commissioned the writers, photographers and designers who created the magazine for so many successful years.

Surfing World has had relatively few editors – just 8 for such a long – lived – title. Bruce Channon was co publisher with Hugh Mcleod for 22 years from 1975 to 1997.

SW was renowned for simplistic, but oh so cool road trips. Bruce and Hugh would take a couple of the best surfers of the time up the north coast of NSW, down the south coast, up to the Goldie, Sunshine Coast, Vicco or WA in their trusty Peugeots and create theme issues, combining landscapes, classic Aussie characters and cutting edge surfing. It was pure, contemporary, and very Australiana, but not in the dorky dumbed down Aussie, Aussie, Aussie oi oi oi way some mags project these days.

Looking back through the older issues provides a unique historical insight into how our sport/lifestyle evolved. There’s the evolution of the surfboard, from the 60’s long board era, the shorter single fins of the 70’s, through to the thrusters of the 80’s and beyond.

There’s the fashion, the short back and sides of pre Vietnam war 60’s surfers, the psychedelic long haired drop out faze, the country soul of the 70’s, the fluoro sticker packs of the 8o’s, the brief re- emergence of commercialised soul in the 90’s and the slick professionalism in the new millennium.

SW has documented nearly 50 years of Australian surfing history, and Bruce Channon was at the helm for nearly half of that time.

– Ben Horvath. (Coastalwatch editor.)

Top – The Bluff in all its glory. Below – Darren Magee one of the standouts in the early – mid 80’s ultra competitive APSA pro am days.

Top – The Bluff in all its glory. Below – Darren Magee one of the standouts in the early – mid 80’s ultra competitive APSA pro am days.

BH: Bruce, how many editors have there been of SW over the years?
BC:Give or take a few, there’s been Bob Evans to begin, then John Witzig. Paul Koller for a short period, Frank Pithers ditto, and then a few of his mates while Sungravure owned it. Geoff Luton took over and started to pull it back into line, and then Hugh McLeod and I took over for a few decades, before Reggae and more recently Blakey.

What year did it start?
First issue was September, 1962.

Who was the first ed/publisher?
Bob Evans was editor; he had a publishing partner for a little while, Jack Keegan.

When did you and Hugh take over the reins?
Hugh’s first issue was Dec 1974; mine, May of ‘75.

When did you sell to Reggae, Doug and co?
In 1997. I can’t believe that was over 10 years ago already!

You guys presided over “The Golden Era” it must have been fun as well as busy?
It was a lot of fun. The surfers of the day were stoked to come along on our surf trips, and generally very glad for any publicity we could help them with. We certainly took surfers with us who were good guys, guys we were able to have a good time with ... without going too crazy.

Wollongong had so many shredders that did the dash to Pipe in the 70’s and 80’s. Most turned up in the pages of SW.  Skinner, The Cloutt brothers, Richo, Critta, Page, McNeill, Mcann, Woodiwiss, Keane, Webber, Baker the list goes on and on. Top - Richo carving into a cutty on the lefts. Above – Critta Byrne slotted on a right at Black Rock.

Wollongong had so many shredders that did the dash to Pipe in the 70’s and 80’s. Most turned up in the pages of SW. Skinner, The Cloutt brothers, Richo, Critta, Page, McNeill, Mcann, Woodiwiss, Keane, Webber, Baker the list goes on and on. Top - Richo carving into a cutty on the lefts. Above – Critta Byrne slotted on a right at Black Rock.

Who conceptualised the epic road trips and what was the editorial aim?
The road trips just came together, almost with a life of their own. It was either because we saw the weather was lining up in a certain way (most of our Wreck Bay trips), or we had a lack of good material on hand (and a few days to spare), or some visiting surfers were in town (like the Kong/Chappy trip to the NSW South Coast which through a lack of swell saw us charging down the Hume Highway to Port Campbell in Vic.).

Did much planning go into them in terms of timing a road trip with a swell etc?
For our Pipe day trips, and they were nearly all one day trips, it was pure spur of the moment. Hugh and I would have seen a south swell on the Long Reef bombies, a high pressure system would be positioned so that we knew the following day would have nor’easters, and we’d get on the phone to see who we could grab early the next morning. We’d leave at three or four am, surf at Ulladulla or wherever in the morning offshore, and then head to Pipe late morning or when the nor’easter started to kick in. Big trips to the North-West, Hawaii, Indo, Tonga, etc. were just timed for the most consistent periods, not for specific swell predictions ... which of course didn’t exist in those times.

Who was the resident weather guru?
Hugh and I both had a good awareness of the weather. We didn’t have access to the detail that surfers of today can tap into though. Still, so long as we followed certain time-honoured SW superstitions, (like having some pizza and beer at Nowra on the return journey) we maintained a bloody high hit-rate.

Most memorable trips?
The first Red Bluff trip is pretty hard to beat, camping rough and scoring swell on our last day. And our second Tonga trip, when we took a yacht searching for island waves was a great trip, despite the waves being small-ish ... just the adventure side of that was memorable. Oh, and the boat trip I did with Murph, Taj Burrow, Mick Campbell and the boys to Deserts and Scar was awesome too ... floating past the Gili islands at sunset, with beer in hand and a bowl of spag bol, surf-wasted after a few days of perfect Desert Point, all to ourselves! There was this mini-ocean liner moored there, and the crowd on its quarter-deck were watching the sun setting behind the Bali volcano, all dressed in dinner suits and cocktail dresses, champagne flutes in hand. They looked at us, sitting in our boardies, on the deck of the old, Indo-style, diesel thumper, probably thinking,“Peasants!” We were absolutely surf-stoked after days of deep barrels, thinking, “You people have no idea of the thrills we’ve just experienced!”

Rabbit slotted at home on the Gold coast on his trusty Hot Stuff.

Rabbit slotted at home on the Gold coast on his trusty Hot Stuff.

Best waves ever scored?
We scored everywhere! I couldn’t pick one out ... Hugh and I had the rabbits-foot touch on so many occasions. Maybe the classic Red Bluff morning if I had to pick one.

Best surfing witnessed?
Whoa! Another toughie. Which era? To stick with my SW experiences only ... Kong at various locations, Tommy C ditto, Occy and Richo at Pipe, Curren one little day at Winkipop, Slater on one of the last days of real Kirra ...

Once contests lost their kind of grass roots vibe I noticed you started covering them less and less?
Yeah, also Tracks was printing here in Oz, with their tabloid style, and in those days we still had to print in Japan, or wherever, to be able to have good colour. So the time-lag to on-sale made our contest stories less relevant. We campaigned for years for the powers-that-be to hold contests when and where there were good waves, instead of the mind-set of the day, which was two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon at Manly Beach, or somewhere that NEVER had waves on a Sunday afternoon! Crappy pictures of knee-high grovelling wasn’t what our readers wanted, or what excited us.

Kong shacked at home on the Sunshine Coast.

Kong shacked at home on the Sunshine Coast.

You always seemed to have great support from the industry despite the fact that you kept the editorial direction quite pure, passing on pap news items and contest triviality?
Hmmm! That support was certainly the case for a long time, because the people holding the purse strings were mostly real surfers. Some of the support waned over the last few years we had the mag. We grew up with those pioneer businesses, and dealt directly with the principals. That was when the whole thing hummed along. In the last few years ... well I remember ringing Rip Curl, as an example, and instead of talking to Claw I was patched through to their new “media buyer”. A young lass fresh from her marketing course at Uni, I guess. When she said she had never heard of Surfing World, I could see our work was going to be cut out for us, being only a two-man operation all those years. The new face of surfing meant wining, dining and schmoozing ... the corporate way of things ... not our deal! We were always just about the surfing.

You and Hugh took most of the photos yourselves – have you got some favourites?
Hard to pick out one or two. Amongst my own, it was always the water shots I took ... Tommy Carroll at Mona Watu maybe, or a shot from behind Beau Emerton in Tonga, the big day we had at Pipe ... no one standout.

Best East coast swells you’ve seen?
Probably one cyclone swell around a Stubbies Contest which went on for weeks. The surfers of the day are probably still suffering from bad backs caused by the amount of paddling they did, day after day, during that one.

You’re still in the game, editing ALB now – hows that all going?
I still love working on a surf mag. ALB takes in a very large demographic age group and I enjoy working on stories about both 11-year-olds, and 60-somethings. All the age groups still share a stoke for surfing that doesn’t seem to diminish with the years. I surf more now than I have since I was a teenager, I’m making some wooden boards at the moment ... there is still so much fun to be had out there in the surf!

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