Surfing: Making waves in the magazine market

Surfing is no longer a minority sport for enthusiastic amateurs - it's big business, and with six new titles to cater for a growing audience, the media is catching up with the trend. Alex Wade surfs the zeitgeist

Chris Power, editor of Carve surfing magazine, has a glint in his eye as he scrutinises the weather maps. Outside, the streets may be damp and deserted, but Power and his colleagues in the office of Newquay's Orca Publications have checked the forecast and know that yet another epic autumn swell is about to hit the west coast of Britain. Summer has gone, but for the UK's vibrant surfing press the past three months have been a non-stop whirl of activity - as, indeed, is the case every year.

"The perception of surfing in the UK is that it is a summer sport," says Power. "The nationals run articles on surfing in July and August, usually concentrating on Cornwall and Devon. The irony, of course, is that the best waves arrive between September and December."

The annual autumnal swell means that the UK's surfing media go into overdrive. While in America photographers have been risking life and limb (not to mention arrest) to record the extraordinary devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina, Rita et al, those same storm systems have made for surfing perfection in the UK. After a flat summer, surf spots have, as Power puts it, "been going off". "Well-known breaks all the way from Cornwall to Ireland have been firing, and so have a number of secret spots," he explains. "We have to make sure we're there to record the action."

Surfing in the UK is now a year-round sport supporting six dedicated magazines. As Rob Barber, editor of ThreeSixty (an Orca title devoted to surfing's forebear, body boarding), says: "Surfing is everywhere now. Ten years ago you'd have been told you were mad if you'd said the sport had enough room for six titles." In Cornwall alone, surfing has been estimated to be worth £42m annually, and even David Beckham is reputed to be a convert (to the displeasure of Real Madrid, which has apparently said he will have to wait until the end of his career before taking to a surfboard again).

Women are believed to account for at least 20 per cent of newcomers to surfing. The burgeoning female surfing community supports Orca's third title, SurfGirl, edited by Louise Searle and first published in 2002. "We come out four times a year, packaged with Carve," says Searle, "but I can see SurfGirl coming out as a stand-alone title. We have to compete with other women's magazines and so are more fashion based than the other surf mags, but women do surf in the winter, too, and I think the demand for more issues will be there soon."

Carve is published eight times a year, and, says Power, has a readership of 30,000. The magazine has trebled in size since its first issue in the spring of 1994, in which Power's editorial set out a mantra from which he has not departed: "Our number one aim is to get you stoked, just itching to go surfing." As a result, Carve has a travel-magazine feel and features plenty of overseas surf locations - the turquoise tubes, curling white-water lips and clear skies that are guaranteed to inspire its mainly late-teen to late-20s readers.

Steve Bough, the editor of Wavelength, Britain's longest-running surf magazine, takes a more British angle. Known as "The Length" by the cognoscenti and with a readership of 20,000, Wavelength first appeared in 1981 and has just celebrated its 150th issue. "We try to focus on British surfers and British waves," says Bough, whose magazine is published 11 times a year (with a combined January/February issue) by Cornwall and Devon Media. Bough, like Power, surfs regularly. "All our staff, including the freelancers, surf," he says, adding that the past three months have been frantic. "We have a network of people all over the UK and Ireland, on standby to get pictures of the best waves and stories of who surfed where and when. It's the busiest time of year to be editing."

Wavelength's 150th issue features a collage of images of British surfing that reveals a subculture heading ever more rapidly into the mainstream. From the days when surfing was practised by a hard core of amateurs, sans corporate sponsorship and media exposure, the sport is now something from which many people all over Britain make their living. The British Surfing Association (BSA) estimates that there are one million surfers nationwide, and 150 surfing-related businesses in Cornwall alone. Britain also boasts the first professional surfer from Europe, Russell Winter, to qualify for the international World Championship Tour. In addition, our own British Professional Surfing Association (BPSA) tour draws crowds at beaches from Newquay and Croyde in the south-west all the way to Thurso at the tip of Scotland.

Anyone who doubts that surfing has arrived need only travel to the pretty Cornish village of St Agnes. There, hanging in pride of place in the local art gallery, is a surfboard of notably eclectic hue. It is one of many created by local "shaper" [surfboard designer] Peter "Chops" Lascelles, but designed by Damien Hirst.

"Surfing is expanding in every direction," says Alex Dick-Read, editor of The Surfer's Path, a Permanent Publishing title printed on 100 per cent recycled paper. "The standard of UK surfers keeps going up, and more and more people are taking to the water." The demand means that there is room for six issues a year of The Surfer's Path, a reflective, mature take on international surfing that is also published in the US. Dick-Read estimates its UK readership at 18,000, with US readers accounting for another 20,000. Britain's other surf magazine is Pitpilot - the new kid on the block with a British emphasis and an underground feel.

The surf mags are here to stay, and, it seems, comfortably on track for more growth. But some things will never change. As Alex Conrad of Sprout Media, a Cornish film production company specialising in surfing and other extreme sports, says: "In the winter, big swells wrap into spots hidden from the summer tourists. If you're lucky, and know where to look, you can find surfing paradise. But it is freezing."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

BI Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency in Central Lo...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little