Tom Carroll and Surfing World are both hitting 60 and only getting better. Photo Chris Grundy


It’s been a year since we took over Surfing World. We’re still here.

When Frank and I announced we were the new owners of the mag, we were buried in messages of support. The magazine means a lot to surfers here in Australia. Like most of the crew messaging us, we’d grown up with it as well. That’s why we were doing this. Surfing World meant a lot to us too.

The week we started work on the mag, over in California, Surfer mag went down the tubes. We now held the title of the oldest surf mag in the world.

Well, we’ve added another year to the mag’s run. Fifty-nine now. Sixty next year. Strange old year with the pandemic and all. Most surf mags get sold in airports, and airports have been boarded up. The upswing though… surfing has boomed. People have surfed their brains out. You win some, you lose some.

Challenging? You bet. Surfing World is just me and Frank. It’s run out of my spare bedroom in Jan Juc. Frank and his family have been exiled in Spain. They still can’t get home. Don’t even start me on Morrison. It’s been challenging running a mag that once had half-a-dozen staff with just two of us. I’m currently editing, publishing, writing, selling ads, posting social media, posting mags, doing accounts and tax. All the fun shit.

But the main challenge is the one we’ve put on ourselves. If you’re going to make a surf mag in a digital age, it’s got to be fucking good. If you’re making Surfing World, it’s got to be fucking good. Frank and I have set out to raise the bar. Best photos, best words. Say something about surfing now. Say something about the world. Make them statement pieces.

Frank and I haven’t taken a cent. We may never take a cent. Everything is ploughed back into the mag itself, paid to the photographers, writers and artists whose work is showcased. The first thing we did when we took over was double the contributor budget. It’s easy to blame digital for the demise of print, but the magazines haven’t helped themselves. For years now they’ve paid chicken feed, screwed contributors and printed skinny mags and then wondered why nobody would buy them… and nobody wanted to shoot or write for them. In the past year we’ve paid over $50,000 to our contributors, which is approximately $50,000 more than they would earn posting on social media. That 50 grand has been turned into more surf trips, more photos, more stories. Fuelling a more vibrant culture.

The support from our ad partners has been priceless. They see the mag the same way we do. There’s a cultural value to Surfing World. There’s a cultural value to surfing. In the same way companies often call their sustainability efforts an “earth tax”, our ad partners see their ad spend in Surfing World as a “culture tax” – it’s their way of giving back to surfing and making sure these long songlines are being sung.

You might have noticed we put the price up on the last issue, from 15 bucks to 20. It wasn’t an easy call but we needed to make it. We print in Australia to support local industry, but that also means printing isn’t cheap. As mentioned, we also want to create a micro-economy for writers and photographers and to put a true value on their work. But we also want to support those who’ve supported us, so our original subscribers who signed on at the old price will be renewed at the old price as long as they stick with us.

In a lot of ways the mag has gone full circle. It’s being produced in a back room a minute’s drive from Winkipop. It’s independent and free to run whatever it likes and say whatever it likes. We’re unapologetically using it as a voice for social change and a voice for the natural world. Trying to make the place better, ya know.

Surfing World turns 60 next year. It’s a pretty fair milestone, and we’re already working on a couple of projects to mark the occasion, including a curated 400-page book of SW’s greatest moments. But we’re already working on Surfing World’s next 60 years. SW has always been able to capture surfing’s je ne saisquois, the magic of the day. SW could say things about surfing that summed up the experience perfectly… often without even saying them.

To all the crew who’ve supported us this year, thank you. And to all the crew who want to support us, grab a subscription. Let’s keep this going.

– Sean