Earlier this week the one hundredth and final issue of The Surfer's Path magazine was pushed through my letterbox.
The arrival of the centenary issue should have been one of celebration but instead it was, for me at least, a sad occasion as I read the accompanying letter from the magazine's publishers. I first picked up a copy of The Surfer's Path sixteen years ago as a young teenager. It was issue 6 and it had a dark green cover if I remember correctly. It had a lot of words in it and different photos to the sort that I was used to seeing in the other surf magazines and it cost a bit more too, so my young, short-attention-span, bright colours and fast music angled brain probably didn't really get it. As I matured and my understanding of surfing and the culture that surrounds it developed I would pick up a copy of The Surfer's Path more and more often - a look at the bookshelf at my Dad's house where my collection of early editions is archived would probably be a good indicator of how my surf-centric brain developed: the frequency of more tabloid, "here and now", surf publications tails off to be replaced by a magazine that carried much broader, deeper content. This was a magazine that spoke to my absolute and all consuming obsession with riding waves and started in some way to satiate my appetite to know more. It's pages were filled with trips to places that I'd often never heard of - far-flung corners of the map where there might be waves but there was definitely a story, sparking in me a wanderlust for far-away coastlines that has had an enormous impact upon my adult life, and for which I am incredibly thankful. It taught me about the value of the marine environment, where waves come from and about the history of surfing. The Surfer's Path taught me that there was more to this whole watery escapade; much more.
I'll pull-up short of descending into an essay on the knock-on effects on "bigger picture" surf culture of big surf companies cutting their marketing budgets and the rise of free surf content on the internet. Now's not the time or place. What I will say, however, is that the world of surfing is going to be a bit thinner, a bit flimsier and without doubt a bit shallower without The Surfer's Path spreading interesting and thought provoking articles with beautiful images selected for their artistic merits and their story-telling qualities. This good stuff will certainly still be around, but we might have to search a little harder for it and may not be able to pick it up, curl the edges of the pages, stuff it in a bag before a bus trip or put it on a shelf to revisit in many years time.
Thank you to The Surfer's Path for informing, entertaining and inspiring, to it's editor Alex Dick-Read for your service to surf culture and to all of the photographers, writers and subjects who appeared in it's pages for showing me just what's possible if you put your head down and paddle hard.