The hot topic in my #mkf3881 (that is digital marketing) class last week was about the good the bad and the ugly in the social media world. What’s causing controversy, making an impact, generating discussion? Naturally this got me thinking about the surf industry, no, not KimmyK this time, much to my 16-year-old sisters disappointment.
I realised that in all the articles, surf magazines, surf blogs I’ve read, nothing ever seems overly controversial (well not that I remember anyway). But surely the surf industry isn’t perfect… surely it’s not just 100% beach vibes, catching waves, dreamy people, travel, sun, the list goes on…
Intrigued as I was, I came cross an article that highlighted exactly why surf related media is, simply put,
The surf industry is by no means, gnarly or stoked all the time (Urban dictionary gives great and somewhat comedic definitions of these terms). No, I’m not talking about the recent Mick Fanning shark attack phenomenon (read it – StabMag), albeit an extremely heavy and incredibly scary event. I wanted to look below the surface, what’s happening behind the scenes in the surfing world that humanizes the otherwise perfect beach scenes we all see and hear about.
The Sugar-coat – understandably not everyone is happy about it. In particular, surf journos. Those lucky buggers travelling the world, surfing and writing about those experiences, the ideal job. What could be better, right?
Wrong. The surfing industry is so extremely controlled by the sports sponsors, the big guns like… well I’d better not say, one day I might be working for them…Regardless, all published media has to first be approved and allowed by these silent controllers. So imagine, a high-profile, world-class surf icon does something wrong, God forbid… Well no one outside their own inner circle will know because nothing will ever be published in the bigger forums… because the surfers sponsors won’t allow it, for fear of it impacting their own reputation. A great article published in The Australian discusses this exact scenario. An article originally published in the iconic SurferMag, was then removed two days later after pressure from sponsors. But even two days is almost a victory for the controversial, but real topic – racism. Because yes, unfortunately the surf industry is not exempt from this world-wide issue, despite what the big stakeholders in the industry would like us to think. And this is just one example.
Now I’m primarily referring to articles being posted in well-known surf magazines and online media outlets, therefore personal blogs, much like this one your reading, can’t be controlled in what is published. But for a surf journo whose dream is to make it to the top of the surf commentary food chain, to ultimately write in the ‘surf bible,’ to be that 1-in-a-million that gets the free trip to Bali…well they can say good bye to their artistic licence.
Zach Weisberg, a surf journo who lives and breathes the sport experienced this first hand. With over 25 years experience in the industry he knows the price that comes with surf journalism. Honesty is integral for editors and writers to be able to consider their work valuable, to respect their work and to earn respect from others in this industry, to report on the real deal! However, as he describes in this article, honesty, is not a high priority in the surf biz. Largely because, at times, honesty fails to perpetuate the industries dreamscape.
In Weisbergs words, “honesty has the potential to threaten a well-fortified narrative characterized by carefree attitudes, and the industry’s stewards are willing to preserve that ideal by any means necessary… surf brands either ask publications not to report on an issue by voicing polite, but loaded disapproval or they threaten to withdraw their advertising budget.”
Now if this isn’t ultimately controlling the surf industries power to capture and report what’s really happening in the surfing scene, then I don’t know what is. Instead the retailers of surfing clothing, apparel and hard goods are only putting out there what will make them look better as a brand, by means of changing… or moreover avoiding, the hard truth.
I have always loved, and will continue to always love, all the fantastic articles I read about surfing… However, from now on I will also be thinking in the back of my mind; how much of this story has been left out? Have the cold hard facts been side-stepped?
I’m sure the surf industry isn’t the only place this is happening! Everyone has the potential to express an honest voice. But can we really believe everything we hear or read?
Let me know your thoughts!