Surf in the media

Surf culture

The media play a crucial role in defining our experiences for us. Much of what finds itself encoded in subculture has already been subjected to a certain amount of prior handling by the media. The way in which subcultures are represented in the media makes them both more or less exotic than they actually are. The emergence of a spectacular subculture is invariably accompanied by a wave of hysteria in the press. And it would be fair to say that surfing or the surf lifestyle could definitely be described as a 'spectacular subculture'.

The media refers to all aspects of promotion and broadcasting, examples being online, social media, television, radio, videos, DVD's, art, advertising, fashion, magazines, books, films and so on.

Surfing has been covered by all areas of the media throughout its history. Surf imagery is hugely popular worldwide, whether you surf or not. Right back in the 1900's when surfing spread to California, surf imagery was beginning to find its popularity. As interest in surf increased, surf competitions were introduced, which inevitably sparked a massive media boom. Posters were created to advertise these events and later on the surf events started to be aired on television.

The power surf imagery had on people was becoming more and more obvious through time. A surfer and photographer named John Severson started a collection of surf imagery, and collated it as a 'book of photos', which he called "The Surfer". Slowly his garage-built book developed into a full-scale magazine called "Surfer". This would be the first of many surf publications throughout the world.

The next big media revolution for the world of surfing was 'the surf movie'. Starting with the movie Gidget and later The Endless Summer. These surf movies ignited an explosion of interest in the sport and the lifestyle it spawned. Again playing on surf imagery, only motion opposed to still.

In more recent times with advances in technology and the introduction of CD-ROM and DVD, there are now many surf themed DVD's and multimedia CD-ROM's, often as promotions for surf brands such as O'Neill, Quiksilver, Rip-Curl (etc…).

Surf art and surf publications throughout the different mediums, have moved with the times in-line with contemporary trends and styles, graphically or technologically. Styles and popularity of typography and illustration particularly have influenced surf art, both in print and in multimedia. Just look at the advertising campaigns over the last few years for brands like Quiksilver and O'Neill. Very trendy, stylish and contemporary. The media has a massive level of control over how we perceive all things in the world, surfing and surf culture is no exception to this. We are presented with all these cool contemporary images of people surfing… the images adorned with fresh and exciting typography, and all kinds of illustration. And naturally we are drawn to it.

The media is a very powerful institution. The media has the power to portray things or people as well or as poorly as they feel fit. Political bias plays a large role in this, as do advertisers, current affairs and so on. Generally over the past 50 to 60 years, surfers through the media have been portrayed in a good light. But then the downside of the mass media's intervention and control is that surfers have also earned a negative reputation of being uneducated, unemployed, drug taking, blonde-haired youths.

The media can be as positive as it is negative though. It wasn't till around the 1970's when professional surfing events were broadcasted on television that the public could appreciate both the skills and lifestyle of surf culture. World champion surfers like Kelly Slater were not the stereotypical surfers that society perceived. Thus giving surf culture an acceptable identity, and this has continued to date in today's society.

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