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Tiffany Montgomery
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Surfing publisher: Chose surf over Wall Street

By Tiffany Montgomery
August 14, 2007 6:19 AM

I met Ross Garrett at Zinc Cafe in Corona Del Mar for coffee yesterday. He's the publisher of Surfing Magazine, and in the midst of planning a big event for the publication, headquartered in San Clemente.

Ross Garrettsydney.garrett Ross Garrett of Surfing Magazine and dog Sydney.

This Sunday in Del Mar, Surfing and Hurley International team up for The Art of Surfing, a showcase of the latest shapes and newest technologies in surfboard shaping. Thirty influential shapers will be on hand to talk to the public and sell boards. There's also an art exhibit, live

music, food and surf movies.

"It's important for us to have touch points like this with consumers," Ross said. He'd like to see the event turn into a summer tour that stops in beach towns around the country.

Producing a festival like this is a small piece of Ross' job. He has profit and loss responsibility for the magazine, with a monthly circulation just over 100,000. After nine years of compounded 8 to 12 percent growth, he expects gross revenues to be flat to up slightly this year.

"That kind of growth is hard to sustain but it's still a very profitable business," he said.

Like others in the publishing industry, Surfing is also figuring out ways to broaden its reach in the digital age. It has a robust Web site and is adding e-mail blasts and digital newsletters.

I first met Ross at a few events during U.S. Open week in July. I was curious. How at 29 did he become publisher of a major magazine?

As for so many in the surf industry, friends he met on the waves as a teenager turned into business associates as a young adult. Those connections and relationships often lead to meaningful jobs.

Ross grew up surfing in Del Mar and met professional surfer Rob Machado at his local break. He also met the writers, photographers and filmmakers who captured Rob in action.

When he went off to college at USC, he figured his surfing days were pretty much over. He bought polo shirts and planned to study hard and move into corporate life.

The lure of the waves remained, and he joined the USC surf team. He interned at Surfer Magazine during the summers. Though he dreamed of becoming a professional surfer, when graduation neared, Ross figured he needed to look for a serious job. He interviewed with Bear Stearns, Deloitte & Touche and Deutsche Bank. He was a finalist with Deloitte and "luckily" didn't get job, he said.

Instead, he got a call from Surfer saying they needed an associate editor.

Ross moved up the ranks there, but realized after three years that there were many in front of him for the top positions. So he quit and went to law school at University of San Diego.

Again, he thought he was done working in the surf world. But the summer between his first and second year, he helped Patagonia launch a surf program. Then he got another call out of the blue from Surfing Magazine saying they needed an associate publisher. He never went back to law school.

"I've tried a couple of times to step away from surfing but it always pulls me back," he said. "Surfing always brings you back to who you are - your connections, your family."

His life now sounds much better than working on Wall Street. He wears shorts and T-shirts to work, brings his dog Sydney to the office and is out by 6:30 p.m. most nights. When he has to travel, it's usually to something cool like the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing in Hawaii.

"I wouldn't call it glamourous but it's fun," Ross said. "All the guys I surfed with as a kid are now in the industry and going to the same events. It's like a reunion."

Lots of them will be at the Art of Surfing festival Sunday in Del Mar, including Rob Machado. Click here for more details.

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