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Joel Patterson on Surfer's 50th, the Web, and what's next

By Shelby Stanger
November 12, 2009 5:00 AM

With Surfer Magazine about to celebrate its 50th Anniversary, we thought it was time to check in with the current Editor-in-Chief Joel Patterson.

We wanted to know a little about how Surfer has got to where it is now, how it is dealing with changing technology, and what it has coming up for its 50th Anniversary as well as the future of the magazine.

Tell me a little about the history of SURFER magazine and how it came to be?

The Surfer coverSURFER was started by a surf filmmaker named John Severson as a supplement to his film “Surf Fever.”

The first issue was produced in January 1960 a couple weeks after John F. Kennedy threw his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for the 1960 Presidential Election. Severson was also a writer, a painter, a thinker, a politician of sorts, and an unorthodox entrepreneur.

He printed 5,000 copies of the first issue (which was initially called “The Surfer,” but he removed the “The” a couple issues later) and sold them for 75 cents a piece.

They sold like hotcakes, and he quickly realized he had stumbled on something surfers loved. Orange County kids like 12-year-old Herbie Fletcher rode their bikes to screenings of “Surf Fever” just to get a copy, and as Herbie put it, “It changed my life forever. I thought, ‘(Screw) everything else. This is what I want to do.’ ”

Within a few years of the launch, half a dozen surf mags had sprung up Australia and the U.S.

In 1971 Severson called it quits, sold SURFER to For Better Living, and moved to Maui where he’s created art, surfed, and grown fruit ever since.


On page 2: Changes through the years

 

 

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