Who in the Hell is Travis Ferre?

29 10 2009
Travis Ferre

Travis Ferre logs some tube time in Mexico. Photo: DJ Struntz

You might not know the name now, but you will. Trust me. Travis Ferre is the new editor-in-chief for Surfing Magazine. Right now Surfing is documenting “what is now” in the surf world better than any other American surf mag. He was gracious enough to answer my questions about his background, the state of surf media and his enormous woody for the Modern Collective.–Nug

In April you took over the editorial duties at Surfing. Has it been a challenge to fill Evan Slater’s shoes?
No one will ever fill Evan Slater’s shoes. Evan would be disappointed if I only tried to fill his shoes. I’m trying to make my own.

What is your background? How did you find yourself as the editor-in-chief of one of the largest surf mags in the world?
I grew up in Huntington Beach. I started surfing when I was nine. Mostly because wax smelled good and my dad got me a cool little board shaped by Jeff Widener. I remember walking through HSS when it was on 16th street with my dad, wandering through, hugging all the rubber wetsuits and smelling the wax. I liked the lifestyle. It smelled good. I didn’t go to Huntington High School. I only dated their girls. I went to Marina High School. We were the Vikings. We almost beat Huntington’s surf team once when I was the captain.

My dad is an artist and a car painter. I couldn’t paint, but I liked to write. As I got older, I found out my dad’s best friend in high school was Chris Carter. He wrote the X-Files, but he started out as associate editor at Surfing Magazine. My dad always told me stories about their surfing adventures and getting in trouble and then how he went on to work at the magazine. I thought that would be a cool gig if emulating Kalani Robb ever failed — which it did.

I went to OCC (Orange Coast College) out of high school and traveled a bit with my friends, surfing and getting reckless. I decided I wanted to study English literature because you could drink while doing homework. I then set the goal of becoming an editor while sitting in my truck listening to an Interpol record. I transferred to San Diego State and that was really the turning point. I was sitting in a Shakespeare class, doing everything I could to relate that class to my future in surf writing when I sat next to Kimball Taylor. He recognized me from surfing Mission Beach and we got to talking. He told me he was a writer for Surfer magazine, I told him that I wanted to be an editor at a surf magazine. He tried to get me an internship at Surfer but they never called back. He then passed me on to Evan at Surfing and a couple days later I was in their office, writing stories for the website. Nathan Myers and Evan took me under their wing and I never left. Kimball still calls me Hamlet.

Print has fallen on hard times. Surfing and Surfer’s parent company (Source Interlink) filed for bankruptcy. The magazine even has a furlough tracker. Additionally, the recession has hit a lot the advertiser’s bottom lines, decreasing ad budgets. Is it difficult to produce a quality magazine that relies so heavily on advertising under these conditions?
Have you ever taken a furlough? It’s amazing. You take it on a Friday. Turn the phone off. Go surfing. Drink beer at lunch. Go surf again. You make happy hour. It’s the most inspiring thing our company has ever implemented. I’m so proud of them. As for making magazines right now: sure, it’s a bit tougher. The beauty of our crew though is we’re all young. We know no other condition. We’ll make you a 100-page magazine or we’ll make you a 300-page magazine. We don’t care. It’s going to be a good representation of what we’re into that month and it will matter. It will represent modern surfing. We’ll stay late. Work our ass off. Put everything we have into making it. We’re creative, we like the challenge.

Well there is the whole pay issue with the furloughs. But then again I think it was Nick Carroll who told me no one gets rich from writing about surfing (Except the aforementioned Chris Carter).
We’re not here to make money. We’re here because we love it. Sounds corny, cliché and predictable, but it’s true. We like doing this. A day off to go surfing so the corpos can get back on track is fine by us.

I preferred it when Surfing and Surfer were bitter rivals. They have been under the same corporate umbrella for a while now. Has this diluted the product?
Look at the December issues of Surfing and Surfer. They don’t even look like they were made on the same planet. The products are going their own directions and I’m fine with that. So is Joel Patterson. Joel and I make different products and for the first time in five to ten years, Surfer and Surfing have their own identity. We’re doing what we’re into. They’re doing what they’re into. And while we’re probably not going to send them donuts we shoved in our ass, our editorial staffs are pretty damn competitive. The fact that we’re under the same umbrella doesn’t dilute the rivalry much. We’ll get into a cocktail argument anytime but we’ll take furlough together the next day and it’ll be all good. They’ll ride Alaias and we’ll ride Protons.

Looking at the masthead I don’t recognize many of the names on the editorial staff, but I like what I’ve seen recently out of the mag. And I’m a fairly harsh critic. Is Surfing Mag like the 1972 Dolphins “No Name Defense?”
Sure. And Jimmy Wilson would be very happy to hear you make a football reference out of us. We’re all pretty unknown I guess, but we’ve had our share of Don Shulas on the sidelines to influence us though. Nathan Myers taught Stuart Cornuelle and I everything we know about making magazines, late night drinking and how to get shit done in this environment. He lives in Bali now but we still call on him daily.

Evan Slater passed down the formula of how to get a magazine of this caliber out on time each month. We’re just putting our spin on it now. We’re young. I’m 26. Stuart is 21. Our art directors are young. Photo team is young. We make a magazine for us and the people who are us happen to be our median age, so that works out. We do pride ourselves on that youthful energy, but we don’t intend on sacrificing the quality of the product.

We want to maintain a sense of sophistication, even if it is hidden beneath a bad word or Mitch Coleborn’s mustache. We don’t want to lose the legitimacy of the brand. We’re just here to make it relevant again. Lord knows anyone with a computer can be a critic, a journalist or a voice now. And we’re aware of that. Which is why we’re not afraid to make bold decisions or to run with a new idea. We’ve also begun to enlist new writers to the mag like Chas Smith and Jed Smith: young guys with guts who can write a good page. We like that. Guys who have a bone to pick with tradition. That’s why surf media has a tendency to get stale. It’s stuck on tradition.

Tim Baker wrote a great piece for Kurungabaa titled “An Open Letter to Surf Magazine Editors of the World.” Have you read it and do you ever feel pressure from advertisers or the ad department?
I did read it. Good article. But I don’t believe it’s gotten to that level. At least not for me. We’ll chuck a giveaway to an ad guy, but our job is to make a product that the companies can’t afford to not be a part of. If your brand wants to be considered legitimate and wants to be associated with the lifestyle we’re reporting on, then they’ll advertise. It’s our job to be relevant in the surf world. We have a publisher who knows this. You can’t be relevant in today’s environment being controlled by the ad sellers. The Internet is there for anyone and people will get information wherever they choose. People don’t stand for being talked down to. Sellouts don’t sell.

On the other side of the coin, I completely believe in being involved with the brands. They have good surfers. We like good surfing. They make clothes, wetsuits and boards that we all need to go surfing — or to at least look rad when we’re not surfing, so for me there is no shame in being involved with them and knowing what they’re up to. It’s an industry. It’s why we all exist. No reason to hate it either. The brands make cool shit. It’s not all sellouts and strong arming. We’re here to show that. Show their surfers. Kids want to see that too. As do we. I think we’re all rocking denim shirts and listening to Fine Young Cannibals this week because Dane said he did. And that’s cool with us. No ad guy told us to do that. But they can learn from that.

In a recent issue of Surfing you quoted Dane Reynolds about judging. He stated, “I doubt any of the judges can even do an air.” I agree with his point on a certain level but, then again, how many NBA referees can dunk a basketball? Thoughts?
An NBA referee is there to make sure the game is played fairly and by the rules. He’s not judging a slam-dunk contest. A surf competition judge is giving his opinion about how well a surfer rode a wave. If judges we’re only there to make sure nobody snaked anyone then that analogy might work and any dude wearing a hat in the lineup could be a referee of that. But here it doesn’t. Surf competitions are strange and I will always have a tough time with them. I grew up competing and do think they have a place in surfing, but the current climate of competition is robbing us of good surfing. There is a whole generation lost somewhere, trying to qualify for the tour so they can stay in nice hotels and have a schedule.

Companies are putting a lot of pressure on surfers who have no place on a world tour and its hurting the sport. That’s why we put so much into Modern collective this year. That’s the only modern vision of contemporary surfing out of a jersey right now that wasn’t brought to you by a surf brand. It has style. Edge. And the kids are going to devour it. And surfers like Mitch Coleborn (who we’ve been accused of showcasing too much) are exploiting this fact and making a career out of it. Right now we have no choice but to run Mitch when he works his ass off and is showing up all over the globe, surfing well and getting amazing photos, all the while becoming a personality who interests us. Dane did it by making a movie before he qualified. He showed us who he was, then he showed us he was world-class. We all had his movie to watch while he was qualifying. That was smart.

I’ve just noticed an increasing emphasis on becoming a jock to surf contests right out of the NSSA. And it’s diluting the act. That’s why we’re all so gay for Dane. Who can’t relate to a guy who wants to have fun, drink a beer, do his own thing and go home with a good tune on his car stereo? That’s surfing. That’s our lifestyle. Drinking five Red Bulls and riding a stationary bike on a boat trip doesn’t represent what surfing is to me. Sure it’s very “athletic” but we’re surfers. I played football when I was a kid and the reason I quit was to get away from that jock culture. Now we’re promoting it. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

You do seem to have a big heart (hard on may be a more appropriate term) for the Modern Collective. Some would say they are just duplicating what Taylor and the Momentum crew did 15 years ago….with more progression. Is the Modern Collective just surfing’s version of the Z Boys? Is Kai Neville a present-day Craig Stecyk?
I saw Modern Collective in its entirety for the first time last night. It is not a duplicate of anything the surf world has done. I’d say Kai is closer to the surf world’s Guy Ritchie than Craig Stecyk. He has a vision and he doesn’t waiver from it. That’s commendable. Sure people are going to have their own opinion about the movie, but I like it.It’s the kind of surf video that does raise the bar.

He has a lot of talent as well. He films. Edits. Picks the music. Does it all himself. The surfers respect him. And he looks fucking cool every time you see him too. Last night we got drinks at Captain Kenos in Encinitas and he was wearing a denim jacket over a circle neck tee, drinking a white Russian while a Doors record played in the background. That kind of aura surrounds him. He’s a filmmaker. Not a surf video dude. I knew the day that Evan Slater told me the surfers involved and the direction of the film over a year ago that it was a project I wanted to be a part of and it would represent the vibe of the magazine. After seeing it, and as people start to see it, I think it will wake some people up and hopefully ignite some creativity in surf films.




25 responses

29 10 2009

Thank you. I was beginning to think you were going to defect to Australia. At least we know Travis can surf. I can’t wait to see the new Modern collective flick.

29 10 2009
Ross Clarke Bones

Sure Surfing mag is a corporate rag but I have taken notice to their work lately. Good work Travis. Keep it up!

29 10 2009
Aussie Wanker

Seppo mags are full of cunts!

29 10 2009
Luke S.

A better question might be Who the hell is Nug?

29 10 2009

Luke. I am your Father.

29 10 2009
James Jr.

Yeah, who the hell is Nug? He seems to get a lot of interviews for an independent blog writer. If its that easy I may start a porn blog and interview horney porn-stars all day….maybe not.

Nug, “whose your daddy and what does he do” (Twins reference = very fresh)


29 10 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth

Lol @ the name Ross Clarke Bones.

29 10 2009
Fan of the V-Neck

Kai Neville is now wearing circle neck tees? Shoots. What am I going to do with the 50 fucking V-necks I just bought? White Russians? Nice. Sounds like you were drinking at the bowling alley where they filmed BIg Lebowski?

29 10 2009
My Schwartzstein is Bigger Than Yours

I heart Travis.


29 10 2009
This Coffee's Cold

Travis does the work of ten men. And he does a lot of airs when he surfs, which is hard. And a drunk girl and her mother tried together to tear his shirt off of him last Friday night, but he demurred.

from stuart

29 10 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth

I had never heard of Travis Ferre before I read this piece. I haven’t read Surfing or Surfer magazines in 15 years. It will be another 15 or so years before I read one again. Unless my son leaves one of them behind the toilet on a day where I forget to bring my latest copy of Black Tail in with me.

But, it is nice to know that Travis cares.

29 10 2009
Ross Clarke Bones

That devil. My mom came home last Friday night with whiskey on her breath and a swatch of a size medium slim-fit RVCA tee.
@Blasphemy Rottmouth
Right back at ya baby. Right back at ya.

29 10 2009

@ Blasph,

I too only read that garbage on someone elses toilet and I realize each time that I can digest any discernible intelligence before I finish my prolific bowel movement.

I’ll check out an issue when I’m waiting for my wife at the grocery store…. damn, she makes shopping an exercise in supreme patience. But considering my muscle memory, if I troll the magazine in the aisle, will I need to take a shit?


29 10 2009

SURFING Mag is the best surf magazine in the world right now. Evan Slater elevated it to that level, now Travis has taken the ball and run in a whole new direction….which keeps it interesting and new all the time.

I look forward to every issue. Like, look, check this out: http://www.surfingmagazine.com/surfing-magazine-features/surfing-currentissue/december-issue-2009-surfing-magazine/

29 10 2009

steve works at the magazine…..

29 10 2009

I work at the magazine and I think it’s pretty decent. I think Travis does as good a job possible for a magazine under the restrictions we have with this over-reacting, sensitive, can’t-handle-any-kind-of-criticism industry. Which is not an easy task.

The magazine reaches a large audience including 12 year old kids and 60 year old dudes. Hard to please everyone and I don’t expect everyone to like the magazine. Especially with the direction we’ve went in since Evan left.

Surfing and Surfer are owned by the same company, yes. Are we the same magazine. Not even close. Do we prefer being owned by the same company? Hell fuckin no. What can we do about that? Nothing. So we live with it and make the best of our situation.

Blasphemy, I don’t believe you when you say you haven’t read a Surfing Magazine in 15 years (maybe not cover to cover, but surely you’ve read some article in that time???). But if that is true, why not give it a shot for once? I’ll send you a copy if you want one. send me your address. Jimmy@surfingmagazine.com

Good interview Nug.

29 10 2009
The Nug


Just slip the mag under a cover of Barely Legal and he’ll read the shit out of it. Suppose I still have to buy mine?

29 10 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth

I may read the magazine if there is a Chas Smith article in it. Not because I am any huge fan of his, but because we were both born on the Oregon Coast. Which, according to by-laws in San Francisco and New Hampshire, means we are legally married partners.

It is in the fine print, but it is there.

I am a power bottom, by the way.

29 10 2009

Thanks Blasph for enough information, dress as Cali girl this year and Mark will be blushing.

Jimmicane, you are defending the indefensible. I read no conviction, no confidence and no responsibility in that defense. You are different than Surfer, but you have the same owners and the same editorial suffocation.

Pandering to 12 year olds is all you do. All your corporate masters want you to do. Older demographics aren’t easily fooled and therefore ignored. They want to read, but ultimately buy all those cool clothes for your 12 year olds.

Haven’t seen your new paradigm yet, but I’m guessing Money still has control. You’ve been typecast and that is why Nugable is so popular. Candid, unfiltered and the beat of the street….. unless Volcom has something new and cool for Citibank to sell!!!!!!!

Sorry, Morgan Chase.

30 10 2009

Believe what you want to believe but ING and ER are finally separated in interest and direction. We try to do a good job with that and put in content we feel is relative and at a high level. In the end it’s just a surf magazine, one of the least important things in the world, so who really cares?

But you obviously do. So keep thinking we pander to 12 year olds and care only about money because that gigantic check I get in the mail every two weeks is definitely my main motivation!

29 10 2009

Shallow thoughts….

why in the fuck do so many in the surf industry use the color cyan, including Surfing who are doing their own thing?

“Lord knows anyone with a computer can be a critic, a journalist or a voice now. And we’re aware of that. Which is why we’re not afraid to make bold decisions or to run with a new idea.”

I wonder if there will be a 300 page “surfing” issue in the near future?

“The Internet is there for anyone and people will get information wherever they choose.”

“People don’t stand for being talked down to. Sellouts don’t sell.”

Surfers are boring to the non surfer (and often to the surfer(with the exception of Bunker Sprekles)); surfers are furiously esoteric, therefore surfers get no love in the publishing world (even online where any old person has a voice).

Are surfers wannabe rock stars?

30 10 2009

As much a joke as m points out, another source of comedy keeps giving….


The tag below this video reads Oceanside Perfection. Well, that bar is set very low by Surflie.com and this video is proof. Fat, slow and small is now Surflie.com’s definition of “perfection” the same way Travis considers the magazines direction as “bold and new”, no disrespect to Evan S for running old and slow…. hhmmmmmmm…. does Evan live in Oceanside?

And thank Mark’s God that everyone with a computer has a voice because that sound is fresh and UN sponsored Travis. Keep wearing those “RAD” clothes buddy while you flip surfing publications upside down…. like a Dane Reynolds flip!!!

30 10 2009
There, I Warmed It

When the magazine does something different, someone gets upset.

When someone gets upset, they stop advertising.

When they stop advertising, there ceases to be a magazine.

Travis’s SURFING is not McSweeny’s, but it’s a far cry from Muscle Milk x 6.0 x Pull-In x Crocs collab presents Surfline’s “Ask Layne Beachley”

30 10 2009
Ross Clarke Bones

@There I warmed it
Then advertising is a necessary evil? What about the lame 800 catalog ad that looks like something designed by the Clipper coupon book?

Muscle Milk x 6.0 x Pull-In? Is that a dis on Transworld?

1 11 2009
Kampion,Hynd,Warshaw and Hawk

Surf mags aren’t what they used to be.

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