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Chas Smith on mainstream vs surf media & more

Chas Smith, Surfing Magazine, Surfersvillage Interview, "Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell"



The Surfersvillage Interview

Chas Smith leaves Surfing Magazine for the straight world

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 26 April, 2014 - Say what you will about Chas Smith, that he’s arrogant, out-of-touch and too self-absorbed to report on surfing (thank you internet comments section), for most of us he still crafts a good read. 

Yes his subjects are often overshadowed by forced outfit descriptions from his Chas-ness, but the fun factor outweighs the wincing that comes with his articles. 

After the release of his first book “Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell” where he gives a raw, open account of surf culture and the industry on the North Shore, Chas is moving on to cover stories that aren’t about surfing. 

He is leaving his position as self-proclaimed Editor-At-Living-Large for Surfing Magazine. Why is Chas moving on? In our interview he speaks of the surf industry becoming too conservative, how larger publications grant more creative freedom and why he’d like to be in Istanbul in the 1480s...

You covered the Olympics in Sochi for Esquire. How does reporting for a non-surfing publication differ from reporting for a surfing publication?

It was such a breath of fresh air. I love the surf with all my heart but to be able to write, with abandon, about things that don’t have to tie back into the ocean was a real pleasure. Esquire, too, being a bigger magazine meant I didn’t have to worry about angering advertisers etc.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about surf publications?

I think the direct tie to the advertisers hurts content. I really appreciate the brands and what they do for surfing but sometimes they forget they are brands and think they are content companies instead. They are not. They should leave content to the publications and not get all dumb and conservative when the publications print or post something risqué. I don’t know when surfing got so damned conservative but it is and it’s a bummer.

How is your book doing?

I don’t really know, to be honest. I hope it is doing ok but it’s probably not breaking any sales’ records. Surfers are not the biggest readers and it’s hard, sometimes, to get non-surfers interested in surf material even though I tried to write my book with the non-surf crowd in mind. 

What was the best thing that came out of doing that book?

You know, the response was way better than I thought it was going to be from both surfers and the general public. Like, I got a really good review in the Wall Street Journal. Who would have guessed that? Not me.

What did you censor from the book that you now think is a good idea to share? (if anything).

Nothing! My lawyer at Harper Collins was wonderful and she told me to keep my mouth shut about anything not in the book. I listen to her.
What has been your biggest mistake?

I have made many many many mistakes and I have a horrible memory so I can’t remember most of them. But here’s a recent one. Quiksilver’s stock was trading at a dollar, or something, a year or so ago. I thought, “I should buy Quiksilver stock.” And then I went surfing instead. Now it is worth eight dollars. I would have octupled my money.
What did you learn from that mistake?

Buy low, sell high. 

Share with us your biggest  ‘Rocky’ moment?

It was probably the first time I saw my name on the byline of a magazine. I thought, “Yeah…I have totally arrived.” But that feeling left almost as quickly as it came. Every ‘Rocky’ moment I have is followed, directly, by the realization that the moment wasn’t big enough. I need more.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Selling shoes?

I am horrible at selling things. I might be stealing them.

OK, you get to drop into five moments in history – surf or otherwise. Please name them and why.

Australia during the filming of The Endless Summer. How much fun did it look like they were all having?

Afghanistan in 1901. The British and Russians were fighting a cloak and dagger battle for supremacy in Central Asia. All sorts of disguises and awesome intrigue.

Paris in the 1920s. It would have been fun to drink with the Lost Generation. And then tell them to pull it together and then write better books and make them all jealous and drunk.

Malibu in the 1960s. I mean, of course.

Istanbul in the 1480s. I was just there and the palaces etc are so chic. I would have milled about in fancy silks and talked about the spice trade.

Bryan Dickerson

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