There was a time when the only way to stay in touch with the surfing world was to pick up a copy of the latest surfing magazine. These prints were crucial to building surfing culture and the growth of the professional sport, which is why they were treasured by many who owned them.
They were tucked safely away in cupboards, or proudly displayed on coffee tables for years beyond their release. The truth is that surf magazines never get old, and you’ll probably come across issues dating back to the 1980s in most strong surfing areas.
However, as the digital age developed, and we gained access to a wealth of knowledge and information at our fingertips, the print industry in general began to suffer incredibly. A lot of magazines struggled to stay afloat, and many digitized before they were obsolete forever.
Thankfully, there are still a lot of brilliant surfing magazines alive and inprint today, thanks to the continued support of surfing fans all across the globe.
But where do you begin to look when there is so much available? Luckily, we’ve put together a list of ten of the best surf magazines you can find. Some publish on a monthly basis, whereas others only publish twice a year.
Others are focused only on the Northern or Southern Hemisphere surfing scene, and others have a wider, global focus. No matter where you are in the world, or the type of content you’re looking for, there’s something for everyone.
Read on to learn more about some of these publications, and how you can get your hands on them.
1. Surfer Magazine
Surfer magazine has been running since 1960, when it was first created by John Severson. It is arguably the most established surf magazine, and is often referred to as “the bible of the sport.”
Each and every issue is packed with stunning and award-winning photography, intriguing interviews, and travel features on some of the most exotic surf destinations in the world.
This magazine is legendary, and has helped shape the surf culture we know and love today. As well as the print mag, there is a blog section on their website which publishes the same content, however, it can be pretty heavy on the ads sometimes.
This magazine is published monthly in San Clemente, California, but it is available to purchase and subscribe to online.
2. CARVE Magazine
CARVE magazine has represented the British surf scene since 1994, and is the UK’s biggest surf title.
Based in Cornwall, off the South West coast, this title features cutting edge surf photography and some exquisite features for you to sink your teeth into. Although this is a very UK-based print, each issue focuses on different surfing countries all over the world.
Alongside their print, CARVE’s website also has some spectacular videos, as well as some pretty neat surfboard, wetsuit and travel guides.
3. Freesurf Magazine
Freesurf first made its debut back in 2002 on the North Shore of O’ahu – otherwise known as the surfing Mecca of the world. This magazine is a major platform in the global surf community, and basically has authority on Hawaii’s surf and beach culture.
This is the only surf magazine in the world which is produced on the North Shore, and it delivers coverage throughout the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.
This is a monthly publication which promotes a carefree and energetic lifestyle. Whilst the articles and content is informative, it also remains pretty family friendly, which means that it is suitable for younger surf fans.
Freesurf typically prints around 20,000 copies of their magazine a month, and these are distributed across Hawai’i, Southern California, and the East Coast – there is a full list on their website of every location that Freesurf is available in print.
They also have a digital subscription plan, where you can purchase full access to their digital site and digital issues, or you can purchase the digital pass as well as 6 print issues delivered to your door.
All in all, Freesurf is one of the biggest magazines in the surfing community.
Founded back in 2002, this is another surf print which hails from Cornwall in the U.K. SurfGirl targets women of all ages and surfing abilities, helping them to connect with other female surfers.
Their content includes interviews, travel articles, surfing tips, and even health and beauty advice and articles on the latest surfing fashion.
But don’t mistake SurfGirl as just another beauty magazine, because it’s so much more than that. What SurfGirl does is provide a female perspective into a sport which has been dominated by males for decades. It also has some exceptional surfing photography, so it’s worth picking up a copy for that alone.
SurfGirl is published four times a year and is internationally distributed. As well as the great design, their surfer profiles are particularly in-depth.
5. The Surfer’s Journal
This is a reader-supported surf publication, which is truly unique. The Surfer’s Journal has an independent take on surfing, and each 132-page issue is almost entirely editorial. They like to focus on some topics and issues that get very little attention in other surf magazines and prints, whilst also focusing on travels, profiles and surfboard design.
To accompany these, there’s some pretty epic surfing photography in each issue, which keeps you dreaming of the waves.
If you subscribe, expect six issues per year, which also includes access to their digital features and their magazine articles. As a subscriber you will also have a discount on merchandise, and Masters of Surf photography prints.
6. Zigzag Magazine
This publication started in 1976, with its headquarters situated in Durban, South Africa. It may have been a rocky road trying to keep the magazine afloat, but the passion of the South African surf community has helped to keep it alive.
Zigzag caters to the demand for competition news and surf photos that this community of surfers desperately crave.
Although they say you should never judge a book by it’s cover, Zigzag’s simplistic but stunning covers are reminiscent of 1980 movie posters.
7. Tracks Magazine
This is an Australian publication who have self-titled themselves as “the surfer’s bible” (Surfer magazine might have a few words to say about that). Established back in 1970, Tracks magazine started off as a kind of counterculture tabloid.
It was printed on newsprint and quickly became the oracle for surfers who were seeking coalescence with the waves, alternative living, and were looking for some rebellious fun. When it hit the ‘80s, Tracks still kept their alternative essence but also embraced the growing professional branch of the sport.
Fast forward to the present day and the magazine is still in touch with it’s rebellious and eclectic past, whilst evolving their state of mind to reflect current surfing culture. No matter the content, Tracks always aims to entertain its readers, whilst embracing the future of surfing.
Track has always stereotypically been a “blokey” magazine, which strongly influenced Australian surf culture, and some of the world’s best professionals.
Whether you’re a fan or not, some of the older copies of the magazine have survived in some of the most remote surf destinations around the world. Interestingly enough, you can actually access some of the classic issues through their subscription, and even purchase cover prints, which would make the perfect addition to your home decor.
8. Wavelength Magazine
Wavelength is an international surf magazine which was started in Europe back in 1981, and is reader supported.
This is a bi-annual publication which has 144 pages of long-form stories, which reach deep into surf culture. From innovators and artists, eccentric locals, underground chargers, and emerging surf communities, Wavelength seeks out characters who have stories to tell.
They describe their modern issues more like books than magazines, but they still provide world-class photography and imagery that you would expect from a surfing publication.
Considered Europe’s first surfing magazine, Wavelength is less about the bikini-clad women and more about the real adventure and thrills of surfing. If you’re interested in new takes, and more in-depth stories, you should definitely check out Wavelength.
9. Australia’s Surfing Life
This is another Australian publication which has been a key source for all things surfing in the Australian community since 1985. However, as the digital age has taken over, how does Surfing Life stack up against the free content you can find online?
Surfing Life pride themselves on delivering content that will make a real and deliberate difference to your surfing life – their content isn’t just something you skip over for a few minutes and never think about again. They publish six articles a year, and each is completely dedicated to a single topic.
These are surf travel, surf culture, surfboards, surfers, waves, and technique. By focusing on one topic per issue, Surfing life is able to produce content which is of high-quality, and has depth and substance. It’s also worth noting that you could even just purchase the issues that resonate with you the most (unless they all do).
Their ‘more focused, more informed’ approach to publishing makes them a valuable magazine, and they’re considered an essential resource to thousands of surfers all across the world.
Like many of the publications on this list, Surfing Life is an independent and reader-supported magazine, but they do also have a lot of digital content that you can peruse.
All in all, this is a youth focused, high energy magazine, which reflects the surf life and culture of Australian youth.
10. The Surfer’s Path
This UK based publication focuses on the Northern Europe surfing scene, but they are also highly interested in global sport at large and they attract a global readership.
There are four issues published per year which provide long-form content about the surf adventure, environment and the stories that matter the most and which individuals can relate to. This independent publication is supported by independent journalism and photography, which really resonates with readers.
By 2006, The Surfer’s Path was the only surf print which was made from completely recycled materials – the environment is a big part of this magazine’s message and values.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, as in 2014 the magazine ceased all print copies as they struggled against digital media.
Luckily, in 2020, The Surfer’s path came back in print, and they have resumed their focus on mainstream surfing, their love of adventure, and their promotion of protecting the environment by changing the way we treat the ocean and coasts. Good for you, The Surfer’s Path!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Surf Magazines Available Worldwide?
Most of these publications are available via a subscription service. This means that a number of issues will be delivered to your doorstep each year, alongside full access to their digital content and online archives of previous issues.
Unfortunately, some magazines are only available to purchase in stores. A magazine usually specifies on their website where their prints are available. If you are unable to purchase a physical copy, they tend to provide digital copies too.
What Is A Reader-Supported Magazine?
As we mentioned previously, most of the print-industry have experienced financial difficulties in recent years due to the evolution of the digital age and the growth of digital media.
Because of these financial limitations, a lot of magazines depend on reader-support to function. This includes contributing and writing stories, and submitting photographs and artwork.
There’s nothing quite like holding a magazine in your hands, as you flick through the articles and run your fingers across the glossy pages. Unfortunately, the print industry has suffered a lot during the digital age, and a few of these magazines have been so close to shutting down.
That’s why it’s important to support them, especially as quite a few of them have been integral to the shaping and growth of surf culture, and the professional side of the sport.
We hope this guide has helped you find a publication (or few) that you’re interested in. Happy reading!