…and shares Surfer mag founder warning to Standup Journal: “Don’t encourage them”-
We got a chance to catch up with Clay Feeter, publisher of Standup Journal Magazine who is celebrating their 2nd year anniversary. Congratulations! This was a bit different for Clay as he’s normally on the question asking side and not the question answering side. We found out much more than we expected and Clay threw in some surprises. Here’s the interview below.
When did you start Standup Journal?
The Journal is an evolution of my windsurf mag called Wind Tracks. I started Wind Tracks in 1984 after leaving my associate editor position at Wind Surf magazine.
After 15 years of doing Wind Tracks I sold it to a competitor in 2000, and I got a great job working for an audio book company. The co. moved me to New England. In 2007, I met this incredible woman, my soul mate, Joyce Bilodeau. The day after our first date I learned my entire department at the audio book company was being axed by a buyout!
With my severance pay and some money from the sale of the Oregon coast house I built, everything was telling me to get back into publishing.
I had produced 15 years worth of Wind Tracks, so Standup surf & sail Journal started in March, 2008 as “Vol. 16, #1,” because it was, in my mind, a continuation of the grassroots energy from Wind Tracks.
What’s the story behind Standup Journal?
It’s funny, I had been surfing since junior high when my parents moved us from Colorado to Escondido, CA in 1969. Longboarding had just “died” as everybody flocked to shortboards, so my twin bro and I picked up a couple super cheap tankers to learn on.
Our very first go-out was, yes, Cardiff Reef, which is cool because Cardiff is now “Sup Central.” Years later, 1981, I was still surfing my brains out, but had also just gotten into windsurfing.
I’m on the way home from a long surf trip to Baja. I stop by the Wind Surf mag offices in Dana Point, CA and land a job as assistant editor working for none other than my hero, Surfer mag founder John Severson, then Wind Surf’s editor.
It was a dream come true. I immediately moved from Santa Cruz down to Southern Cal to start my job. What a scene.
The buzz at the heart of the surf publishing industry
Then Surfer mag publisher Steve Pezman (now The Surfer’s Journal publisher) was dropping by to hang with our publisher, Don Kremers. Art Brewer, the god of surf photography was our Photo Editor!
Photographers Steve Wilkings, Brian Bielman, Tom Servais, Chris Klopf, Greg Huglin, Glenn Dubock, you name it they were there and I was working with them.
…and when Art Brewer got too busy with his photo studio Craig Peterson of the famous surf adventure team of Naughton and Peterson came in as our photo ed and we became friends.
Peterson, Naughton and “the surf photograph”
I admired “Peto” and Naughton’s Africa and world surf surfari stories… but mostly I came to fall in love with “the surf photograph.”
It’s funny, I don’t even take pictures! I just love the frozen image. The ability to capture a feeling that we all get on the water.
Looking back, I’m sure Severson just needed a stoked grem journalist to give him a hand, but to me I was “chosen by The Master,” and I took his hiring of me very seriously.
What luck! Me, a regular Joe wanna-be surf editor surrounded by this incredible talent. I mean just watching John Severson be his creative self taught me so much.
He is so meticulous. He was the maestro conducting the saltwater orchestra as he had done since 1959 when he started Surfer.
Sevo was no doubt burned out after selling Surfer. He had retired from publishing and moved to Maui full time… but now he was back, and I got to work with him as he returned, fresh and excited.
He was not burned out. He had just gotten into windsurfing so he felt it, and he transferred that spirit to our pages.
Lessons from the Master: John Severson
Severson taught me how to paginate a mag, to plan, syncopate and carry it all through. And he taught me the critical need to support your advertisers, but to keep ads and editorial separate.
In fact, I learned this lesson the hard way. I was making pennies, my salary was like $14k/year. I was living in a 400 sq. foot apartment with my girlfriend across the street from the Wind Surf office.
So when O’Neill wetsuits had $75 free to pay a model for a quick turn around on a wetsuit ad that Art Brewer was shooting I jumped at the chance. Sevo went ballistic.
He was incredulous that an “editorial side” guy would even consider posing for an advertisement. He did finally allow my to pose for the ad in the O’Neill suit but only if my face was not shown.
Thanks, Sevo. Lesson learned: give readers the best images and stories FIRST.
Keep the ad message in the ads as much as possible. But I do have great respect for industry leaders choosing heroes. After all it is not uncommon for a superstar to be first discovered by a potential sponsor, only later do we get to know that person on our editorial pages…
…so the standup companies play an important role in identifying superb athletes that will lead our sport.
I later got a raise and made associate publisher at Wind Surf, so I guess I didn’t piss my mentor, Severson, off too much. But years later, in 2008, I saw I was again, not making Sevo happy.
I sent John my first issue of Standup Journal.
Unfortunately he had just been cut off by an sup guy the day before while John was surfing Kanaha. Sevo’s response to the inaugural Standup Journal issue I worked so hard on was, “don’t encourage them [sup growth].”
I keep sending John issues, despite the fact that he wrote “Refused” on the envelope of the “Fall” issue (with Laird on the cover) and had the post office return it to me. But he didn’t refuse the “Winter” issue so we may be making headway.
Feeter listens: Drew Kampion’s brilliant insight
Sevo handed the editorship of Wind Surf over to another famous Surfer mag former editor, Drew Kampion… so I worked with Drew thru late 1984 developing skills learned from both those surf journalist masters, whom I have ultimate respect and admiration for.
Kampion later worked for me when I started Wind Tracks, and to this day Drew and I keep in touch. He weighs in on Standup Journal, thoughts that I soak up more than he knows…
… in fact when I saw Drew, last Sept. at the ASR surf show in San Diego, he put his thumb over the “surf & sail” part of our Standup Journal logo on the cover and asked, “When are you gonna drop this and make it just Standup Journal?”
When Robby Naish asked the same exact question to associate publisher Steve Sjuggerud at the Orlando Surf Expo in January we knew it was time to be just “Standup Journal.”
So StandupPaddlesurf.net readers are the world’s first to know next issue (“Summer ‘09″) will come out as just “Standup Journal.”
We will continue to give a presence to surfing, windsurfing, kiting, following our theme: “The photographic journal of naturally powered standup watersports.”
After all, I think everybody does at least a couple sports. A standup paddler is also into kiting, surfing, tow-in, or windsurfing, depending on what conditions dictate.
In fact the real growth area branching from sup, I think, could be sailing your sup board. What better way to go with the side shore or onshore flow that makes it a bummer to try to paddle?
What’s the distribution of Standup Journal?
We are now in 20 countries, England and Ireland being the most recent addition. In fact we have mostly sold out of our debut “Winter” issue in the UK where they are going nuts over sup!
And we debut on the stands in France and Japan with this next one, the “Spring” issue. We celebrate the score in France with a feature on sup there.
What kind of growth has Standup Journal experienced in the last 2 years?
Since first hitting US Borders Bookstore newsstands and US surf shops in March, 2008, we are now in 20 countries worldwide! And we have subscribers in 35 countries.
It is ALL about distribution.
The bottom line is you need to produce a really awesome mag. No question. People should come to expect excellence with every single issue.
But you you HAVE to be well distributed!
What good is a satisfying, well-produced publication if nobody can find it?
The reality is once you’ve struggled with photo selection, edited the stories, sold and collected the ads – and billed and collected advertisers’ payments – you HAVE to be well distributed.
So, the first guy I hired was Kerry Struble, our New Hampshire-based graphic artist and webmaster. Kerry immediately built an online store at www.standupjournal.com for people to subscribe, then went to work on laying out the first issue.
The next day, I hired a professional mailing/distribution house in Los Angeles and two distribution pros.
One to oversee the entire US push, and the other to focus just on international logistics (you can’t just send mags to the UK, for instance, it takes months and months to break in, then they do test marketing and they tell you how many mags they will order from you).
We began to be accepted immediately. A surprising score was the US Military base bookstores, our first true “international” outreach. Italy and Spain came in almost from the start.
Japan and France says “No” at first
In fact we were turned down THREE times by Japanese mag distributors who told us, “Even Surfer mag doesn’t sell well here because of all the English.”
But I got right back to Dawn, our international pro and begged her to drive home the point to the Japanese (and the French), “We are a photographic publication.” And that “Photography is a universal language.”
So it’s no coincidence that Japan and France accepted us within 2 weeks of each other for that reason: photos transcend language barriers.
The US is of course our top selling country, but Australia/New Zealand, and the UK are really doing great… and we’re excited to see what the response will be in France and Japan.
We are in Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Thailand, Taiwan and lots of other countries now; also Guam, Grand Cayman… Slovakia!
The list is not updated completely on our site, but the entire rundown of countries and a lot of the specific outlets are at: http://standupjournal.com/SUJ-Locations.pdf
What about Standup Journal do you enjoy the most?
I come from a long history of loving it all.
My folks moved us to the Santa Cruz area as my twin brother, Kurt, and I began high school in 1971. So I grew up surfing Santa Cruz and later San Francisco where I went to college.
Surfing was my life completely, yet I always had every board size, from short twin fins to super tanker old and newer shape longboards, using whichever board met the conditions.
I did the exact same thing as I got into windsurfing: sailing everything from long ocean cruising boards to short wavesailing boards.
With standup paddling I’m into the “point A to point B” race board type paddling which is more meditative and allows Joyce and I to talk as we paddle our lake… and it’s cool.
Then when I go to the coast I’m on my shorter sup in the waves.
Having grown up surfing and windsurfing on the West Coast, Feeter admits winters are tough in New England. He and his fiance live on a lake an hour from the NH coast; “A fabulous working environment,” he says, “which is important at a period in our sport when EVERYbody has their noses to the grindstone.”
What’s your first SUP experience?
It was April, 2007. I bought an old Mistral Superlight windsurf board off Craigs list and then went to our local surf shop, Cinnamon Rainbows, on the New Hampshire coast… all the guys at the shop are into sup! I bought an sup paddle from them and bingo! Love at first paddle.
What got you hooked?
I immediately “got it” once I felt that cool gliding effect you experience with each stroke. Joyce is a hardcore jock, a former marathon runner, and a solid kayaker… I became an sup cheerleader starting with her. I never thought she’d nearly abandon her kayak, but she did, and now we paddle together about 4 times a week on the lake, and I drive over to the coast where NH has some really killer setups for sup, some offshore reefs that lay down surfers don’t paddle out to, beach break and points.
What challenges have you overcome to get StandUp Journal successful?
Other than an average of 400 daily emails, overseeing distribution, billing, working with advertisers and hundreds of top photographers – getting their ideas on where this sport is going! – and all the other stuff that’s hitting this exciting fan, I guess everything is a challenge, but it’s such a rush.
There is no place I would rather be!
Snow outside the window, 4 a.m., “New Hampshire has become an excellent place to communicate with the world about a sport I can also do right off our dock here at the lake, or over on the coast.”-Clay Feeter
Let me tell you what is NOT a challenge, and that is the fact that EVERYbody can standup paddle. You cannot take that fact lightly especially those of us coming from the windsurf industry.
Windsurfing is very gear intensive and it takes time to learn. But sup has zero learning curve!
My mom and dad are 79 years old. They live over on Molokai and they both do standup. My two teenage daughters do standup. Joyce’s 55-65+ year old book club group all caught on and were hooked when they came to the lake last summer.
Everybody can do it…
You have to do it to get it. Shit, my own twin brother badmouthed me for doing standup for a year! But when he got on my 23-year-old nephew, Kyle’s board on a head-high day at Cowell’s (Santa Cruz) last year the light went on for Kurt!
Before people try it they need to “see” how cool it is, and I guess that is where we come in.
The reality is that even if somebody picks us up at Barnes & Noble, skims through, goes, “cool, I could do that!,” then puts us down, we’ve done our job.
…and that is yet another reason we are sooo photo intensive in the Journal; that and also because photography rocks, and surf and watersports photographers deserve to be treated like the gods they are.
Speaking of, we have 325 photographers around the world. We get hundreds and thousands of images each week, in fact as I sit down to make final picks for each issue’s photo gallery section I have by then whittled the “final picks” file down to about 5,000 shots.
From those 5,000 finalist shots we need to get down to a “final/final” file of about 120-150 of the very best images for our readers to drool over.
Note: readers, pleeez be sure to view each page under a quality reading lamp, or the sun. These images should be treated with “gallery lighting.” You WILL notice the difference with good lighting. Most photos become almost 3-dimensional.
Feeter starts work each day before dawn to keep up with the frenzied pace of what he calls “the Gold Rush feel of the standup explosion,” and admits he pinches himself daily for having the chance to work with surf legends like Mike Doyle (above) and Gerry Lopez.- photo: Glenn Dubock
What’s your favorite story and picture in the last 2 years of Standup Journal?
I can only tell you what it is at this moment: the Gerry Lopez true saga we are running in this latest, “Spring” issue about him being caught in a step-ladder sets day off the Oregon coast.
Gerry’s surfing and survival instincts kicked in, he became the “indicator” guy for all the surfers, some of whom could not paddle to shore because of the rip. I love Gerry’s writing! It is just so juicy and real.
And my favorite photo? Come on Evan, that’s not even fair, bro!
ALL of ‘em! I mean that is what I live for: going thru photography that drips with that “I’m there” feel… so, with that in mind, I can show you my latest favorite photo… but in 35 minutes I’ll have a new favorite. Here it is, by French photographer Ben Thouard who now lives near Teahupoo:
What’s in the future for Standup Journal?
Funny you’d ask, because we address that exact topic in the “Spring” issue that hits surf shops and Borders, etc. on March 24th with 60-page photo feature called “Avenues” that opens everybody’s eyeballs to sup yoga, sup canoeing, sup ocean adventuring, lots of wave shots, sup touring Holland, Morocco.
And, though we don’t show it in the “Spring” issue I fully expect to see sup freestyle emerge… and sup sailing!
As for the mag, there is no reason Standup Journal – and standup paddling! – should not continue growing to every country.
Also, this “Spring” issue we did a mailing of complimentary copies to the major US kayak and canoe dealers.
The paddlesports shops and leaders need to see what whitewater sup progressers Dan Gavere (of Oregon), Charlie McArthur (Colorado), Luke Hopkins (Washington, DC) and others are doing on rivers and with flatwater sup.
The future is everywhere. It is a given sup will grow in the surf along the coasts of the world… but last summer Joyce and I spent a week on the Maine coast. I would NEVER ever do this with my surfboard, but via sup, we paddled a mile down the coast catching beach peaks all along the way…
…and guess what!?
At the end of the journey we discovered a killer rivermouth wave I had no idea was even there…
I’m freaking out, screaming to Joyce (nobody else was anywhere around), smoking along on these zippy sections…
… the only way to access that place is by walking with your board under your arm for nearly a mile… or by paddling happily along, just offshore looking down at fish darting below your feet.
…and at one point I paddled up into the calm river estuary, checking the fish and birds, then went back out and caught more waves.
Where do you see SUP headed in the future?
It has every capability of surpassing kayaking in popularity. You use your entire body, you can “surf” in St. Louis! And speaking of, we are working on a story on ferry boat wake sup surfing now.
Do you have any idea how many ferries there are in the world?
How has the online SUP community like Standupzone.com helped Standup Journal?
It’s really important to understand what the guys out there are thinking…
…and via the www.StandUpZone.com, www.StandUpPaddlesurf.net, and the Aussie site www.seabreeze.com.au, the UK’s www.standuppaddlesurf.co.uk and www.supglobal.com/forum, and several others it’s a great way to see the bigger picture, and for Standup Journal it helps to answer EVERYbody’s question by answering one guy’s question, like, “when is the next issue mailing to me?”
What’s something about you that is not commonly known and would surprise people?
My twin bro (oh that’s another thing! I have a twin bro, Kurt, who lives in the Sacramento Valley, CA, one minute older than me; my best friend and for once I started a sport, sup, ahead of him)….
…anyway, Kurt and I and two other friends, when we lived in So. Calif., broke the Guinness Book of World Records by playing 20 straight hours of doubles tennis. But our record was broken later that summer… what a hoot, though.
Any last thoughts?
My final thought is how fulfilling it is to reunite with so many friends, colleagues and new friends with this incredible new sport as our hub, our focal point.
In one of our first issues we did last year, Austrian former windsurf world champ and waterman, Mickey Eskimo of Maui – a real character, an artist also; super passionate about ALL he does – was SO jacked that Wind Tracks had come back with an sup orientation…
…Mickey called me super stoked. He had just come from sup’ing Uluwatu and traveling throughout Indo.
In his thick Austrian accent he was practically spitting thru the phone line,” Clay, sup will be the bicycles of the sea!”
Classic Mickey. “Bicycles of the sea!” And he’s right.
And then along came a friend, top windsurfer/surfer/kiter and shredding Florida longboarder Steve Sjuggerud. Steve was a writer for us when I published the windsurfing mag… Steve had fully transitioned into standup paddling. It’s all he does now from his home on the far northern Florida coast.
Sjugg is our associate publisher now. My best bud, Glenn Dubock of Santa Barbara (our other associate publisher) and I felt we could cover sup, surfing, windsurfing, some kiting, and we DO still intend to include that… but it was Sjuggerud who focused my attention on standup paddling as THE focus of our Journal.
Steve, Glenn, and all the watermen and waterwomen we work and play with have that fire in their bellies over sup… everybody’s on high alert, newness surrounds us!
It is clear this is not just a passing phenomenon.
Standup paddling is going places!