Finding and telling good stories is rarely easy. First finding a story that readers will want to invest their time in reading, with compelling characters who are willing to open up their world to a complete stranger. It's more difficult than it sounds.
After three months in CA, I've completed three cover stories for OC Weekly. Each has been interesting and fun to work on in their own ways, but I've really been happy with the way only one has turned out. It was a story I found with characters I was able to spend ample time around. That wasn't the case with my first two stories.
The first was a look into 50 years of surfing's best known and most read magazine, SURFER. Having previously worked in the surf industry, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to some of the key media players from throughout the years, including the magazine's founder and the father of surf media, John Severson. These days he's retired and living on Maui, mainly painting and still surfing when the waves are there. I also had the opportunity to chat with the magazine's first influential editor after JS, Drew Kampion; Steve Pezman, the one-time editor and publisher; the editor who was at the helm during the magazine's most competitive and evolutionary period, Paul Holmes; and Matt Warshaw, who had a short stint as editor, but has evolved into surfing's foremost historian; along with a few other players and current staff. It's amazing just how comprehensive one publication can be, but seeing as how they started the industry, it's understandable that they would be the ones to contribute some of the most significant work to date. It's been the media face of the sport since its inception into the media business in the '60s. Quite a wild and impactful 50-plus years.
Weeks later, I had the opportunity to shoot from the photo pit at KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas, standing in the shadow of OC punk-rock's godfather, Mike Ness of Social Distortion. With over 30 years of music behind them and a new album set to release, they were part of the conversation once again. It was my first celebrity profile of sorts, and it showed in the amount of time I was given with the band: one 30 minute sit-down with Ness, phone interviews with the guitarist and bassist, and lingering during the cover photo shoot. Just to get to that point took significant time. There were multiple emails and phone calls to the record label publicist and band manager, mostly to no avail. Eventually, with only days to meet my deadline, the meetings came together. It wasn't an ideal situation for putting together a 3,500-plus word profile, but with the help of some peers who were more involved in the music scene, it came together. The piece turned out fairly well, but, no doubt, would have been much better if given substantial time to hang around the guys more in their element.
The third and most recent piece, which I found the most fulfilling and which turned out the best (in my opinion), was the story of a group of unknown, underground big-wave surfers from OC. Though they're known to surf at various big-wave outposts around the globe, they tend to stick to Baja California and Mainland Mexico, and most often frequent their favorite spot, a wave called Killers off that breaks off Todos Santos, a small, uninhabited island. They welcomed me along on one of their attempts to track a swell out to Killers, after days of hype and hope. I sat on a boat in the channel out in the middle of the ocean, with nothing but open seas to the west, while they paddled into and towed into some good size waves. Being big-wave surfers, I expected ego-driven hardheads. The guys I met were quite the opposite. They were welcoming and funny, articulate and laid-back. They've already invited me to tag along when the next substantial swell rolls through and they return to Todos Santos.
The next piece will be my first foray into investigative journalism, but I'm pretty confident I can put together something I'll be proud of and that readers will enjoy. Thanks for reading.