Historians are a strange bunch. They thrive on locking themselves away and diving into dull and tedious work. Granted, while searching, finding and digging through archives can be fun, the vast majority of their days are spent sorting, scanning, recording, transcribing, editing and keywording volumes and volumes of text and videos from all over the world. And while various magazines and foundations have dabbled in preserving surfing's rich history, nobody comes close to amassing it like Matt Warshaw, author of the Encylopedia of Surfing, The History of Surfing, and a new website, Above the Roar, filled with vintage interviews of surf icons in their prime.
Warshaw's gift to us is bringing all this incredible history to life, and making it easily accessible. He's done a phenomenal job of it too. Now, after spending years building three different websites, he's finally combined them all into a single membership model. For a mere $3 per month, users have access to all of it, anytime. We're talking about the single biggest library of surf knowledge and insight here. And trust us when we say it's worth it. Not only does it allow you to jump in and explore surfing's treasure trove at any time, but more importantly, your support allows Warshaw the ability to stay locked away in his room, digging, sorting and filing more reports about our past. Your token fee will keep you out of that high tax bracket too, because that's right, it's tax deductible! We caught up with Matt to dig in more about his generous offer.
First off, what's motivated you to do all this?
After all those years writing articles and books, I'm now fully addicted to working on the web. Putting stuff online, I'm like a kid with a fidget spinner. It's so immediate. A big part of my motivation is just satisfying my OCD. But also it's just out of how much I love surfing, and how much it commands my attention. I'm so grateful for how the sport has filled my life, how it shaped me, and now I happen to be in a position where I actually do the sport a service. Surfing gave to me, now I can give back. Surfing deserves to have its history online. It deserves to have a monster-sized reference source, like Encyclopedia of Surfing. I can provide those things, and it feels really good to do so.
I imagine your library of old magazines and books is pretty huge. Are there many people out there with collections like yours?
My collection is good, not great. Lots of people out there, or a few dozen at least, have more stuff on their shelves. But my mags and books are all databased and keyworded, and let's say no more about it because it's really too boring to discuss, but if you're an information geek, having all the stuff be instantly accessible as opposed to just taking up space on the book shelves, it's like having a superpower. Databases are my superpower.
What's your favorite era to delve into and explore?
Malibu, after World War II. Jo Quigg and Matt Kivlin and empty First Point and brand new hot-rodding balsa surfboards. Being apart of the first generation to turn a instead of just angle, that's Chuck Yeager shit without the death wish.
Who was your favorite all time surf character and why?
Dale Velzy, for being part-cowboy, for driving a gull-wing Mercedes, for always having a half-pint of something in his pocket, for being friends with Bob Simmons but calling bullshit on his boards, for the stupidity and panache of setting his own boardmaking empire on fire through nonpayment to the IRS. Velzy's life was full of adventure and friends and great waves and many wives, and I never get tired of writing about him.
You've been a longtime fan, pundit and critic of pro surfing...What compels you to watch?
At this point it has a lot to do with how bored I am with clips and features -- anything produced, where the surfing is too good and the waves are too perfect. Surf-wise, the only thing that holds my attention onscreen is a live CT heat in good waves, where one surfer is going to be pumped at the outcome and the other surfer destroyed, and the seconds are ticking down. It's not really surfing as the rest of of us know and experience it, but so what? It's sport, and I love sport. Tactics and counter-tactics. Who can perform under pressure -- that's what I like most of all. I'm in awe of people who can do something well under extreme circumstances, because as a competitor myself a long long time ago, I folded at the slightest pressure. I get off on the technical part too, how advanced the riding is, but mostly I watch to see who cracks and who doesn't.
So tell us more about the value our $3 bucks a month gets us, and what else can subscribers be feeling good about when they join?
I like to think that you're getting $3.00 worth of entertainment, just from the daily posts. I made a clip of surfboards flying off car racks, set it to an Al Green song, and that thing should have been shown at Cannes. Or the memorial vids -- John Severson and Jack O'Neill passed last week, and Encyclopedia of Surfing made video tributes to celebrate their lives. That's an honor, and people I think really like seeing a clip of somebody like O'Neill, rather than just a photo. Blogging in general -- I really enjoy taking the past, and seeing how I can make it dance and sing for the present. Rule number one is don't put anything on a pedestal. It's just surfing, after all. I'll honor the sport by doing good research, but it should be playful, fun, dumb at times, maybe a little nasty. That's what our past is. That's what surfing today is, too.
Well listen, we really appreciate what you're doing. Tell us again the best way to keep you locked away and working?
Honesty, just hit my subscription page and join. It's so low-cost you won't even feel it. That was the whole idea.