For nearly five decades, surfing and the culture around it, has played a significant role in American culture, impacting music, movies, fashion, and even car design.
Yet, throughout that half-century, most of the media has limited its coverage of surfing to enthusiast outlets focused on the sport, rather than the beach and ocean lifestyle that has developed around it.
"I would say about 90% of our content is aimed at actual surfers who are pretty into it already," explains Chris Mauro, editor of Surfer magazine. "We do a lot of coverage of the best surfers in the world, but we also have travel-based coverage, a lot of adventure-based stuff, as well as lifestyle trends, and equipment trends."
Mauro adds that Surfer doesn't do many product reviews, in part because surfing is such a complicated sport, so what works for one type of surfer, wave, or region, might not work for another.
He adds that an equipment company could use a well-known surfer or spokesperson to gain coverage, but notes that proper story art is at least as important as a big name.
"Our readership is so savvy, that it can tell... by the photo a brand chooses whether or not [it] understand[s] real surfers," Mauro says.
While professional surfing tends to see more coverage internationally than in the US, surfing organizations do get interest from major newspapers, says Dave Prodan, international media manager for the Association of Surfing Professionals.
"We do get print coverage in everything from the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times to papers in Florida," he says.
With top surfers traveling to idyllic locations to compete for prize money, professional tours do have a glamorous edge, which drives coverage to other newspaper and Web sites besides sports, Prodan says. "Especially for our top women surfers, the fitness magazines, as well as women's health and lifestyle, are always interested," he adds.
Surfing is largely a coastal phenomenon, but the culture is a story that can be pitched in almost every market, regardless of whether there's a beach nearby, notes Adrienne Lenhoff, president of Shazaaam PR.
"It's almost easier to pitch surf stories out of the Midwest," Lenhoff says, who represents the suburban Detroit retailer TWC Surf and Sport. "We're targeting everything from national travel outlets to regional media."
Another key to attaining coverage is emphasizing that surfing also occurs on the lakes and rivers of the Midwest, Lenhoff adds.
"You can get a lot of TV stations and radio stations to come out because of the novelty of seeing surfing on the Detroit River," she says. "Then we talk to them about the latest fashion, equipment, and the best places to surf in the area."
Pitching... surf culture
Leverage the huge impact of the surfing culture as a key to getting reporters interested in covering surfing as a recreational and professional sport
You don't necessarily need a high-profile surf celebrity to pitch clients, but good art is essential, since surfing is a visually compelling sport
Surfing usually can't be learned in one day, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to get reporters out on boards so they can see the difficulty of the sport, while also experiencing the beach, ocean, and culture that makes surfing so appealing