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Carve Mag Turns 30: Steve England Reflects On The Years Gone By

Carve magazine has been part of the UK and Irish surf scene for 30 years. SOURCE sat down with editor Steve England who took us through the journey.

What made you launch Carve?
Issue one of Carve was published in spring 1994 by Chris Power, after a few of us persuaded him to extend the British Surfing Association newsletter into something bigger to represent the wider British surfing community. For many British surfers it was really hard to get the coverage for brands to get bit of petrol money, or equipment and sponsorship to go to the European Pro Surfing Association events, or to go on photo trips like we could see others doing.

Carve’s aim was just to get people stoked and to represent British and Irish surfing, like the quality US and Oz mags did overseas. I wrote about a trip to Portugal for issue one. Then I joined full-time on issue four, as Assistant Editor and Ad Manager, then as a Director. I have been here ever since!

In 1994, British and Irish surfers were still seen as anomalies. People abroad had only really heard of surfing in the Severn Bore!

“Do you drink tea and surf in the river?” was a standard response. No one got why we loved surfing where we did. Waiting for breaks in weather systems, the raw brutal coastlines we inhabit, dark waters, endless storms, huge tides, no palm trees – it was all too confusing for those on tropical shores. Now coldwater surfing is a thing and coldwater swimming renowned worldwide as a major health kick. They still may not want to live here, but people get it.

And 30 years later, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
When I was at Uni someone asked me what my dream job was. After ‘pro surfer’ (I still dream… Don’t we all!) I said, “Working for a surfing magazine” which was a bit random as I’d never actually thought of it before, and there really weren’t any to work for. But since joining Carve I’ve been able to get up every day and help someone in the surf community, whether that is surfers, photographers, writers, or groups like Surfers Against Sewage, or the surfing federations. It can be telling their stories, campaigning for clean water or sometimes just a word of advice to a grom.

As much as the job is about entertaining people through print or online and representing our communities, you are also a point of contact for advice. When I was a grom there was no one to ask. In fact everyone told me “Surfing will get you nowhere.” So I’m here to tell everyone surfing can get you everywhere!

I can also reach out through our socials and try and make positive impact on people’s lives. I do a lot of mental health posts at key periods when our followers may be down. The posts don’t get many likes or shares, but they get hits. And every now and again I’ll just get a message saying ‘Thanks, you really helped.’ You can’t buy that.  Carve 30th Steve lev phil smith

What gave you the most pleasure?
Our main aim has always been to support British and Irish surfers, so to see some of them go from groms to being full on professional big wave surfers (Lowey and Cotty) or world class longboarders (Skindog), or like Lukas Skinner (RipCurl Grom Search Champ, 2nd in the World Juniors) is great to see and report on, but the mag has also directly saved many lives sometimes times without us knowing it.

I kind of lost touch with one friend, Kwab, and I didn’t realise he was in a very bad way and had been placed in a mental health institution for his own safety. Then one day one of his friends went to visit him and took him a Carve. Something in it just resonated with him, reminded him who he was and what he loved about life. He said he held that copy to his chest for two months while he had treatment determined to get better. He worked really hard, saved some money and now he’s living the dream and has a free diving and surf charter business in Indonesia! I even got to run a shot of him getting barrelled at Desert Point shot by legend Pete Frieden! His story is definitely worth the read.

I mean for me that story is worth 30 years of hard work in itself, but there’s more. I got an email from a guy called Nick. I didn’t know but we was battling really bad mental health, addiction and was not in a good way either. He just emailed me one day to ask if I would run his shots if he went on a trip. I had no idea of his situation, but said of course, and if he got good shots we’d run full article. He went off to the Arctic Circle with some friends, and we published his article in the next issue. It was all he needed. Now he’s a pro photographer and helps others with addiction and mental health problems. He’s a legend! Nick’s is another’s whose story is worth reading.

I post these and other stories at times when I know people will be down, and I alway get messages just saying “Thanks’. And that, to be able to help people, is a privilege.

Then I get to tell stories of friends who have made a life from surfing – whether that’s surf charter captains, running camps, making boards, or just travelling. Just tying to inspire people to escape the 9-5 trap, even though I am pretty much 9-5! And now I’m running shots of groms who are the third generation of their family to get in the mag. It’s amazing to see how stoked the groms get…. What is not to like!

What have been the biggest changes in the business over the 30 years?
30 years ago we had about five surf photographers in the UK, our world tour results came from fax messages and that we only got the heads up because we were ‘media’! Surf forecasting was being able to read a weather chart in newspaper that was two days old! Everyone had to ride the en-vogue shortboard. So much has changed!

We were always pretty into tech as a company and had one of the first email newsletters. I remember a funny conversation with brand managers who had never heard of them asking why! Now we reach millions of people a week just through our socials.

The reasons why people love surfing haven’t changed though. Just that pure love of riding waves, travel, and surf culture. It’s so important for people who manage brands to realise and embrace this and protect their brands story. When I was a grom I lived in a pub on a beach and I’d ask the holiday makers why they started buying surf branded clothing. It was always the same. They loved the lifestyle they had seen and loved the quality of the product.

Print still going strong..why do you think that is?
It’s tangible, it presents photography and writing in its best medium and it means something. People ‘like’ social media posts, but they ‘love’ shots and articles in print. The quality of a shot of a wave in print outclasses a post and most video on social every day of the week. And print last forever. People keep their mags, go over them for days, and collect them for years. I love digital for immediacy, reach and the democratisation of creativity but I see the faces of the groms, surfers and photographers with their first shots in mags and their stoke. It is not the same! Carve Hendy cover

Your favourite cover and why?
Tough one! I know all the stories behind them so it’s hard to choose. One issue I got to put my mate James Hendy on there. We grew up surfing in the same small Cornish village, competed and travelled a lot together with our crew etc. I ended up at a surf mag, he ended up as Rip Curl Asia President Director. He runs the Padang Cup and during the break at the 2019 comp just before the final he called priority, paddled out on a borrowed board and got kegged in front of everyone. It was classic! Then I got sent a sick shot and got to put it on the cover. It’s one for the boys, and one for everyone that told us we were surf bums!

Also I love Cotty cover because back in 2005 when he was teaching himself towing in Ireland with Al Meenie, he had a mishap and some people on Irish surf forums really went for him. Cotty and Al had no one to show them the ropes, and were only trying to emulate what they had seen. I stuck up for him and then we both got a lot of personal abuse. He was just trying to chase a dream… Anyway, fortunately he didn’t listen to them, and now look at him go. That was definitely worth our 200th issue cover! Carve Cotty 200th coverAnd lastly a shout out and big thanks to…
As you know you can’t run independent surf media without the backing of the brand and marketing managers, and they have been amazing throughout our 30 years. Pretty much everyone I have worked with in Europe are in their company’s for the same reasons, mainly because we all thought we’d get a few free surf trips! And how wrong we were! Ha ha ha!

In seriousness though I think a lot of people who have been in the industry will recognise the sentiments above. When you see someone on your team do well, the general vibe of the people and companies we work with. It’s pretty special. Surfing is special! That’s why we are all in it!

120 Rip Curl hanging shoes
120 Town and Country Surfboards
120 Voited  surf robs and ponchos
120 Rusty surfboards




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