Corky Carroll

Journal founder has a vision that is pure art

The most beautiful and well-done surfing magazine of all time, without question, is called the SURFERS JOURNAL. I am not sure that "magazine" is really the right name for it really. It is more like a soft cover "coffee table book."

The dude behind this publication is one Steve Pezman. This guy has one of the very few true pure "surfing" hearts in the world. His vision was to put out a better book. Not just better, but a real quality deal that is not in competition with anything else. It's on its own level.

To call SURFERS JOURNAL merely "state of the art" would not be giving it enough credit. It is "art."

Steve Pezman has been a part of the Orange County surfing culture for a half a century. He began surfing in 1957. He went to Wilson High School in Long Beach and became a regular at Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and at the "water tower" in Surfside.

Surfside was my home and I got to know him when I was a very young little surf dude. I am not sure how much Steve liked me in those years. He has always been a pretty low-key kinda dude, even back then. In my younger years I was about as "high key" as they came. But he used to load Mark Martinson and myself into the trunk of his car and give us rides down to "trestles" to surf if we came up with the gas money. I always looked at him as a stylish surfer with a good sense of humor and liked him.

Steve would work in surfboard production as a shaper and eventual co-owner of a private label surfboard factory in the late 1960s. He started in the surf publication business at first as a freelance writer. This led to gigs as associate editor at International Surfing Magazine and then to Surfer Magazine in 1970. In 1971 Steve would take over as publisher of Surfer when founder John Severson sold the magazine and retired to the island of Maui.

Many, including "Pez" himself, thought that he had been given a sinking ship to go down with.

There is one thing about Steve Pezman that sets him apart from the pack. He has a keen eye for quality. He sees surf photos in a way that most of us do not understand. I learned this about him when I went to work under him in 1976 at Surfer. I started as an ad salesman and would soon take over the advertising department as ad director. This was the job I held for 10 years and loved every minute of it.

When I first went to work there I wasn't sure how Pez and I would co-exist. This goes back to the low key-high key thing. I had mellowed a little bit by then though, and I was good at the job, so at first I felt that even though he was apprehensive about me, he was at least tolerating my presence on the staff.

Over the years of working for him I learned to love the guy and respect him in so many ways. He had a "feel" for what was good and not good. Pez is also an artist. He paints. He is very good too, but he would cringe to hear you say that because he does not believe that he is up to his own high standard.

I learned to see surf photos very differently from listening to him. Pez was more about turning out a good product, one that he was proud of, than the business side of it. I was sort of the one who worked with that end of it, at least as far as advertising went. He never wanted the magazine to be overrun with "ugly" ads. He even would have me turn away business if they had a habit of unprofessional looking layouts.

And he never wanted the content to be tainted by the wishes of the advertisers. There was many an advertiser who would want their guy on the cover or in stories etc. Pez was really too pure for the pudding when it came down to it.

Steve met his wonderful wife Debbee while working at Surfer and together they had the vision of a publication without the need for advertising. They made it happen together and in 1992 started up SURFERS JOURNAL.

Pez is a like a perfectly peeling wave, oily glassy on a clean fall morning. He is a guy with a good eye, a great heart and a lot of style to mix in.

One of the understated, yet very bright diamonds in our surfing culture.