Log In

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Lost Password?

Sign Up

Password will be generated and sent to your email address.

WORK INFO AND TIPS

How To Make a
Career In Surf Media

with Stab MAG's Editor in Chief, Mikey Ciaramella

Imagine a job where you could fly around the planet to tropical destinations, watch the world’s coolest events, hang out with the world’s best surfers, and maybe even squeeze in the occasional freesurf trip on the side too. When at home, you get surfboards to test and generally talk about the thing you love to do most in the world – ride waves. No suit and tie. It’s more wetsuit and mai tai. 

There is such a dream job: Surf Journalist. As you probably realise, it’s not always as dreamy as it sounds. Every job comes with its realities. There’s also the problem of how you’d land such a gig. It seems downright impossible, right? According to the Editor in Chief of one of surfing’s biggest media enterprises, Stab Mag, it might not be so hard – if you have the right set of traits and approach things the right way. 

We asked Mikey Ciaramella about how he personally got his start in the industry, how he climbed his way to the top, and what advice he has for anyone starting out wanting a similar career.  This is How To Make A Career In Surf Media, from someone who’s walked the walk. We hope you get a lot from his insights…

STARTING OUT

Q: So Mike, how did you get your start in surf media and what was the journey to where you are today?

A: I got my start through an internship during my senior year of college. I knew (former Stab Editor in Chief) Brendan Buckley who worked at Surfing Magazine at the time, so I basically submitted a writing piece, and they were like, ‘this is terrible but maybe has potential’. Throughout my senior year, I worked that internship and then got a job straight out of school. 

Four months later, I got laid off as print media was going through its extinction period. Because I was the most recent hire (and in retrospect, not a great employee), I was the first to go. Weirdly, that ended up being a huge advantage, because it got me into the freelance world before a bunch of other people. That led to an opportunity to write for Beach Grit, and shortly after I was picked up by Stab. 

I started off just doing articles, then social media, then gear reviews, then producing and directing film projects, and now seven years later I’ve found myself in the Editor in Chief seat.

Q: Was there a pivotal moment in your career where you thought ‘now I’ve made it’?

A: Probably becoming Editor in Chief, which is really funny because Stab hasn’t had an actual print magazine since 2015 (before I even worked there). Now that we inhabit a digital space, there are so many different platforms and mediums of communication than just the written word that require oversight — far more than any one person could handle on their own.

So, Editor in Chief sounds like this big, important umbrella role, but in reality I’m just one of many people working to make all our products as premium as they can be.

Q: How was making a career as a surf journalist different compared to what it was like 20 years ago?

A: In regards to feeding the internet beast (versus a monthly magazine), I’d say surf journalists today have to work a lot harder than our forebears. But we also have the ability to do so much more. You may start as a writer, but soon you can be producing projects and directing films. Social media is a whole different animal, which is kinda strange but also cool and exciting.

I suppose if you wanted to purely be a writer, it might have been better back then. But I much prefer the pace and fluidity of modern times.

SHARING ADVICE​

Q: In terms of advice for someone starting out, or breaking in, what would you suggest their first steps should be?

A: We need new voices in surf media. We’re constantly looking for talent in all these different categories — film, writing, etc. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time to mentor people from scratch. 

So, my advice is to just go out and make something. An article. An edit. A Tik Tok. Whatever. Your first attempt will probably suck, so make another. Then three more. Get feedback from outsiders and people who’ve done it before you — not your friends and family, who will tell you everything is great. Once you hone your craft, then you can reach out to us with a clear outline of who you are, what your skills are, and why you think you’d be an asset to our team. 

The positive news is that if you’re talented and driven, surf media is a really easy industry to enter. There are very few barriers to entry (hint: we don’t care if you went to college) and not a ton of competition. If you’re that good, we’ll hire you tomorrow.

Q: What are the different options to make a career out of surf journalism today? Full time? Freelance?

A: If you want to work in surf media and you have the opportunity to get a full time job — take it. Not just because these roles are scarce and freelance gigs are unreliable, but because there’s so much to be gained from working alongside seasoned writers, filmmakers, and even people on the commercial side of media, who understand how the machine actually works. 

On top of upskilling yourself in this sort of environment, you’ll make industry connections way faster than you would on your own accord. And those relationships will define your future more than any piece of content you create. 

After you’ve earned some new skills and made a name for yourself, then you can consider going freelance or moving into a different type of industry role. But just coming in cold and trying to pick up paying gigs would be borderline impossible, even if you’re exceptionally talented. 

AND FINALLY...

Q: What makes a surf journalist stand out from the rest of the pack to become truly successful?

A: Below are my three keys to becoming a successful surf journalist — you can survive with 2/3, but those who thrive will tick all the boxes. 

Be obsessed with surfing from an early age. Unfortunately, you don’t have much control over this one. It’s more a result of your upbringing than anything, which is unfair (and perhaps even classist?). But as far as understanding the culture is concerned, there’s no substitute for being completely immersed in surfing from an early age. Not only will this obsession fuel your passion for the job, but it will create the knowledge base from which all your beliefs and decisions stem.

Have some sort of creative talent. Whether it’s writing, photography, filmmaking, or something else entirely — you don’t need to be the best to start, but there needs to be some raw material to work with. And a hunger to improve.

Be on your shit. Surfers and creatives — see points 1 & 2 — are historically unreliable groups of people. That’s the last piece of the puzzle — if you want to be truly successful at this job, you need to be on top of everything. Emails, texts, relationships, your work product. I’ve seen plenty of great writers and filmmakers come and go, because they thought this job was going to be all surf trips and mai tais. As they say, ‘hard work beats talent every day, if talent doesn’t work hard’. 

Q: Any last words of wisdom?

A: Forget everything I just said, and go get your real estate license. That’s where we all end up anyways. 

— — — — 

Follow Mikey on IG

CURRENT OPENINGS

  • Db

    Digital Coordinator
    Full Time

  • Backcountry

    Social Media Manager
    Full Time

  • Vans

    Brand Social & Community Manager
    Full Time

  • Vans

    Sr. Manager, OTW, Culture and Innovation
    Full Time

  • SPY+

    Marketing Coordinator
    Full Time

  • Elevate Outdoor Collective

    Digital Designer – DTC
    Full Time

More Jobs
Add Alert
Sign in or create an account to continue.