Kevin Shaw: It’s Not a Very Good Reason Why


I could hear the sound of my own teeth grinding through my skull, and my wife could tell just by looking at me that the phone call wasn’t going well. Admittedly, I have zero “poker face” and very clearly wear my feelings on the outside. It’s a trait I’m not too proud of, but occasionally, it serves a purpose – much how a rattlesnake’s thrumming wards off passersby. And right now, as the inane moron on the other line continued to blather on, my rattle was going nuts.

“You guys don’t do nearly enough standup stuff,” he scowled. “It’s all couches, man. When are you gonna learn that nobody likes all that sit-down stuff?” If I didn’t need it for work, I swear I could’ve folded up my iPhone in the palm of my hand. “Listen,” I hissed into the receiver. “I’d looove to do more standup stuff. Trust me, I would. But I can’t find anyone worth a damn to write it.” Deafening silence came from the other end. I added, “You find me someone, because I’ve been looking.”

For years – and I literally mean years – I’ve been searching for somebody to fill the role as a Freeride/Freestyle Editor for The Watercraft Journal. Over time, the spectrum of the position spread to include pretty much all forms of standup riding as frankly, the industry required it. Despite loosening the specificity of the position, the role has gone mainly unoccupied. Sure, I’ve had occasional submissions from noteworthy contributors – including Ross Champion, Mark Gomez, Ashley Haude, Zack Bright – but none were willing to put down stakes for longer than a few weeks here and there.

And because I can’t be omnipresent or omniscient, I needed somebody who could focus solely on the standup scene in my stead. They’d need to know what events were coming up, what racers were showing promise, what current point standings were in the IFWA, to be familiar with the names of different tricks, hull builders and riders. The standup scene (despite its various branches) is still an intimate one, and asking one person to be our primary resource for all standup content (or arranging to have it produced for us) wasn’t too much to ask, I thought.

I was wrong. Dead friggin’ wrong. Months of relentless pestering, babysitting and micromanaging had me exhausted, frustrated and irritable. “What do you have planned for this month?” was a question I asked far too often, which was almost always met with the same lackadaisical, “I dunno. Whattaya got?” Grimacing, I’d try not to put my fist through the drywall. Sucking in air through clenched teeth, I’d wheeze, “Let me see…” and go off to do their job for them. I’d understand if it was just one person, but this has been the norm since 2014.

Several showed plenty of (initial) enthusiasm but couldn’t pace themselves and quickly burned out. Others exhibited little work ethic. Most simply “flaked out” after a couple of weeks. Because finding someone self-motivated, and determined to properly satisfy the role had proven fruitless, the spot has remained empty; reduced to a freelance position, paying per article. But, if someone were on top of their game, the role could garner a few thousand dollars a month, and eventually become a salaried position.

All of this of course, was happening behind closed doors, and wasn’t seen by the outside audience. In the forums and on social media, standup riders continued to cry, “Nobody cares about us! We don’t get half the coverage of the sitdowns!” And yes, they’d be right – at least, the second half of that. If they only knew the anxiety of trying to produce standup-focused content was giving me. I want to publish more standup event coverage, more race coverage, more builds, more interviews, but I can’t deal with the flakes. The stoners. The unprofessionalism.

Sadly, this wasn’t always the case. While at Personal Watercraft Illustrated, I regularly welcomed emails from Heather Selwitz-Briglia or Andrew Morin, containing an awesome story featuring Taylor Curtis, Mike Serlin or Ross Champion charging the turquoise surf of some gorgeous, undiscovered beachbreak. Heck, it’d just show up on its own. Unfortunately, that generation of freeriders has grown up, gone away and started families of their own. Today, it seems any drive by freeriders to have their escapades published in the world’s most popular PWC magazine has been replaced with drumming up more Instagram followers.

So, here I sit looking at a calendar of freeride events without coverage. Hilariously enough, unlike other publications, I pay too. And in many cases, I pay more and faster than other publications. In fact, we’ve always paid for our contributor-supplied content, and often allowed photographers to include their watermarks on images and include hyperlinks to their personal websites to help sell their photos.

I’m still wanting a Standup/Freeride/Freestyle Editor, but I’m not going to break my back to fill the spot anymore. If you think you’d be a good candidate, or have someone you’d think would be a good fit, hit me up at kevin.shaw@shawgroupmedia.com. Until then, now you know why standups aren’t getting as much attention from The Watercraft Journal as you might like.

Go Get Wet,
Kevin

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Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – kevin.shaw@shawgroupmedia.com Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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  1. timmc 5 January, 2018 at 11:30 Reply

    Knowing you, that was an entertaining read! My screen took on an odd tomato red hue as I scrolled through the second paragraph… haha. Consistent flow of content is the most challenging thing to obtain in publishing.

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