Kevin Shaw: No Publication Without Representation


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“Can I ask you another question, Kevin?” Pavi asked in her quiet, polite way. Pavlina Machotkova – or Pavi who know her – has been a rock-solid contributor to The Watercraft Journal since our launch three years ago, and a good friend despite never actually meeting her in person. Her volume dropped, almost apologetically, “Why isn’t there more freeride coverage in the magazine?”

Pavi and her fiance, Chris Williams (the owner of JetManiac) are great ambassadors for the sport’s ever-growing branch of surf riding, and have become ingrained in the Florida freeride scene for at least a decade now; so it only makes sense that she’d pose the question. She did provide us our Daytona Freeride coverage annually, after all.

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“That’s easy, Pavi.” I laughed. “It’s because freeriders don’t read the magazine.”

While yes, we do welcome enthusiasts of both schools of riding, and the largest audience in North America of personal watercraft devotees, whenever we’ve published coverage of a strictly freeride or freestyle event, readership is dismal. In fact, our Daytona Freeride coverage fell flat despite all of the hard work Pavi poured into penning the story and taking all of the pictures (not to mention being the first and only magazine to do so).

Realizing I might’ve lost Pavi, I followed my statement by asking, “Tell me, does Chris (her fiance) read the magazine every day?” She replied that no, he didn’t but spent a large portion of the day on X-H2o.com. “My point exactly!” I cheered. “I’m not trying to single Chris out, but see what I’m saying. Because this is a business, I have to publish content that will appeal to the mainstream. If I had more freeriders reading what freeride coverage we publish, I could afford to ramp things up.”

Personally, I think there is nothing more impressive to the layman, non-endemic personal watercraft enthusiast than freestyle. I’ve argued that freestyle needs to be removed from being a placeholder in the national tour stops and the IJSBA World Finals and sat down front-and-center before an audience at say, Sea World, or the Boston Marathon. The type of aerobatics performed by these athletes is staggering, and we jet ski lovers are becoming to acclimated to seeing backflips and barrel rolls.

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I addressed this once to Ross Champion a few years back. The IFWA World Freeride multi-time champion knows the ups and downs of the industry all too well. I queried why a handful of freeriders couldn’t be given 10 minutes of downtime at the annual Vans US Open of Surfing held in Huntington Beach, CA every year, merely as an exhibition if nothing less. Champion had already pondered the idea long before and had an answer prepared, “Because they don’t want jet skis there.”

Both freeride and freestyle are creating a evolutionary age in the life cycle of the standup ski. The machines coming from Rick Roy Products, Eric Malone Enterprises, Krash Industries, Tigercraft, Jetfreak and many more, are unlike anything foreseeable over a decade ago, when Joe Kenny was hucking a nearly bone-stock Yamaha SuperJet hull into the air above the rolling Mexican surf.

“I want to, Pavi. I do. In fact, I’ve had a ‘want ad’ up on our Facebook page on-and-off again for nearly a year looking for a Freeride/Freestyle Editor,” I explained. “It’s not a full-time gig, but it is steady money. They’d be in charge of keeping The ‘Journal up on the industry. Be it news, new products, interviews with riders, event coverage, whatever. But I’ve gotten zero bites. Literally none.”

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In her soft, gentle way, Pavi growled, “Well, that’s because they can’t write…” But I cut her off before she could finish. My job is to make the stories legible. I’ve published articles that were originally illegible garbage, stories sown-together from tweets and texts from teenagers, articles that were directly Google-translated from Japanese-to-English, and much, much worse. I can sculpt a good story from very little. What I need is someone willing to get me the information.

I joked, “I can’t bake a cake without the ingredients. At the very least, I need somebody to provide me the basics.”

Freeride will always have a home here at The Watercraft Journal. Personally, I love it and pay for more articles than any other American publication. And I do so at a loss. We’ve had amazing freeride contributors, too, including Ross Champion, Andrew Morin, Jake Bright and Mark Gomez, just to name a few. But as I told Pavi, “I gotta get someone I can rely on. And reliability is tough to find in this industry.”

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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