THE Encyclopedia of Surfing is a book you probably don't own but really should. As the name suggests it contains nearly everything for the aspiring surf know-it-all, painstakingly recorded by the original surf memory bank, Matt Warshaw.
"It's the biggest, best-reviewed, most-respected book ever written on the sport." says Matt. "Salon called it a 'masterpiece'. Amazon named it the #2 sports book of the year. EOS is the industry standard reference work on surfing. It's been cited not just in every surf magazine and website, but in Outside, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, and the New York Times. Which is all good, but reference books are dead in the water."
All this knowledge is hidden away in a reference book owned by a limited number of people (25,000 copies sold). Matt sees the future of the EOS as online, turning it into a living dynamic, not for profit entity. To do this he needs your support and has an appeal running on the Kickstarter site here. A few days after launch he's already more than halfway to the total.
We caught up with Matt to discuss exactly how he envisions the project developing.
Hi Matt, for those who don't know what is the EOS?
The Encyclopedia of Surfing online is the greatest collection of surf matter on the planet. A gigantic aqua-blue-tinged mass of history, culture, and commentary. Imagine your local library packed floor to ceiling with surf-related books, magazines, newspapers, photos, movies, TV shows and documentaries. There's a friendly reference librarian to help find anything you're looking for. Now put that whole thing onto your laptop. That's the idea!
Where does a Kickstarter Dollar go?
Right now, it's just me hacking away at this unruly beast of a project, with help from talented surf media up-and-comer Justin Housman. Kickstarter money will keep us solvent for the next few months while we put all the pieces together. I also need to pay the site designer. That, and a hundred more little costs associated with getting a home business up and running. If we go over our Kickstarter target amount, fantastic, the money goes straight into some much-needed hardware upgrades, and hopefully toward bringing a third person onboard - probably a tech guy.
Did you feel the need for surfing's history to be on record?
Partly that, but mostly I think because I like to organise things. It's a big beautiful ridiculous mess of a sport. It still is. But the encyclopedia allows me and other people to imagine that it can sort of be put in order. It can't, not really. Or I should say, not completely. But when I look at the book, I kid myself that it's all in there.
So why did you originally compile it?
In 1999 I was strutting around thinking I was hot shit cause I'd written a couple of surf books, and my dad just sort of threw out the challenge, "Why don't you do a surfing encyclopedia?" So it's his fault.
Was it a labour of love?
In a way. Everything I've done in my career more or less originates from my love for surfing. So in that respect, yes. But I also really hate having to think up new projects, which is a bad thing for a freelancer. So with the big books, the Encyclopedia and History of Surfing, I got to avoid having to pitch ideas for years at a time. Just get up every morning for three years, write a few hundred words, one foot in front of the other, and eventually I'd have a book.
The actual book is now out of print in the UK, is it the same elsewhere?
No! Book is still very much in print. Original hardcover might be out of print, but revised edition -- the paperback -- is stacked high in some bookstores. And on Amazon of course.
Obviously moving it online keeps the knowledge alive and democratises access but how are you going to make it pay? Making money from online content being notoriously tricky.
How indeed? I have bags under my eyes from thinking about that one. Short answer: its going to be a nonprofit, which more or less means everybody (photos, filmmakers) are giving me stuff to use for free. I can also apply for grant money. I can have more fundraisers. But mostly -- and this will be the make-or-break deal, probably -- I have to get out there and find a big sugar-daddy corporate backer. Just one. Keep it nice and simple. But that's still a few months down the road. I'm actually going to build the site, then find the sponsor. Its a gamble, but I really want the thing done on my terms, as far as the way the site looks and operates.
What does 'not for profit' mean in practice? You draw a wage, pay for costs but can't carry a capital lump sum away?
Exactly. Or let me rephrase. Exactly -- as far as I understand the ins and outs of nonprofits, and business in general, which means I read a the introduction to a handbook called "Managing the Nonprofit Organization."
When it's online, what'll it look like? How will it be structured? And will it be a done deal or do you envisage keeping it updated?
In the little Kickstarter video, I flashed a quick preview of the site. It's super clean. The guy who designed it, Ryan Mahar, is fantastic. Did everything we could to have it not look like a reference site. Not boring, that is.
A zillion photos, video clips, and links. Fully searchable. Updated constantly. All the archive material, plus a rundown on what's happening in surfing right now. The site is already designed, and it's off-the-chart awesome. Clean as a whistle. Fast and functional. No exclamation points. No ads. All of the text from the book is now updated and loaded into the site. New entries are being written. Photos and video clips are right now being scanned, edited, logged, and tagged. (Prime stuff, too. Contributors include Art Brewer, Taylor Steele, Bruce Brown, Ron Stoner, Jeff Divine, Alby Falzon, Flame, Chris Malloy, Ron Church, Doc Ball, Don James, Steve Sherman, Tom Servais, Warren Bolster, Dana Brown, Thomas Campbell, and the list goes on.)
As for updating it, yes, every damn day. My burden to haul, until I can turn the whole thing over to my son, hopefully in like 25 years.
One last thing: Predicted launch date: mid-2012.
If you want to support the project you can do here. We have and we're normally pretty tight.