I get all three of the big U.S. mags. It cost me about $36 a year for all three, if not cheaper, get em all man, its like getting three presents once a month!
If I had to get one I would do Surfer, thicker mag, way better in the article department and plenty of east coast coverage when there is something to cover. Also they have a great board buyers guide, wetsuit guides, stuff like that wihich is nice to see whats new in the market. Surfer is the king, then Surfing, tTansworld a distant third.
But Transworld gives the best free crap. I got a pair of Sanuk flip flops with a $13 dollar sub to transworld. Just wait for the best free deal things. My Transworld had a subscription card in it last time you get a free T-shirt with a year script.
In fact i got two years of surfing and surfer for $24, thats the both of them for two years. Thas $6 a year for each.
Definitely Surfer's Journal or Surf's Path. Fewer ads, actual articles instead of weird MTV-like "be cool like us" vibes.
Another one that's cool (albeit hard to find in the states) is Australia's Surfing Life. It's sort of an in-between...legit articles, but they have a lot of BS funny stuff as well. It strikes a good balance (like most things down under) between the Surfer/Surfing and Surfer's Journal worlds.
All that being said...I don't buy any of that crap. Plenty of photo's online, and I'll drop by the Barnes and Noble and read the articles every now and then. I figure why spend the money at all if I can read them for free?
I let my TSJ subscription lapse several years ago but renewed it about 6 months ago as increasingly there were articles of special interest to me. The bonus for subscribers: access to PDF files of all past articles, from Vol 1 to present. That makes the price worth it.
The Surfers Path today is what Surfer/Surfing was in the 1960s/early 1970s. Interesting travel articles for the average joe, not the sponsored Roxy/Quicksilver team trip.
Surfer/Surfing/Transworld are full of advertising hype but obviously have a market.
Spend some time in a good bookstore browsing through your various options and find out what is right for you.
Originally Posted by Retzlaff44
Surfing and Trans World - aimed at the under 25 crowd (not just my opinion - get their press package and that's what they claim). That's how these mags pitch themselves to advertisers. Pro surfer driven, aimed at the young guys who want the newest pro style boards, boardshorts, watches etc.
Surfer - Tries to have something for everybody. Pro coverage, some "soul" pieces, commentary on the sport. And overall they do a nice job. It's not easy pleasing everybody.
Surfer's Journal - Aimed at the "mature" surfer. Beautiful mag, often with some really cool pieces. Last year they did a wonderful story on East Coast and VB legend Bob Holland. It's a piece no other magazine would touch. But sometimes it just seems like a rehash of photos and events that Surfer ran 30+ years ago when SJ editor Steve Pezman was the Surfer editor. I wish they would look outside of their box a little more often.
The Surfer's Path - My favorite at the moment. A little expensive, but that's because it's out of the UK. But don't let that fool you. It has a very "worldy" outlook that is FAR from the pro driven stuff in the other surf mags (SJ is excused here). Definitely more soul than the others. The last issue had TWO pieces about Fukishima. One about all the good breaks that used be near the nuclear plant, and a second one that was sort of "live" account from a surfer in Japan about the tsunami, and the aftermath. No other surf mag is going to do those pieces. Very well done too.
Eastern Surf - It is what is. I love it because it gave me my first big writing break (I was a "Contributing Writer" for them another lifetime ago), and I have so much respect for how Mez and Dugan started cautiously and nurtured their project. That it's still going is really, really a tribute to them. They cover us like no other mag would dare to. And most time they get it right. I just wish it was a little less "grungy" sometimes (love ya Mez! ).
In deciding on a mag - read the "Intro" pieces that the editors write in the front of each issue of the magazine. If you like the "vibe" that editor gives off, chances are you will like the mag. It's his/her editorial decisions that give the mag its personality.