411 Dials Into Surfing

Banking on its success in the skate and snow arenas, 411 Productions is adding surfing to its successful line of action-sports video magazines. The Fountain Valley, California-based company launched its first 411VM Surfing issue during the Philips Fusion U.S. Open in early August with an impressive table of contents, including “A Day In The Life Of Fred Patacchia,” a profile of Taylor Knox, a contest segment of the Quiksilver Pro in Fiji, a “Spot Check” of The Box in Western Australia with Chris Ward and Bruce Irons, and a bonus DVD segment on Teahupo?o.

Founded in 1993 by Josh Friedberg, Steve Douglas, and Paul Schmitt, 411’s aim was to take advantage of the exploding amount of skateboard video footage flooding the sport. Rather than limit production to a specific company as a promo vehicle, they decided to produce a “non-biased” video mirroring a traditional print magazine?even including advertising. Since then it has expanded to include snowboarding, BMX, and now, surfing.”We’ve been considering, and people have been asking for years when we were going to do surf,” explains Friedberg, 411’s editor in chief. “I don’t like doing things until they can be done right, so it’s been a good idea to wait for the proper resources. When Romey Thornton and Tyson Montrucchio came to us about a year ago with a viable plan to make a 411-caliber surf video magazine, the time was right.”

Thornton, 411VM Surfing‘s project director, is a veteran of the Bud Pro Tour, serving on the medical staff and later with the television crew. He’s also team manager for Planet Earth. Montruccio’s past projects include One Ton Waltz (released through his production company Heretic Productions) and the TransWorld SURF movie 7873. Also employed by 411 are two staff cameramen?Josh Williams (who filmed and produced The Rising) and Chris Bauman (who has worked with top videographers Bill Ballard and Jamie Mosberg and contributed to the Billabong video Pickled). Friedberg says other content for the surfing series comes from contributors around the world.

Friedberg points out that producing surf videos presents different challenges compared to skateboarding. “The major difference between surf- and skate-video production is Mother Nature’s role in filming. There’re a lot of factors that need to gel together?the people, travel, and?most of all?the weather. With skate and BMX video production we can film action day or night, indoors or out, and there are a lot more spots readily available to work with. Luckily, with 411VM Surfing we’ve got great cameramen and contributors gathering footage for us all the time.”

Friedberg claims 411 avoids playing favorites with its biggest advertisers, a practice print magazines are occasionally accused of supporting. “When I first started editing the skateboarding footage, I knew I had to establish a clean line on what footage to use and be able to maintain that line issue after issue. The result was, ?If it’s good, it goes in.’ It’s simple but effective. It frees us to edit the best footage, regardless of who advertises. I think advertisers actually appreciate the bias-free approach. They know their riders will be getting coverage based on merit, and don’t have to worry about any of the behind-the-scenes B.S.”

Entering the surfing market, Friedberg says the biggest challenge is differentiating 411‘s magazine format from the dozens of other company- and independently-produced videos stuffed into surf-shop shelves.”We want to make sure people keep coming back to 411 for every issue, and get them hooked on the link to surfing we provide.”If their success in the skate arena is any indication, 411’s video surfing magazine should fit right in. In a 2001 Giant Distribution survey asking 5,000 consumers to name their favorite skate magazine (neither print nor video was specified), 411VM Skateboard came in third behind TransWorld SKATEboarding and <Thrasher.