Salted offers female surfers a place to shine

In an age when women's-specific surf media has declined, a new magazine, Salted, (created by the folks from Surfer Magazine) aims to create a place in print for female surfing to shine.

GrindTV spoke with the creative force behind the magazine, editor Janna Irons, about why the changing face of women's surfing makes today the perfect time for Salted, whose second ever issue is on newsstands now.

Janna Irons and Monyca Byrne-Wickey
Janna Irons and free surfer Monyca Byrne-Wickey

What was the impetus behind Salted?

At Surfer, we’ve talked a lot about the scarcity of female surf content in our magazine—as well as the rest of surf media. But basically it comes down to the nature of the medium and the nature of the sport. Given the hundreds of A+ (male) images we received each month, and the limited space in the mag, it follows that the majority of our issues are filled with guys. That being said, we know that there is an audience for female content and for a while now, we’ve wanted to create a place for it. Last year, in particular, we received a ton of great images of girls from recent trips and there just wasn’t room to give them the space they deserved in Surfer. We figured it was as good a time as any to make a special girls issue. We received a lot of positive feedback about the idea, and decided to give it its own name, with hopes that it would become something more than a once-off.

Cassia Meador; photo courtesy of Dominique Daher
Cassia Meador; photo courtesy of Dominique Daher

What's your background? I know you are related to the famous Irons surfing family. How did you become editor of Salted?

I grew up in a big family of surfers. Basically everyone on both sides of my family surfs. My dad and his six brothers were all stand-out surfers in the ’60s and ’70s. Most of them live in Hanalei, Kauai, so I grew up surfing with them and all my cousins. When I was young, [my cousins] Bruce and Andy were just starting to get international attention, along with all the other amazing surfers to come out of Hanalei—Roy Powers and Dustin Barca and Keala Kennelly and Reef McinCtosh…the list goes on—so it was a pretty ideal community to grow up in.

I moved to Santa Barbara, California, to go to college when I was 18. I’ve surfed my whole life, and during my senior year at UC Santa Barbara, I interned at Surfer. I was hired on as copy editor soon after graduation. I’ve since moved up, and am currently Surfer’s managing editor. As the only female on staff, it seemed appropriate that I spearhead our idea to create a girls mag. Our editor, Brendon Thomas, was really behind it from the beginning, and managed to convince the powers that be to let us make it happen.

Suiting up in Iceland; photo courtesy of Martens
Suiting up in Iceland; photo courtesy of Emmy Martens

What should we look forward to in the new issue?

For the second issue, we wanted to really show how broad female surfing is, so we included features that span all ages, locations, and sectors of the surf world. There’s a profile on one of the most progressive female surfers on the planet, Malia Manuel, as well as one on one of the greatest female surfers of all time, Lisa Andersen. There are trips to Iceland, China, and Mexico, and a massive photo feature of beautiful images from all over the globe. We also included a feature on the best female big-wave surfers, where they discuss the dangers and motivations for surfing massive waves. Plus, we threw in a short fashion feature, an op-ed, and a collection of smaller features on interesting characters in the surf world. There really is a ton of great content in the issue that I’m super excited about.

Lisa Anderson; photo courtesy of O'Neill
Lisa Anderson; photo courtesy of O’Neill

Women’s surf media is a bit of a shrinking industry at the moment. Where does Salted fit into the mix, and how does it plan to thrive or at least stay on shelves?

When I was growing up, there were multiple female surf magazines and tons of girls surf movies coming out … there was even a surf girls show on MTV. And I think that’s just a reflection of the entire economy at the time and the health of the surf industry. There’s less money circling the surf world now, and the women’s side has felt the effects. I don’t think the demand for female content has ever decreased; in fact, there are more female surfers and female surfing fans now than ever before. For a while now, there just hasn’t been a place to see all the all great trips and sessions that are happening around the world. And Salted is able to provide that, and because it’s made by the editors of Surfer—the oldest and best surf magazine—it also has the legitimacy and “core-ness” that’s missing in the market. There’s no doubt there’s an audience for it, so the future will simply depend on the continued support from readers and the surf industry. Luckily, our first issue was well-received by the surf brands and fans, so hopefully we can keep that rolling.

Maya Gabeira; photo courtesy of Fred Pompermayer
Maya Gabeira; photo courtesy of Fred Pompermayer

What are some of the most exciting aspects about the state of women’s surfing today, and how has it changed over the last decade?

There’s a lot of diversity in women’s surfing today—both in the personalities of the girls and the different interests they have, be it riding different boards, or hobbies outside of surfing, or style. The other great thing about surfing today is that the women’s tour ends in July, which initially doesn’t seem ideal, but it’s actually pretty great—the girls can spend the first half of the year focused on competition and the second half going on trips, shooting photos, and just enjoying other things. The result is better surfing on tour because the girls are more energized, and we get to see more of the girls because they spend their off-season chasing great waves. And now, with Salted, there’s a place to display all that (on big, glossy pages!).