On this episode of The UK Surf Show, we were lucky enough to chat to Jim Kempton “surf media royalty” from Surfer Magazine , Quicksilver Crossing, Transworld, Billabong, author and much, much more.
Jim Kempton is the type of guy who we could have done about 8 to 10 episodes on. With a career in the surf industry that has spanned nearly 5 decades, he’s an actual living legend.
Jim chatted to us for over an hour about his whole career in the surf industry as well as his own surfing stories and his ties to the UK that are a lot stronger than you may imagine.
Jim Was Born in Guam and has been surfing since a very young age. His family then moved to California in 1965. Jim tells us his memories of around this time and getting his mum to take him to watch a surf competition, seeing the great names of the time including “Duke”, getting hooked on surfing and how it has guided and changed his life.
Jim then came to England and attended university in Sussex and it was at this point he says his surfing life and path really changed.
Whilst standing in a station waiting for a train in London in 1974, Jim was approached by a guy who asked if he was an American and if what he was wearing was an actual Hawaiian shirt. The guy then paid Jim 50 quid for the shirt which, at the time was a lot of money, and this funded Jim’s surf and travels for quite some time!
On Jim’s return home to the States, he said he went to every thrift shop in California buying up Hawaiian shirts for about 50 cents each then returned to England and funded his surf and travels for the next 4 years by selling the shirts for a healthy profit.
Jim Kempton: Surf Media Legend
After surfing and travelling for 4 years and living the dream, Jim returned to the USA and landed a job at Surfer Magazine, the biggest surfing publication of the time, and quickly became editor and publisher due to his English degree and his unique experience of surf and travel which he goes into a lot more detail on the episode.
After Surfer Magazine, Jim moved on to Transworld Publications and worked as publisher of Snowboard Magazine where he got to again travel all over the world getting ski resorts to open up to snowboards.
After Transworld, it was on to director of Quicksilver Crossing where he was teamed up with Bruce Raymond and a group of people who went off around the world and discovered around 120 new surf spots which had never before been surfed and documented.
Then on to Billabong where he became media director and set up the Billabong Surf Camps – Surf With a Pro.
Jim is also the author of 3 books ‘First We Surf, Then We Eat’, ‘Surfing: The Manual’ and his new book, ‘Women on Waves: A Complete History of Women’s Surfing’.
Jim is currently President of the California Surfing Museum, the manager of the Surfrider Foundation Advisory Board as well as being on the board of directors for Surfing America.
Jim’s Publishers Simon & Schuster