Travis Ferre - What Youth

Travis Ferre is the Co-Founder/Editor/Publisher at What Youth; A group of creative minds who document 'youth on the run with a surfboard' through films, a quarterly magazine, and daily goodness on Travis tells us all about the What Youth philosophy and how it was born, his time as Editor-in-Chief at Surfing Magazine, and chasing Japanese typhoon swells with Dane Reynolds, Kolohe Andino, Conner Coffin and Yadin Nicol. 

When and where did you start surfing?
I started surfing 18 years ago in Huntington Beach. My dad would take me surfing on the weekends and sometimes before school (but we’d always get back too late). From there organized sports I was playing began dropping off my schedule until it was only surfing, every day, all day. I met all my current friends surfing. At school we became incredible at judging the movements on the flags at school and predicting what conditions would be like that afternoon after school, hitching rides from parents to the beach and then surviving on crackers and snacks while harassing bikers while waiting for our moms to pick us up after surfing for 5 hours. Best memories of that part of surfing. Discovering all the aspects outside of the actual riding of waves that go along with it.

What do you love about surfing?
Like I said, I love a lot of the things that surround the actual activity. I love surf trips. I love the drive to the beach. The coffee. The parking lot. The music in the car ride there. Checking the surf. The random and endless conversations about surfboards. The banter. The surf shop. The groms. The smell of wax. The old dudes. Campfires. Camping. The fact that we’re cursed whenever we see the ocean and beach and how much it still stops us in our tracks when it’s glassy. I love all that. I love walking through an airport with a board bag. I love the feeling you have after you surf. And I love that we have to constantly monitor the waves. And how ridiculous we all get about it. It’s the best. I also love doing anything but surf sometimes. I love that there are so many varieties of “surfers” these days. The act is probably the greatest cherry on the top in all of humanity. Love it. 

Do you have a session that stands out as your most memorable?
Definitely chasing and finding a typhoon swell in Japan on a trip with Dane Reynolds, Kolohe Andino, Conner Coffin and Yadin Nicol — after being stuck in the same typhoon the day before. We got a call the day after a typhoon had trapped us in a hotel, lighting fireworks, giving haircuts and writing Haikus that a spot 5 hours away could be good. As you do, we gambled and went for it. We drove it, nervous about getting skunked for hours. I debated with Kolohe Andino about the actual significance to getting “the wave of your life” the entire way there…then I may have gotten it that same day and validated his enthusiasm. We found a flawless sandbar, in Japan, after days of hunting and failing and having a blast and it was pretty much just us. Then we ate Yakiniku and celebrated and drove home for 5 hours amped. It was a memorable trip, a memorable day and all led to a memorable wave. That’s the best. Kolohe was right. 

What kind of education have you had?
I have a degree. It’s in English Literature from San Diego State University. I got that in between traveling to Chile, Australia, Indo and the Caribbean, working at surf shops and surfing contests and watching surf movies. I’m not sure what significance it’s played other than putting me where I needed to be to start my career path. I met the guy who got me an internship at Surfing Magazine in my Shakespeare class. But I suppose I can analyze the shit out of a Faulkner novel. I’ll find that useful one of these days.

What was your first ever job?
My first job was sweeping up and cleaning up at a surfboard glass shop. It was a dirty, sticky mess. Resin-covered balls of tape. Porno mags on the toilet. Grumpy glassers. It was awesome. The guys talked shit, did their work, drank beer, complained, told stories. It was the real deal. Good experience for sure. From there I graduated to working at HSS, the big surf shop in Huntington Beach, which was good place to start learning how the whole industry worked — or how much fun everyone in it had. That was always a draw. The surf industry has more fun than most tech firms. Or we used to. Not sure if that’s the case anymore, and it’s probably the single most debilitating factor as we struggle to climb out of the economic gutter. But there are signs of life.

Can you tell us a little bit about the philosophy behind What Youth and how you guys got started?
The short of it is, we wanted to do something that represented more of what we saw. Less formulaic. More abstract than what I was doing at the traditional mag. Partnering with Kai gave us a strong video leader and the ability to work on films, which are a huge part of it. We wanted to be a new kind of media. We wanted to entertain in the modern climate. Inspire. Educate. Show kids all the rad shit we’ve learned on the road surfing and living, suggest and then let them experience all the fun we have. We do the website, which on one hand is a journal or scrapbook of our travels and stories and experiences, and then on the other hand is a high-quality network of shows and films. We’re really inspired by Vice and the way they’ve maintained their voice while expanding into the mainstream channels. We want to be open to anything interesting and not be limited by surfing. We all start there, but we love what a lot of cultures are up to and we’ll never shy away from that and letting it infiltrate into our culture. 

You were Editor in chief at Surfing Mag, what did you take away from your time there?
I had the opportunity to spend 8 years at Surfing Magazine. I went from intern to Editor in Chief in those years and all had a stint at all the positions in their along the way. I worked under some greats of the game like Evan Slater, Steve Sherman, Andre Aganza (art director) and learned an incredible amount in that time. It gave me everything. But it was the attitude that made Surfing Magazine stand out from its competitors — being the punk, the innovator the one willing to change and push things — that ultimately inspired me to leave. That and some corporate walls that make progress too slow for my liking. But I absolutely cherish my time there. 

What kinds of things influence the work you do?
I really like dark, loud bars with bands playing. I like silent nights in reading novels. Magazine culture is the best because you can honestly be influenced and inspired by so much and that’s why I love it. I love bringing outside influences into our magazine and site. And into surfing in general. There is so much creativity happening everywhere, and being able to work with a subculture as rad as surfing, you get the opportunity o be exposed to as much of it as you’re willing to pursue. But my every day inspirations are usually musical and literary. I adore a bunch of madmen and women when you get down to it.

How did you get into the position you are in today?
It’s all a combination of luck, hard work, mostly persistence and maybe a little bit of skill (but not much). At the end of the day, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I have millions of other interests that I like to pursue and enjoy from time to time, but it all comes from or is geared back towards surfing. I love it so much and really do want the best for it and want to continue to challenge myself and the culture of surfing forever. 

Where do you see yourself and What Youth in 10 years?
Hopefully watching a new generation take some things we’ve done and putting their own spin on it. Whatever that may be. Still surfing. Still traveling. Still curious. What else is there?  

Where can we find you online? 


Posted by: Matthew Ryan, on July 14, 2014
Categories: Interviews