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Ink Spots

The Dude Behind '43' Skate Magazine Told Us How a Skate Mag Should Be

Crowdfunded, non-profit and made by skaters, it's like a really sophisticated fanzine.
March 17, 2015, 6:10pm

The cover of 43 issue 005. Al Davis doing a kickflip in Montreal, shot by Allen Ying on a GX1000 trip in the Spring of 2014.

If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the space of 30 days. While we've spent over a decade providing you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns out there are many more magazines in the world other than VICE. This series, Ink Spots, is a helpful guide to which of those zines, pamphlets and publications you should be reading when you're not staring at ours.

Unlike the mass of other skate magazines that glorify the celebrity of pro skateboarding and read like a fashion magazine because there are so many ads, 43 is honest and put together for love, not money – a fact that becomes apparent when you flick through its perfectly square, vinyl-sized pages.


Founding editor Allen Ying tells me its name comes from the former name for a frontside no-comply. "This magazine is a 43 on the skateboard world," reads their website, "putting one foot down, turning it around, while continually moving forward." The interviews are also conducted with skaters, by skaters.

We asked Allen to fill us in on why he started 43 ,what his influences are and what's going on in some of his favourite shots.

Left: Alex Olson, shot by Jonathan Mehring, in Downtown Manhattan. Right: Ben Gore ollieing over Leo Valls, shot by Richard Hart. The footage was in Magenta skateboards' O ld Woops New Groove video.

VICE: How did you start 43 magazine?
Allen Ying: Well, it's a pretty long story. I spent a couple of years researching magazines, printing, paper, and over the course of time developed theories and concepts for it, based on my experience as a reader, fan and photographer for other skateboard magazines. Eventually I printed an intro media kit that served as a preview of the magazine, and visited skate companies, which were mostly in California, that I was interested in having advertise. After they were all too broke or scared to be a part of it, when I was ready to give up, I resorted to crowdfunding.

Where do you see it fitting in with other skate magazines?
I see 43 as changing the paradigm of what a skateboard magazine can be. For as long as I've been looking at skateboard magazines, they've all seemed to follow a formula, the logos are big and bold on the cover, then there are tons of ads, short partial-page stories, news, gossip and eventually the main interviews, tour articles and random photo sections, skate art graphics, and then more ads.


This isn't necessarily all bad, and there are functions for certain conventions, but I feel like skate magazines don't really ever question these conventions before committing to them. Skateboarding has taught me to question the status quo, not to be a follower, and not to let money be a leading factor in what you do.

Aaron Herrington smith grind, photo by Allen Ying.

What do you guys do differently?
There's a lot that we either don't or just can't learn from what others do, since we're doing things pretty differently, in terms of independent distribution, plastic-free packaging, as well as, like, not having an office or employees. It's been an interesting experience because I didn't really have to deal directly with as much of the business and commercial side of the skateboard industry before 43, and it's tough because excess commercialisation is the part of skateboarding that 43 stands against.

Can you give me an example?
There was an image of Jake Johnson doing a switch pole jam over a bar in Los Angeles, shot by Jared Sherbert [pictured left below]. We wanted to run the photo in issue 004, but we had issues with too many left page photos. Then, after issue 004 came out, Anthony van Engelen had a Vans ad doing the same thing, which was in countless publications and I think posters.

This is a situation where magazines traditionally might not publish a photo, but while the photo with Anthony was OK, I thought this one looked much gnarlier, and from the guys I asked, Jake did do it first. So we ran it. Jake and Anthony are skaters that really add something special to skateboarding as whole, which can't be said about every pro these days.

Left: Jake Johnson's switch pole jam over a bar in Los Angeles, shot by Jared Sherbert. Right: Victor Garibay doing a front board, shot by Cameron Strand in Los Angeles.

Allen: "This is one of my favourite photos from this issue that I've shot. It's of Al Davis in Montreal again. We saw the spot from the road, and I just really didn't think wallieing off the fence over the gate was that possible. It happened so quick I was quite stressed about whether or not I'd get the photo as good as it should be, especially with Ryan Garshell trying to get film rolling alongside."

What are some of the skate mags you were inspired by?
I still like TWS a lot, even though they are technically the most corporate in ownership. I enjoy the work of their photographers – all the other skate mags are basically just as corporate with who they're promoting and condoning to their readers, but then put out a mediocre product. Seconds magazine in New Zealand doesn't have any ads, which is nice, and Grey and Kingpin in the UK and Europe consistently publish good issues.

What should a good skate magazine do?
It varies from one to another, but generally a good skateboard magazine should showcase impressive skateboarding in a way that translates through the printed page to the viewer. A great skateboard magazine could also attempt to translate the various feelings and thought processes that occur when skateboarding, and share and communicate what's going on in whatever area of skateboarding they're focusing on.

Allen: "This is Jordan Taylor skating a roof, shot by Alex Schmidt. Jordan's gapping to the ledge from the shingled part of the roof. It's very rare that a good submission comes out of the blue, and I don't think Alex Schmidt is like 'a seasoned skateboard photographer' but this photo simply says a lot about the nature of exploration that skateboarding encourages."

Who's some of the best talent you've worked with?
The skateboarders are the most talented individuals involved in 43. If we had the best design, photography, writing, creative direction, it would really be nothing without the skateboarders and the impressive and insane shit they're doing. It seems obvious to me that that would be true, but I feel sometimes people forget that, and try to pass off skating with a nice aesthetic, but that really isn't anything that might expand your mind when you see it.

43 is available from Antenne Books in the UK, as well as Power, else their distribution list ishere

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