History of the Skindivers Magazine

In February of 1951 the Underwater Spear Fishermen’s Association (USFA) produced its first magazine, “Spearfishing News”. With USFA secretary Jim Ferguson as editor this publication consisted initially of 6 typewritten pages. Produced monthly it contained hints on spearfishing and equipment, information on rules, monthly and committee meetings, clubs, trophies and a Man of the Month section.

Spearfishing News continued being produced by the committee every month until September of 1952 when it first appeared as a commercial publication of 24 A5 pages. After the first 2 issues Jim Ferguson wasn’t happy with the new format and reverted to a roneo’d publication for the November issue.

At the November committee meeting of the USFA Jim Ferguson was requested to outline his plan for the future of the magazine. As the committee wished to continue with a commercially printed publication Jim Ferguson resigned and a magazine committee consisting of Edward Du Cros (Editor), Keith Vagg (Associate Editor ) and Jeff Jackson (Advertising) was elected with their first issue being in December of 1952 and with a cover price of one shilling.

In July of 1953 the magazine finances were investigated and found to be chaotic. Over a period of 8 issues the magazine had suffered an average loss of 52 pounds per issue with the June issue recording the largest loss of 76 pounds with a net cost of One shilling five and a half pence per issue. It was recommended that the sale of magazines to shops at 9 pence each be discontinued. It was also recommended that drastic measures be taken to remedy the losses immediately as the financial future of the association was in jeopardy.

In September of 1953 Secretary Dick Barton reported on the reaching of satisfactory financial arrangements and the production of the September issue with a name change to the Australian Skin Diving & Spearfishing Digest and in November of 1953 Keith Vagg took the reins of Editor.

Producing the magazine continued to be a struggle and in July of 1954 the production and Editorial role for the magazine passed to Phil Knightly. Unfortunately this did not work out and in November of 1954 he was replaced with Richard Dreyfus, who worked in the Mirror office. Richard Dreyfus was empowered to produce the magazine on the USFA’s behalf on the same conditions as agreed to with Phil Knightly.

Australian Skindiving and Spearfishing Digest 1958 November
Australian Skindiving and Spearfishing Digest 1958 November

By January of 1955 it was reported that the handling of the magazine was unsatisfactory and the services of Mr. Dreyfus were dispensed with. An endeavour will be made to obtain the services of some other interested person in the spearfishing world. The Feb-March 1955 issue was produced by Dick Barton as temporary editor until September of 1955 when Ray Cooper became the editor. In August of 1956 John Thompson as the USFA’s Business Manager took on the task of producing the magazine,  until October of 1960 when H.R.Smith & Biro with Bob Smith as Editor produced the magazine  for the USFA.

Once again this commercial agreement did not work out and in March of 1961 the USFA again resumed control with a new editor and a new name. With Jack Evans as editor and the title Australian Skindivers magazine production ran smoothly under his stewardship until he reluctantly relinquished his position as editor due to overseas commitments. Jack Evans last magazine was the June/July 1969 issue.

Australian Skindivers Magazine 1969 - July-August - First cover in colour

John Gillies was then appointed editor with the July/August 1969 his first issue and also a first for the ASM, a coloured front cover. However by July of 1970 a financial storm was gathering. As always finances were very tight and with the production of Australia’s first commercial magazine in the offing, advertisers became reluctant to pay. The USFA was then in the position of not being able to pay the printers for the release of the June/July 1970 issue.

Australian Skindivers 1970 Vol 20 No 6 June,July - Final Edition
Australian Skindivers 1970 Vol 20 No 6 June,July - Final Edition

In July of 1970 Skindiving in Australia hit the newsstands and advertising support for ASM completely dried up. Meanwhile payments owing from advertisers were pursued and several months later enough money was in the kitty for the release and circulation of ASM’s final issue. The irony of the situation was such that if advertisers had met their commitments and paid their accounts on time, ASM would have continued.

I had joined the USFA in 1962 as an 18 year old youth and recall how eagerly I awaited each monthly issue of ASM. With regular contributions by Ben Cropp, Ron & Val Taylor, Wal Gibbins, John Harding and a host of others, I would dream of being able to take part in similar adventures.

In December of 1970 “Fathom” magazine appeared in newsagent’s stands. Produced by Gareth Powell with John Harding as Editor and Roy Bisson in charge of design,  Fathom set new standards in production and design and continued for 10 issues until early 1973.

The USFA continued to pursue its own publications. In 1972 Norm Leibick produced several issues of a USFA Newsletter followed by Bill Suters reverting to the ASM name, producing several typewritten issues with the USFA’s Gestetner printer.

In May of 1974 Merv Sheehan began producing Skindiving News from the Metropolitan Zone and with its adoption by the state became Skindiving News from the NSW Zone with its Jan/Feb. 1979 issue with a name change to The NSW Skindiver with the July/August 1988 issue with the final issue in June 1998.

With Shane Spicer as Publicity Officer several issues of Scale Tales were produced with issue 1 appearing in 1999 and issue 4 in December 2000. Then with Merv Sheehan as Editor and Adrian Wayne supplying the facilities of Waycon Pty. Ltd. The Underwater Fishing and Free Diving Magazine was produced for three issues  between December 2001 and Feb. 2003. In March 2004 Oliver Wady as editor and Adrian Wayne’s staff at Waycon produced Spearfishing, Free Diving and Film Fishing News.

With this issue of “Australian Skindivers Magazine” we enter an exciting new era of production of a news magazine for our membership. With everyone’s help, long may it continue.

We have scanned over fifty editions  of Skindivers Magazines from the 50's and up. If you have one we don't please share it with us.