Matt Niswonger


The reason we exist

Recently I was thinking about the origins of Adventure Sports Journal. Way back in the late 1990s, we were a young outdoorsy couple living in Santa Cruz. We were ambitious and idealistic, and we wanted to make a career in the outdoor recreation industry. So in 2001 we started a free adventure magazine along with our partner Christa Fraser.

Every issue was like a roller coaster. Sometimes we didn’t have enough financial support to cover the cost of printing and distributing the magazine. We would start making phone calls and sending out emails to companies who might be interested in buying advertising space. We weren’t always excited about this, and I dreaded asking companies for money.

Other times we hit stumbling blocks with stories we were putting together. There were desperate attempts to track down last minute photos from photographers who were off the grid and impossible to get ahold of. Sometimes we would have to cancel or postpone articles at the last minute that weren’t edited and polished in time for the printing deadline.

Still, we somehow made it work. Twenty years later here we are putting out issue #124. Right now I’m feeling optimistic about the future of ASJ. People see the value of an old school print adventure mag and they want to see us survive.

We started ASJ because we were smitten with the adventure lifestyle and we wanted to share this lifestyle with readers. That commitment is still what drives us today. Too often I have been tempted to feel discouraged about the business side of publishing when the creative side is the reason we exist.

Reading through the articles in this issue I’m proud of our progress as a publication. Some of our journalists have been contributing high-quality articles to ASJ for well over a decade. Leonie Sherman has been writing for us since the early days of ASJ. In this issue she covers the 30th anniversary of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. In order to research the story she interviewed some of the founders of Save Our Shores, marine biologists, and noted conservationists. She even talked to Leon Panetta, who was instrumental in getting federal protection for Monterey Bay. When people like Leon Panetta will answer our phone calls, it shows how far we have come.

Another story we have covered over the years is women’s big wave surfing and their quest for equal pay. Sachi Cunningham, a San Francisco based surfer, teacher, and award winning filmmaker has been working on her documentary SheChange ever since the first women started competing at Mavericks, the infamous big wave break near Half Moon Bay. We would love to see this project be finished after years of hard work. Check out the interview with Sachi in this issue and please support SheChange if you can.

Another story we are covering, is the quest of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to stop the proposed Sargent Quarry near the border of Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties. The descendants of the Ohlone people who once thrived in this part of California, the Amah Mutsun, need support protecting their cultural heritage and we are helping them spread the word about the damaging effects this quarry would have on a beautiful part of California.

This is part of a larger story of Native Americans in California and Nevada that we are covering. Whether it’s the efforts of the Washoe Tribe to stop the Minden sundown siren, the Yurok Tribe to dismantle dams on the Klamath River, or the Paiute and other Tribes who want investigations into unmarked graves near Indian Boarding schools, over the years we have become immersed in the awful history of colonization in California and Nevada.

While the business side of publishing a magazine has been humbling and frustrating at times, the creativity of what we are doing keeps us going. The late philosopher and psychologist Ram Dass said it best: “If you identify with your soul then you see other people as souls. And souls love one another.”

Adventure Sports Journal is a magazine with soul. We love this journey and we hope you will keep picking us up. Better yet you can support us directly by becoming a member. Check out for ways you can help us stay alive in print.

Thank you for reading my words. I’m always interested in hearing feedback from readers. You can send me an email to or a hand written note to PO Box 35, Santa Cruz CA 95063. See you on the trail!

— Matt Niswonger


Read past Editor’s Notes here


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