An ad can readily provide a snapshot of surfing history. Not only does it tell us what we were riding and wearing or what hairstyle was popular, but the subtext also delivers an insight into the values and ideals, which permeated the subculture at any given moment. Was it a time dominated by brazen individualism and ostentatious self-expression or was it a period of risk adverse, straight-faced minimalism? Surfing’s economy of cool is a fickle beast and there’s no better place to study the volatilities of what’s in and what’s not than in the evolving subject matter of ad campaigns.

Once a month Tracks will be taking a year-by-year look at the most interesting ads to have appeared in the mag since 1970.

In this first instalment it’s clear the first year of advertising space in Tracks was dominated by shapers looking to win customers and kudos via the new irreverent rag that seemed to capture surfing’s counter-culture zeitgeist.

Although certain ads are more stoic in their tone, most shapers appear intent on being a little risqué or slapstick in order to grab the attention of readers. The guy having the most fun is of course Shane Stedman, father of former WCT surfer Luke Stedman. The gallery includes an image of a plug and also a corresponding shot from the same issue of Shane sitting in a bathtub. The story goes that Stedman had been promised a plug in the mag by then co-editor John Witzig. When Witzig failed to deliver on time Stedman complained. Witzig responded by giving him exactly what he wanted – a plug in the mag.

A huge thanks to Tracks archivist, Ray Henderson, who provided the scans.