Michael Kew - Alumni Profile

Searching for the Perfect Wave & Story

Michael Kew (‘98) might have failed his first journalism class in community college. But he didn’t let that deter him from pursuing his passion—writing.

Instead, he transferred to Humboldt State, where he edited two student publications and majored in journalism, with a minor in creative writing.

Over the past decade, Kew has become a prolific journalist and photographer, travelling to such far-flung locations as Scandinavia and Micronesia to write about his other passion—surfing.

This year, he published his first book “Crossings”—a 480-page, unedited collection of his travel writing from 2001 to 2011.

“I’ve learned a lot about different people and cultures during my travels,” says Kew, who lives near Rincon in Santa Barbara, one of the most coveted surf spots in California. “Hopefully, this book will entertain and educate some people.”

Growing up in Encinitas, Ca., surfing was a regular part of life, Kew recalls. Writing also came naturally. At the age of 12, Kew penned his first magazine, a surf journal called “Open Doors,” that included interviews with friends, fake product advertisements and subscription cards.

In 1996, he transferred to HSU from Santa Barbara City College. Moving from the dry heat of southern California to rainy Humboldt was a welcome change, he recalls.

“Mad River Beach, Big Lagoon, Cape Mendocino, Patrick’s Point—they were all intriguing to me. Even their names were attractive,” Kew recalls. “When I was 20, Humboldt County was as foreign as Africa.”

Between classes in nature writing and advertising copywriting design, Kew edited The Lumberjack and The Osprey. He also surfed at Mad River Beach, biking the 14 miles there and back wearing a wet suit and carrying his surfboard.

“It was a good workout,” he recalls.

Kew’s writing prowess landed him a gig at Surfer Magazine his junior year and immediately after graduating, he worked as the North Coast correspondent for Celebrator, a regional beer news magazine. In 1999, he briefly worked as a staff writer for The Independent, a newspaper in southern Humboldt.

A lucrative writing assignment for a startup company funded Kew’s first trip abroad—to France in 2000. From there, he travelled to Wales, England and Norway. Since then, his writing has taken him to some of the most idyllic surf locations in the world: the Caribbean, Africa, Polynesia, Melanesia and the Pacific Northwest.

His favorite? The Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and Lakshadweep, an archipelago off the southwest coast of India. The Pacific Northwest also holds a particular charm, he says.

“There’s just something about the wilderness of Humboldt County,” he explains. “The rawness of the nature and the organic personality of the people—I want to go back.”

For now, Kew is planning trips to South America, Oceania, Africa and the Indian Ocean. He’s also hoping to expand his portfolio to include more videography and assignments for mainstream publications.

“There’s always this stigma that writers don’t make any money,” Kew says. And it may be true, he concedes. “But I’ve never considered doing anything else. Writing is my passion.”