Welcome to Looking Sideways. A space to examine life through the lens of surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding.

When I (that’s me above in the dim, distant pre-Covid era) began the Looking Sideways Action Sports Podcast back in 2017, I described it as ‘a podcast about action sports and other related endeavours’. I know everybody says this, but I genuinely had no expectations beyond the hope that a few people might listen to it and enjoy it.

Today, much to my ongoing surprise and delight, it has grown into quite a lot more than this.

Sure, it’s still basically a podcast presented by a middle-aged white man called Matt (lol) and, latterly, a newsletter (double lol).

But as another listener said recently (I’m very lucky to get a lot of messages from listeners) “…your platform is so very far from the usual action sports angle. It’s really the lens we’re using to look at life”. 

So what is Looking Sideways today?

I’ve come to realise it’s actually a few things:

1. A podcast

Interviewing Jon Weaver, Oregon, November 2019. Photo: Owen

As I often joke on the show, Looking Sideways the podcast has evolved into ‘a life’s work’. I began the thing with the idea that it might be a fun idea to start a podcast where I interviewed people from these worlds with interesting stories. Five years, over 200 episodes, and millions of downloads later, I’ve realised that the number of stories out there really is endless and that I’m only just getting started. Which is simultaneously daunting and exciting. Anyway, the podcast is still the basis of this entire thing.

You can find the entire back catalogue of over 200 episodes on my Podcast page here.

2. A community

Interviewing Chris Burkard, Stockholm, August 2022. Photo: Owen

The community that has developed around Looking Sideways, where people passionate about similar things can geek the fook out, is something I REALLY didn’t see coming, and is one of the best bits about it for me.

It turns out there are a LOT of people out there who are happy to reflectively discuss all things surf, skate and snow, who have been woefully under-served by the media that is out there, and who – yep – see these pursuits as a way of living a more fulfilling life.

When I realised that this passionate constituency was out there, I did what everybody in my position does; I tried to cultivate this community across every platform I could think of: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, as well as my old school Mailchimp-style newsletter.

This proved to be a) impossible, given I also have a job and b) not great for my mental health. Mainly because my feeds on FB and Twitter, in particular, tended to be full of furious people arguing about politics, Covid, vaccines and football; to the point that I occasionally caught myself conducting imaginary arguments in my own head with people I’d never met. Which didn’t seem like that great an idea.

Tim, Christa, Kepa, Sage and me, Hossegor, June 2022. Photo: Owen

So I got rid of FB, then Twitter. YouTube is still out there, mainly because I set it up when I had a lot of time on my hands during that weird old summer of 2020, but I rarely update it and am on the point of binning that off as well. (I’m still on LinkedIn, weirdly, which is where I tend to conduct most of my imaginary arguments these days).

I’m only really active on Instagram, which up to now has been the main home for the Looking Sideways community, perhaps because my little corner of that particular hellsite seems to still be quite respectful.

But I’ve been enjoying Substack more and more, and in summer 2021 I decided to move my entire newsletter to the platform, followed in summer 2022 by the actual podcast itself.

Why? Because it feels like a genuinely good home for that community, an ad and algorithm-free space where nuance, ideas and writing are valued. Plus, it seems to provide a neat solution to the getting paid conundrum, which I’ll get to in a second.

3. A place to share knowledge and ideas

Me and Demi Taylor. Photo: Owen

This is definitely my favourite part of the way the show and community has developed. Why? Because like anything in life, action sports are as deep or as fluffy as you want to make them. And whether it has been Jamie Thomas discussing his midlife crisis, or astronaut Christina Koch discussing how she took picture of surf spots from space to stay sane while spending a year aboard the International Space Station, the directions my conversations with guests have taken has surprised me as much as it seems to have struck a chord with listeners.

And I realised: this exchange of knowledge and ideas is basically what the podcast is ‘about’, as much as it is literally the act of interviewing people with interesting stories.

This was a bit of a revelation, because I’ve always loved sharing ideas and information with other people. (It has long done my friends’ heads in, unless I’m on their team when we’re playing Trivial Pursuit).

And this is why the podcast and newsletter, especially since I moved my newsletter to Substack, have evolved into places where I can shamelessly, self-indulgently explore ideas; share knowledge, and generally be that annoying person who is constantly recommending different things to people while tapping up guests, listeners and anybody else for their own insights.

How it works

Me with David Carson, September 2019. Photo: Owen

In January 2023, after 6 years of absolutely everything Looking Sideways-related being free and ad-free, I made the decision to switch on paid Substack subscriptions. Here’s a run-down of how it’s going to work:

Free subscribers

All my regular podcast episodes are free, as they’ve always been. These go out fortnightly. And my regular 10 Things round up email, which goes out every Friday, is still free.

All subscribers also get access to my HKC Discount Club, where I’ve partnered with brands such as Finisterre, The Wave, Patagonia, Stance, Db, Vivo, Albion and Goodrays.

Paid subscribers

Paid subscribers will get more. Much more. They’ll get all the podcasts and the weekly 10 Things. But they’ll also get access to the full archive, my articles and my guest articles from the best writers in the industry, like Chas Smith, Chris Nelson and Lyndsay McLaren.

In addition, they’ll also get access to special bonus episodes AND the chance to win prizes from my partners (Finisterre, Patagonia, Db, Yeti, Goodrays and Danner, for example) by commenting on the Open Threads I publish regularly.

Other people on Substack offer all sorts to paid subscribers, such as personal Zoom specials, exclusive live q&as etc etc. I might end up doing this, but for now I want to be realistic about what I can sustain, and I also think I put so much stuff out as it is that it’s already a pretty good deal.

How much is it, and why should I pay?

Monthly subscriptions will cost about £7 a month – the price of a pint of Guinness in central London, or two flat whites from a posh coffee shop.

Why should you pay? Good question. And to be honest, not really knowing the answer to this question put me off doing this for a while (God, I’m so British).

But then I realised – paying is just a way of supporting the whole thing while also helping to pay for the free stuff and enabling me to pay my contributors. As a colleague on here who went paid a while back said to me, “I thought people would subscribe for the specifics. Turns out most people who subscribe just like what I do and want to support me”.

If you’ve read this far, here’s a 10% off code to say thanks and to encourage you to swap those two flat whites for the chance to support Looking Sideways and the wider community.

Can I pitch an article for Looking Sideways

Please do! I’m passionate about helping other people find their way into the industry, and helping other people develop their voice. I’m also painfully aware that there are so few platforms out there these days that anybody trying to get into the industry has very few options. If you have an idea, have a look at My Articles and my Guest Articles to see the type of thing I publish, and then email me at matt (at) all conditions media dot com. I pay for submissions, as you might expect if you’ve read this Open Thread.

Who am I?

Me and Peg, Watergate Bay, September 2022. Photo: Boog

I am a writer, journalist, author, editor, podcaster, publisher and business owner who has been working in action sports media and communications since the mid-1990s.

In 1995, I had my first story published in Whitelines Snowboarding Magazine. In 1997, I joined the editorial team full time, eventually becoming Editor. At the same time, I established a career as a freelance journalist and columnist writing about action sports for everybody from the Times to Transworld Snowboarding.

In 2005, I co-founded marketing agency All Conditions Media. Today we run strategic marketing communications campaigns for the best loved-brands in the outdoor, action sports and adventure travel industries, such as adidas, Arc’teryx, Brompton, Danner, Db, Finisterre, Gore-Tex, H&M and Yeti. Click here for more.

In 2017, I set up the Looking Sideways Action Sports podcast. Over 200 episodes later it is one of the most respected and popular action sports podcasts in the world, loved by hundreds of thousands of loyal listeners.

In 2019, I collaborated with Patagonia to launch the Type 2 podcast, through which I explore issues of activism in action sports and the outdoors. That show ran for 30 episodes.

Me and the rest of the Natural Selection announcing team, January 2022. 

In my spare time, I still work as a journalist and editor. I am a contributor to Wired, The Snowboard Journal, Pleasure, Huck, Metro, the Telegraph and Sidetracked; a columnist for Whitelines; and was Editor of independent snowboarding publication Curator for its brief run.

In 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023, I was asked to be part of the five-person Selection Committee for Natural Selection, helping to choose the riders and shape one of the key events in snowboarding history. In Jan 2022, I was part of the broadcast commentary team in Jackson Hole.

Interviewing Chris Nelson and Lewis Arnold about their film The Big Sea at the London Surf Film Festival, November 2022. 

In autumn 2021 and 2022, I was asked to be a member of the jury for the tenth anniversary edition of the London Surf Film Festival. In 2023, I was the official media partner.

In 2021-22, I was part of the cross-industry group that helped establish Opening Up The Outdoors, the initiative aiming to increase equity and diversity in the outdoor industry.

I’m currently working on a podcast documentary called The Announcement about Yvon Chouniard’s decision to give away Patagonia, which is due for release in spring 2024.

I’ve basically always tried to tell interesting and honest stories about the cultures that have embellished my life for three decades now.