Australian Skydiver magazine has been meeting the needs of jumpers for 45 years. It was born in Queensland, grew up in South Australia and has flourished in maturity back in Queensland.
Producing Australia’s skydiving publications has always been a labour of love for those doing the editing and publishing. But in the 1960s, when our sport was born, the emphasis was very much on the “labour”. It was before email, before the web – personal computers weren’t on the technological horizon as Australia’s first skydivers taught themselves to fall stable and land in the same paddock as the target. Desktop publishing? Not even a distant dream and digital photography was just a wild fantasy. Electric typewriters were still to make it into the mainstream when Australia’s first skydiving publication was launched.
Back in the 1960s and 70s, the skydiving community was very small and widespread. But it had the same hunger for news and information about the sport – new gear, new techniques, competition results, gossip and photos – as every generation since.
That early challenge was met by jumpers themselves, with no financial support from the APF or anyone else for that matter – and we used stone-age tools, in comparison to today’s technology.
The magazine’s first appearances were under the masthead of the “Northern Star Digest”, published by the Northern Star School of Parachuting, based at Archerfield airport near Brisbane. It first came out around the beginning of 1965. This was no slick, four-colour, coffee table affair. It was a basic as it gets – 28 pages of A4, printed on one side of the sheet only by Gestetner machine, an archaic, low-cost office printing press (a forerunner of the photocopier) that worked by forcing ink through a stencil onto paper.
Within 12 months the “Northern Star Digest” had morphed into “Australian Skydiver”, edited and produced by Murray Cosson (E15). It was still a rudimentary production (no photos, no colour) and even the date of the edition was hand-written onto the plain black and white pre-printed cover which enclosed the hand-stapled document. Murray’s editorial column in July 1966 noted that the edition had actually been put together by Trevor Burns, who was taking over from then on. The magazine now moved to SA, where it stayed for the next 10 years.
Constrained for resources as ASM was in those days, one of its ambitious aims was to “print news of activities in all States, New Zealand, Malaysia and South East Asia.” It was a big task for a one-man band but it was tackled with a volunteer enthusiasm and generosity not much seen these days.
In mid 1970, ASM finally went to offset printing, opening up the possibility of photos on every page. It was still a black-and-white only affair on the inside pages but the covers varied in colour from issue to issue, appearing in duotones from shocking pink or basic blue to dashing green. The move also allowed impressive centrespread photo layouts for the first time.
Producing ASM regularly and single handedly is a big task and for anyone holding down a fulltime job at the same time, there were bound to be hiccups. Within a couple of issues Trev decided to move on, taking a new job interstate and handed the magazine over to Steve Swann, who enjoyed his role as Editor through much of the 70s.
By 1976 pressure of everyday work and the need to devote more voluntary time to student training in our own club (the SASPC), meant Bernie and I, who had recently gained our senior instructor ratings, reluctantly decided to pass the magazine on.
Claude Gillard, who’s company Southern Cross Parachutes had been underwriting the publication’s costs since Trev Burns had moved on, bravely cranked out an edition or two before the magazine finally moved back to Queensland under the stewardship of Dave McEvoy in late 1976 and it hasn’t looked back since!
Dave was guest editor for one issue of ASM, which got him started on the idea of his magazine "Rambling On" because when ASM fell over he asked at Board level for the APF to take it on. The APF weren't interested and suggested he "do it himself". So he did. From 1978 to 2000, Dave produced over 100 issues. He took the mag from Gestetner to offset printing to glossy coffee table magazine.
The love job was extended through to daughter Susie who helped a lot from 1996 t0 2000. She saw the need to combine the essence of Rambling On with the technical and safety messages of the APF and took her ideas of the new ASM to the Board. Issue 1 hit the streets in June 2000 as a 64 page gloss magazine with substance. 10 years later, Issue 50 was distributed to thousands of APF members, thousands to newsagencies around Australia and posted online on this new site.