Seizing the day Winnipeg teen is wasting no time in following his magazine dreams
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/01/2022 (324 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jackson Toone is many things. He is an art director, an advertising co-ordinator and a merchandiser. He is a print supervisor, a staff photographer, an accounts manager, a copywriter, a digital producer, a social media manager and a graphic designer.
He is the editor of one of Winnipeg’s fastest growing and most promising publications — a one-man masthead — and he is only 17 years old.
Toone is the creator of a skateboarding culture magazine called Don’t Waste Time, a project he started in earnest in December 2019, a few months after spotting the phrase sprayed in graffiti underneath a Winnipeg bridge while adding to his personal portfolio of skateboarding and urban photography.
At first, those words — Don’t Waste Time — didn’t mean too much to him. But they stuck.
When he decided to compile his favourite pictures of the year into a short booklet, he had never really heard of a zine — short for magazine, usually self-published — but once he did, he knew exactly what to call his. Any teenager, and any teenage skateboarder, is used to being told to not waste their time on what some authority figures would consider a silly, meaningless pursuit: the title is a subtle middle finger aimed at those who don’t understand.
Any teenager, and any teenage skateboarder, is used to being told to not waste their time on what some authority figures would consider a silly, meaningless pursuit.
Toone explained all this in the corner booth at the Red Top Diner, across the street from his high school, Nelson McIntyre Collegiate. It was September and Toone, who has skateboarded since age 15 and been an avid photographer since before age 10, was excitedly explaining his plans for the upcoming fifth issue of the magazine.
“It’s going to be much more professional,” he said, using terms such as perfect binding, print-run and distribution models. He had a rough idea in his head for issue No. 5 and how to showcase Winnipeg’s underappreciated skateboarding scene for readers here and across the country.
Toone is a natural promoter of the subculture because he is an insider: he’s been hanging around Winnipeg skateparks for four years, mingling with and learning from those around him.
But what sets good editors of any counterculture magazine apart — think the best attributes of Jann Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone, or even Jake Phelps, the former editor of Thrasher, the top skateboarding magazine in the world — is being a little bit of an outsider too. And while Toone loves to skate, the fact that he was always willing to shoot photos of friends and strangers pulling off tricks helped give him a peripheral vision of a highly specific world.
While Toone loves to skate, the fact that he was always willing to shoot photos of friends and strangers pulling off tricks helped give him a peripheral vision of a highly specific world.
“I met him when I was teaching skate lessons (a few years ago) at The Forks, and Jackson was just a kid,” says Fane Smeall, 20, of SK8 Skates, the city’s oldest skateboard shop.
Toone approached Smeall to ask for some pointers, the older skateboarder remembers, and the two became good friends.
“He’s still a kid. He’s literally 17,” say Smeall, laughing. “But he runs a magazine!”
Toone chose Smeall to be on the cover of No. 4 and on No. 5, on which he pulled off a kickflip frontside boardslide on the handrail of the Woodsworth Building on Broadway, which Smeall and Toone both call “Winnipeg’s most famous spot.”
Erik Penton, an up-and-coming amateur skateboarder in Winnipeg, was on an earlier cover, and was shocked to be recognized from the shot in Vancouver last summer.
“I didn’t even know the magazine was in Vancouver,” says Penton, who has a few sponsors, including Emerica, a skateboard apparel company that advertises in Toone’s magazine. “We didn’t know what Jackson was doing got so big.
“It feels awesome, and he’s helped me as much as I’m helping him.” – Erik Penton
“It feels awesome, and he’s helped me as much as I’m helping him,” Penton says. “It started with a kid shooting photos at a skatepark, and now he’s really getting recognized.” (Toone’s magazine has been written up in Canada’s leading skate magazines, SBC Skateboard and King Skate Mag.)
Toone’s prolific output might leave one wondering where he finds the time to do everything, between his part-time job at Kings skate shop and his other hobbies such as snowboarding, not to mention the stresses of teenage life and the responsibilities of school.
For the last two semesters at Nelson Mac, Toone has participated in a project-based learning program called Propel, an innovative alternative studies track in the Louis Riel School Division in which students earn up to four regular high school credits.
Each year, the program receives more than 100 applications from division students, says Patrick Hansen, the Nelson Mac teacher who runs Propel. (The program was the brainchild of former LRSD superintendent Irene Nordheim.)
Hansen remembers meeting the teen, who showed him the second issue of his zine, of which he’d made 70 copies in June 2020.
“The first thing I remember noticing was his attention to detail,” says Hansen, whose pupil was already using publishing lingo like gutters and margins, even at that nascent point.
After their acceptance into Propel, Hansen works with students to plan a project’s path, and to develop everything from a mission statement to a technical budget proposal.
From then on, Hansen takes on an advisory role, and the students, if successful, manage their projects — such as building a canoe, producing an album, coding and designing a video game — largely independently.
What stood out most to Hansen about Toone was his commitment to the magazine and to the magazine’s titular mantra. “It’s evident in everything he does,” the teacher says. “Sometimes he’s completely overloaded and he’d say, ‘I can’t get my work in on this day.’ But instead of leaving it at that, he says, ‘I will get it to you by this time.’ And he sticks to it.
“Sometimes you have to remind yourself he’s 17. He doesn’t waste time at all.”
He can’t afford to: not with deadlines to get his proofs into the printer, to finalize advertising materials, to edit his photos just right, and to work with the people making the magazine’s merch, including hats, shirts and stickers.
That snowball of deadlines rolled down Toone’s mountain in October and November, and soon enough, he was at Friesens printers in Altona watching 550 copies of his perfectly bound, all-colour fifth issue printed, with Fane Smeall and the Woodsworth Building on the cover, and with a dedication to the late Tyson Hobson, a local skater who died in 2021 at the age of 19.
Soon, the issue would be in more than 30 shops across Canada, the U.S., and Europe, and available for purchase directly from Toone himself.
In the latest issue, Toone’s photography — of skateboarders in motion and at rest, of the city he lives in — is as much straight-documentary as stylish entertainment, and the interviews and features on skaters such as 20-year-old Austin Baran and 18-year-old Bridget Smith bubble with Toone’s combination of fandom and professionalism: it reads, looks and feels as if it were made with passion, wit and skill, a time capsule containing bits and pieces of a city and a culture at a specific moment in time.
It’s about more than skateboarding: it’s about style, friendship, nature, urban joy and glass-half-full optimism, seeing an imperfect world as a perfect playground.
The editor knew the biggest issue yet needed a formidable launch, so he scheduled a release event and skateboarding contest at the Edge, an indoor skatepark off of Main Street, in December. Dozens of skateboarders showed up to compete and celebrate, with Toone satisfied to have pulled it off, and to add event planner to his extensive resumé.
But as soon as the last wheels rolled away, Toone didn’t spend too much time revelling in what the magazine had become: he had to start thinking about issue No. 6.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
A breakdown of Don’t Waste Time’s growth, from December 2019 to December 2021
Issue No. 1: 30 copies printed (20 pages long, black and white)
Issue No. 2: 70 copies printed
Issue No. 3: 290 copies printed
Issue No. 4: 425 copies printed
Issue No. 5: 550 copies printed (80 pages, not including cover and back cover, all colour), retailing for $15