Doug Palladini, group publisher for Snowboarder, Surfer, Skateboarder,Powder, Bike, Box, and Gravity magazines, has left Emap Peterson forSwell.com, an Internet startup based in San Francisco, California.

Joining him in the new venture is Evan Slater, who has left theposition of editor at Surfer magazine, and Matt Walker who was recentlyhired by Surfer from Eastern Surf Magazine (ESM). Surfer’s former editorand current consulting editor Steve Hawk has also pulled up stakes forswell.com, which is rumored to be offering top dollar for theseeditorial and publishing talents.

Swell.com CEO Nicholas Nathanson and Palladini were unavailable forcomment, and Hawk declined to go on record about either the new hires orthe plans of Swell.com.

However, rumors around the surf industry predict that swell.com will beeditorially driven but with an e-commerce component that will driverevenues.

An article published by the Orange County Register reports that Hawk will be executive editor, Slater managing editor, and Palladini chief operating officer of the new venture.

So will the talent drain from the action sports industry to dot.com startups continue? It seems likely.

Skip Snead, former Surfing Magazine editor, left for bluetorch.com andSurfer Senior Editor Chris Mauro left for The Den (www.den.net) inDecember. While the defections seem to have hit Surfer magazine hard,the Snowboarder editorial staff is still intact.

But with rumors predicting that the staff behind swell.com will expandinto skateboarding and snowboarding coverage, and with a host of otherWeb sites also promising complete action-sports coverage, the hunt fortalent seems far from over.