Life of Brine

Phil Jarratt was a self-confessed spoiled brat, but as Helen Flanagan discovered, with salt in his veins, pen in hand and a witty mindset, life turned into an adventure.

by @JohnCaruso on Wednesday, 07 Dec, 2016

On the south coast of New South Wales, the youngest Jarratt kid was spoiled rotten and given everything, even a surfboard for his 12th birthday. At school the teen wrote pieces for surf mags and at theSydney Morning Herald he completed a journalism cadetship in the hope of one day editing a surf mag.

“Which in my eyes meant surfing all day every day in exotic locations while beautiful women threw themselves at me,” recalled optimistic Phil, who became editor ofTracks and more or less lived the dream.

“I lived at Whale Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches Peninsula, fell in love, [with Jackie], had a kid, got married (in that order); had another kid, drifted back into mainstream journalism to pay the mortgage, then sports TV. Wrote my first book,The Wave Game in 1977 and churned out a bunch of them (mostly biographies) in the 80s and 90s.”

In 1972 Phil followed his surfing mates from Torquay and along the eastern seaboard, better known as the denim trail, to Noosa. It was love at first sight, so much so that when offered a job as the Queensland correspondent forThe Bulletin, up went his hand and the family upped stumps to Cooroy.

“I commuted by train to Brisbane’s Parliament House, when necessary, became mates with Gossy and Swanny but not Krudd, who no one liked,” Phil said. “I was approached by Matthew Rees Jones to help him launchNoosa Tatler, which became Noosa Blue, which became the family business for a decade.

“Great way to be part of the community and make lasting friends! Along the way we started the Noosa Festival of Surfing in 1998, still run by the family. While runningNoosa Blue’s stable of mags and books, I wrote the bestselling Mr Sunset about Jeff Hakman, one of the founders of Quiksilver, which led to an offer of marketing head ofQuiksilver Emagazine. Left the wife and kids to wind up the Blue Group and bolted. Spent seven challenging but wonderful years based in France and later California.”

Men of Wood and Foam, was a project about the surfboard building pioneers of Brookvale and a pitch was developed to tell their story in film, said Phil.

“I was friendly with Noosa’s Bill Wallace and I could see that if someone didn’t tell their stories soon, they wouldn’t be around to help. Funding from all the old mates in the surfwear industry failed and finally, over lunch at Sails, Foxtel’s Brian Walsh (another old mate who’d once done work experience at Tracks) agreed.”

Featuring in-depth interviews with all members of The Brookvale Six: Gordon Woods, Bill Wallace, Scott Dillon, Danny Keogh, Greg McDonagh and Barry Bennett; leading surfers including Layne Beachley, Nat Young and the late Midget Farrelly; famous faces from the time including Patricia ‘Little Pattie’ Amphlett, as well as rare archival surfing footage spanning seven decades, it explores a truly iconic time in Australian sporting and cultural history.

“It’s the most satisfying creative project I’ve ever worked on,” says Phil. But has he found his inner Spielberg?

“Sixty-five is a bit late to be starting a new career, but I have loved the work. WTF! The bowls club and the rocking chair can wait!”

Men of Wood and Foam will premiere exclusively on Foxtel’s HISTORY Channel on 14 December at 7.30pm AEDT.

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