SURF PIONEERS: Gordon Woods, one of the Brookvale crew, (far right) in a 1966 ad for his surf shop.
SURF PIONEERS: Gordon Woods, one of the Brookvale crew, (far right) in a 1966 ad for his surf shop.

Legendary surf writer rides new career wave

THERE'S plenty of talk about 50 being the new 40 and 60 the new 50 etc. But what does that really mean? You still wear cool clothes, you still like rock'n'roll and you're on Facebook?

In the case of vintage journalist/surfer Phil Jarratt, it means the start of a new career at 64 years old.

With 32 books behind him, a history of print editorship and founding the annual Noosa Festival of Surfing, Phil has moved from the small-scale print page and gone to the big screen.

For the man who was editor of Australia's first surfing magazine, Tracks, it's the story he had to tell - the colourful journey of the pioneers of the Australian surfboard industry known affectionately as the Brookvale Six.

"Through the stories of these Aussie pioneers we trace the roots of the modern Australian surfboard, from fine-tuning the toothpick for wave riding in the '40s through to the arrival of the Malibu chip, the development of the Omani in the '50s and the peroxide surf boom of the early '60s," he said.

The Noosa-based author is a daily surfer, but after suffering a series of minor heart attacks and undergoing the insertion of a stint, he is lucky to be alive.

He said he'd been experiencing heart disease symptoms, but ignored them.

"Until then, I thought I was bullet-proof," he said.

He reckons that, like most people his age, he has mellowed.

But just like his health scare, the arrival of this state of mind has also sneaked up on him.

During his early journalist surfing days, he said he took no prisoners.

"When you look back, you wonder how you weren't beaten up behind the pub more often," he said with a smile on his white-whiskered face.


Phil's writing career started with five years at the Sydney Morning Herald.

"It was a great foundation," he said.

From that point on, his career was all about words and waves. Later on, his wife of 40 years and his children entered the equation.

His huge amount of creative work required a lot of production time.

"Yes, I'm a workaholic," he said.

"I work long hours, I work late, but I don't recognise weekends and I work from wherever I am."

He said a trip to Sri Lanka this year was the first time he actually hadn't worked.

"I liked it and might do it again," he said and grinned.

Meanwhile, his biography The Life of Brine, A Surfer's Journey will be out next year. This promises to be a fun and truthful account of an Australian surfing storyteller.

He said the first person he had to check it with was his wife Jackie. After that, a few mates mentioned were allowed to read it.

He's proud of his happy family, including three daughters and four grandchildren, and is glad they are living close by.

He has stepped down from his role in the Noosa Festival of Surfing and his daughters have stepped up.

"The festival numbers are 35% up this year already," he said proudly.

And it's about this time of year he takes a small step back into the festival to support his daughters.

Other than that, life goes on as usual. Except, in deference to his age, he's given up short boards.

"I ride a longboard now," he said.


Jarratt was born in 1951 and raised in Wollongong, starting surfing in 1960.

He's written more than 30 books, a dozen or so that are surf-related, including Salts and Suits, which was shortlisted for the Blake Dawson Prize (business literature).

He was the head of marketing for Quiksilver Europe and a special projects manager for the brand in California.

He's been named one of Australia's 50 most influential surfers by Surfing Life magazine and has been awarded Surfing Australia's Surf Culture Award three times. Phil is also the founder of the Noosa Festival of Surfing, which began in 1998.

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