Before You Read ‘Life Of Brine’

Get acquainted with the author: Phil Jarratt

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What I know about…

Surf Writing… There’s no money in it… never was. It used to be that the surfing media was in the hands of a very small number of people who thought that they owned it, but really they were only leasing it. Now everyone is able to self publish on the Net and there’s such a plethora of good material online. I see a diversity of opinion. At the moment there are a few guys masquerading as surf journos who I find unreadable, but then there are many others whose work continues to be solid like Nick Carroll, Tim Baker, I’m a big fan of Sean Doherty and Matt Warshaw’s always very good.

Censorship… During my term at Tracks there was a secretary – or I should say an office assistant – called Mary, who was a very good-looking girl. We had an article contributed by a woman about ‘sexism in surfing’ and in our wisdom, we decided to illustrate this article by getting Mary to pose naked on the beach with a paper bag over her head… this wasn’t received very well by our minority of female readers at all. In those days Tracks had quite a young readership and if the parents picked up the magazine and saw something like that, or stories about glorifying marijuana and cocaine – which we often did – or any of the other outrageous things, they would write letters of protest, and I would more or less cop the flack.

Mythology… It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a story about a weekend surf trip in a surfing magazine. Those stories were very much a part of the mythology of surfing and you particularly don’t see that on the Internet now, because nobody cares. You might see the pictures on Instagram with a couple of pithy lines underneath it but that sort of content doesn’t really exist anymore. Today there’s a lot of examination of why we surf and who we are and what it does… Some of it good and some of it appalling. However, I do think it’s good that people are actually being more adventurous in how and what they write about.

Surf stars now and then…
You hear the argument that ‘they all pop out of the cookie cutter and they all surf the same’ against the WSL in particular, and it’s just demonstrably untrue. We have such diversity in the top echelons of men’s and women’s surfing and plenty of really interesting characters. There are heaps of colourful characters and free thinkers on tour right now. I look at Kelly Slater, who is definitely my surfing hero and see an incredible human being. His focus is insane in all those things at which he excels. He’s somebody who’s in the moment because he’s concentrating and thinking about what he’s doing and yet he’s got so many other things going on in his head. I think it’s very difficult for older surfers like myself to say ‘well back in our day… It’s not like when MP was going around and Terry Fitzgerald and Simon.’ Well, it is actually, and it’s probably intensified somewhat more because there’s a lot more at stake.

Gabriel Medina… I don’t hate Medina. I didn’t really like his style at first but he’s refined it to such a degree that now I think he’s a beautiful surfer to watch. I get touches of Wayne Lynch, sometimes. Medina has really smoothed his whole act out in the surf. And apparently he’s knocked off the rough edges on land too, although the bad guy persona isn’t a bad place to be; at least people pay attention. Think about McEnroe in tennis; he was a bad guy but he was funny and amusing and sensational. I see a bit of that in Medina. A bit of racket smashing, board smashing, turning tables upside down when Julian beat him in Portugal a few years ago. Even though he has probably moved on from all that bad behavior.

Adult Magazines… My career move was propelled by the need for money. There was an offer to join Australian Playboy and I couldn’t really afford to say no. I was never really a Playboy kind of guy – I didn’t really get off on it. If I was getting on a plane and I bought one of those magazines it would be truly for the articles. I’m sure I enjoyed looking at the centrefolds and all that just like everybody else but it wasn’t a concept that interested me greatly. I ended up doing a few years editing both Penthouse and Playboy. The written content in both cases was by and large good journalism, it wasn’t pornographic, so there was no great difference for me. I actually used to write quite a bit about surfing in the men’s magazines.

Jarratt at home today. (Woody Gooch)

Pride… When I read over the stuff which I wrote at certain times during the Tracks period, I was a bit over the top and I could have been more circumspect, but then again that was the persona. ‘I’ was always in the story which is a bit embarrassing to look back on but that’s the way we thought then. As far as injuring relationships through what I’ve written is concerned, yeah, there are a few regrets. When Midget died I regretted that I hadn’t been able to be closer with him, because at times when we were friendly, I found him to be really interesting, amusing, good company, but he had a worldview that wasn’t mine. I was one of many people that he moved away from and he wouldn’t let bygones be bygones. Writing for Tracks was a very big part of it. In fact I wrote one article for The Surfer’s Journal about ten years ago, called ‘The Puzzle of Midget’ in which I managed to offend both Midget and Nat at the same time. For a while neither of them would talk to me.

Indonesia today… I’m a Bali tragic. The reality of it is, even though it’s ridiculously overcrowded and polluted and there’s so many negatives that sometimes I wonder what the hell I’m doing over there… I can’t stop going. I love it, I love the people, I have many friends over there. For me the dream may have been diluted but it’s still alive, that’s for sure.

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