An Insider’s History of the Surf Industry; Good Reading!

Part of my weekend was spent reading Phil Jarratt’s excellent book, Salts and Suits; How a bunch of surf bums created a multi-billion dollar industry…and almost lost it. Phil has worked in surf publishing and the surf industry for more than 35 years, including five years as the head of marketing in Europe for Quiksilver. He seems to know and have talked to everybody in the industry over a period of years, but just got around to putting it all together in this book, published in Australia around April of this year.

It’s very Australia centric, though anybody in the industry will know of or have met many of the individuals who figure prominently in it. It has not been released in the U.S. and you can’t, to my amazement, buy it at Amazon. However, it looks like you can order it from Australia and here’s one link where you can get it.

The sense of history and the perspective it gives you on the origins and evolution of the surf industry is very valuable. And the stories of how our most respected industry players got into the business, along with descriptions of some of their antics and foibles is a lot of fun to read.
It also reminds you that for all the changes, some things just haven’t changed. Here’s a quote from the author’s 2005 interview with Duke Boyd who, in 1960, was trying to sell some early board shorts.

Most of the surf shops sold boards and wax, and that was about it. I knocked on Dewey Weber’s door twenty times before he’d talk to me, and then he goes, ‘Okay, I’ll take them, but only white and only in my size, in case they don’t sell.’ Then one day I had a coffee with the guy at Hobie’s and I told him my trunks would make him forty percent of the sale price. I asked him how much he made off of a surfboard sale. It was half that, and the boards were taking up all the space! He got that, and soon all the guys started to realize that trunks would pay the rent.

So it seems that the issue of margin on hard goods goes back at least fifty years.
The hardest thing for me was not skipping to the end of the book where the Quiksilver’s hiring of Bernard Mariette, the Rossignol deal, and its aftermath are described in, if not as much detail as I would have liked, more than I’ve seen anywhere else.
Anyway the book is fun, evocative, entertaining, and educational and I hope Phil Jarratt brings it out in the U.S. soon.
Maybe I should offer to be his distributor. 



4 replies
  1. Yves Van den Meerssche
    Yves Van den Meerssche says:

    Aloha Jeff, took me about 2 seconds to decide if I wanted to order a copy, so I just did, not cheap, shipping cost was more then the book and I’ll have to wait untill I’m back in Europe to read it … they didn’t want to ship to J-Bay … the cover looks so ugly but you know what they say about that … thanks for the tip !!! Pura Vida, Yves

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