Review: Phil Jarratt on 'Richo, the Terry Richardson Story'

Phil Jarratt
The Depth Test

There was a funny moment at the recent Azores Masters when Joao Valente, a guru of surf publishing in Portugal, nudged me in the ribs as he leafed through my copy of Richo, The Terry Richardson Story.

“Ha ha ha, he says about Simon, ‘for someone who’s spent his life getting wet, Simon is very dry.’ Richo, what a classic!” Richo, who was sitting nearby, entirely focused on mental preparation for an upcoming heat, didn’t bat an eyelid. I wondered, not for the first or the last time in reading his book, whether Richo had said that, or even read it!

But that’s often the way in a ghost-written autobiography, and for all its faults, the important thing here is that first-time ghost Rob Reynolds has managed to capture the spirit and feeling, not just of the battler’s battler, but of his home, his milieu, his era. And a disclosure here: I grew up in the same place, went to primary school with Richo, surfed the same beaches, and although I left town just as he was making a name for himself, I watched his early development with great interest. Likewise, Rob Reynolds’ family and mine were quite close, although I only knew him as a kid.

So don’t expect me to be even-handed about this review. I know and admire Richo, and I know where he’s come from. I can smell the smoke billowing from the Corrimal coke-works on every page.

"You can take the boys out of Wollongong..." Richo and Phil, two of the Gong's favourite surfing sons

Just as he’s done throughout his surfing life, Richo battled to get this book published, and he was lucky to partner with Reynolds, a good writer whose craft is obvious throughout, and whose business acumen was responsible for raising the funds to self-publish. Unfortunately this meant that he was left a bit skinny in parts, having to also edit and do the text design himself, leading almost inevitably to design flaws, pixilated photos, typos and errors of fact.

The last time I criticised a book for that in this forum, I landed a job as a proofreader, so I have to be careful here, but there are too many howlers. Dino Andino instead of Kolohe might be forgiven, seeing as it’s Terry’s generation versus the next, but Brian Farrelly for Bernard may not. Even Richo’s age seems to change with every chapter.

But I doubt that too many readers will notice such nitpicking. They will be too engrossed in the story, which rocks along from humble beginnings in a coalmining family to top 10 to fulfilment in later years as a masters’ world champion, and back again to the coalface. Even when whole chapters are given over to wave by wave recounting of heats, they are saved from the mundane by Reynolds’ undoubted skill as a writer. And while many of the phrases he puts in Terry’s mouth don’t ring entirely true, he has done a superb job of capturing the energy, the spirit and the quiet intensity that make the man tick.

Once I stopped editing as I read, I was along for the whole bumpy ride, from Saturday soccer and stealing milk money, to those early sessions at South Coast Pipe, from the cave at Ulu to the dumb business decisions, and finally from the tragic breakdown of a marriage to redemption in the thundering barrels of Cloudbreak. In Richo, Terry and Rob also paint fascinating portraits of contemporaries, like the ridiculously talented Matt Archbold, the sadly-missed Newcastle Col Smith, and the incredible but largely unknown waterman Alan 'Troy' Williams, who was an idol to all of us growing up.

The subject himself is also often laid bare, with revealing glimpses of his fiercely competitive nature, his love of family and his despair over being an inadequate provider. For those who know Richo for his deep barrels, flowing carves and buckets of spray, these sections will provide a whole new level of understanding and respect.

Richo on the promo trail in the Azores with Sunny (at left) and Layne

In the Azores, Richo hardly said boo until he was knocked out of the comp, then he came springing back to life in the guise of book promoter. And he was good at it! With me tagging along as official photographer, he got every star in the firmament tagged with a book in hand, then crashed the WSL interview space for a clever unpaid commercial.

You’ve gotta love Richo, and I’m sure many people will when they buy a signed book from him as he tours the Australian east coast doing promotions these coming weeks.

'Richo, the Terry Richardson Story' is published by Richo Surfboards Australia and is available at richosurfshop.com.au for $30

Comments

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Wednesday, 3 Oct 2018 at 2:32pm

I sat behind Layne in the plane back from Portugal, surprised I didn't see one in her hands with that photo op above.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Friday, 5 Oct 2018 at 12:28am

I am going to write a story about old surfing bastards. It would make a good play.

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Friday, 5 Oct 2018 at 12:31am

I just said that because I spent over a hundred bucks on Final Draft. They keep on popping off, like a curious vulture. I will pick your eyes out and shit it out elsewhere.

timcosh's picture
timcosh's picture
timcosh commented Friday, 5 Oct 2018 at 8:33pm

Ok Mort

hipsterless's picture
hipsterless's picture
hipsterless commented Sunday, 7 Oct 2018 at 12:02pm

Hey great to see Terry R getting some well deserved recognition, my problems with Mr jarratt, what a b grade journo/ author his game is endless self promotion. Ive actually been hopeful that after pulling the pin on the beloved Noosa festival Of Surfing he might put all his efforts into solving Indos political problems or doing something practical for the Noosa Surfing Reserve apart from a rock and plaque

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Sunday, 7 Oct 2018 at 5:06pm

Where should Phil start with his Indonesian political reforms?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 8 Oct 2018 at 2:02pm

Probably enhancing and consolidating social cohesion as the burgeoning economy finds its footing , to ensure that the inequality currently entrenched in Indonesia doesn’t exacerbate and jeopardise the country with potentially explosive civil unrest.

What do you reckon Phil should address as a priority?

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Monday, 8 Oct 2018 at 2:40pm

Far more pressing is Indonesia's pollution problem and what Phil needs to do as a matter of priority is roll up his dungarees and stride up the Ayung River dragging a boom and a few hundred garbage bags, scooping out the discarded plastic waste, filling the bags, and continuing the trudge upriver till the waterway is clean. He could give lectures along the way stopping in at homestays where he would flirt with the ibu and gently chide the local kids throwing Beng Beng wrappers in the gutter. Being an expert in cross-cultural education, Phil could show the street urchins how to dispose of plastic in the bin and leave it out the front for the regular kerbside pick-up. The kids' eyes would light up in wonder, while the older folk would look at each other nodding, "Ahh," they'd say, "Ahhh." And Phil can consider his work there complete, it's time then to move onto the next village, then the next river, then the next island, until all of Indonesia's rivers are plastic free.

I don't want to be presumptuous about how Phil should spend his days but frankly anything short of that is a waste of time.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 8 Oct 2018 at 3:22pm

If Phil is going to get balls deep into this clean up campaign , he’ll really want to hook up a collab with a zeitgeist designer to provide some cutting edge dungarees that’ll capture the imagination of the global youth in order to generate the sort of global following required to take his efforts from the SEasian region onto the world stage.

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Monday, 8 Oct 2018 at 4:17pm

Not to be presumptuous, because I'm NEVER presumptuous, but I imagine that's what Phil is doing right now. I posted this idea an hour ago and I'm yet to see any social media shots of Phil balls deep in the Ayung, so stitching up a collaborative clothing deal is the only way to explain the hold up. Here's hoping it's as successful as the Corona Bali PROtected, because issues around consumption can only be solved by hitching them to companies peddling single use containers. It's the next best thing to hitting the like button. Anyway I suppose the truth will come out in the next 5 minutes or so because if it doesn't then Phil is just wasting his time and ours.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 8 Oct 2018 at 6:41pm

Billable hours, mate , billable hours.

innatube's picture
innatube's picture
innatube commented Sunday, 7 Oct 2018 at 7:22pm

I always look forward to Phils insights on surfing and surfers.

Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt commented Monday, 8 Oct 2018 at 1:46pm

Thanks for the illiterate spray, hipman. Despite your obvious limitations, you sound like a man of ideas and insight and we would welcome your thoughtful contributions to the Noosa World Surfing Reserve. PMS me for details of next committee meeting.

Phil Jarratt

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Tuesday, 9 Oct 2018 at 4:41am

I would take it all as compliment Phil. They clearly believe that you are a man of such enormous intellectual power and political skill that you are capable of solving Indonesia's problems..

Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt's picture
Phil Jarratt commented Tuesday, 9 Oct 2018 at 4:29pm

I take everything as a compliment, BB. Less heartache that way. Trust you're having a good holiday while Jokowi and I take care of everything. Seen the northern lights?

Phil Jarratt

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Tuesday, 9 Oct 2018 at 6:22pm

No we are in London now. The holiday has been great. Give my compliments to Jokowi, I haven't visited him this year.

tworules's picture
tworules's picture
tworules commented Tuesday, 9 Oct 2018 at 8:22pm

They say the first english spoken on the Bukit was , ''you know Richo'' or maybe unoricho!
Would have liked to have seen him surf the next swell after winning the om Bali pro.

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