A new documentary on the pioneers of the Australian surfboard industry.
Tonight at 7:30pm AEST a new documentary entitled Men of Wood & Foam will premiere on the History Channel on Foxtel. Made by Shaun Cairns and ex-Tracks magazine editor Phil Jarratt, the doco tells the story of the men who pioneered the surfboard manufacturing industry in Australia and helped transform surfing from a largely misunderstood subculture into an integral and much-loved part of Australia’s national identity.
Focussing on the group known as “The Brookvale Six”, which includes legendary Australian surfboard manufacturers Gordon Woods, Barry Bennett, and Scott Dillon (among others), the film examines how these men set up factories in Brookvale in the post-war years and took surfboards from hollow, finless balsa wood “toothpick” designs to lighter, more responsive crafts shaped from foam blanks the men cooked up themselves.
Although a work-in-progress version of the film was shown to a small crowd at the Noosa Surf Festival this year, tonight’s screening on the History Channel will be the official world premiere of the documentary, which took just over a year to make.
With a personal connection to the subjects of the film, having purchased his first surfboard from Gordon Woods back in the sixties and later forming friendships with the Brookvale 6 through his work at Tracks, Jarratt explains how he was inspired to make the film when he realised these legends were getting on in years and their stories still hadn’t been told.
‘I figured if we were going to tell the story through their words, then we needed to do it now,’ he says. ‘It’s a really important part of our history.’
And while Jarratt’s connection with the story might be personal and somewhat nostalgic, he believes it’s a tale that will not only appeal to older surfers like himself, but a generation of younger crew who’ll be interested to hear where the boards they’re riding now descended from.
‘With this hipster thing that’s going on at the moment, a lot of the new generation are riding boards that’re based off or at least similar to what The Brookvale 6 were making back in the early years,’ he says. ‘But what I’ve found is that a lot of these surfers, even some of the ones who are riding them exceptionally well, don’t really know the history behind them, so the film should appeal to these young guys as well.’