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Mr Sunset

The Jeff Hakman Story

Phil Jarratt's

Mr Sunset

The Jeff Hakman Story: A surfing legend’s rollercoaster ride through life

Published by GenX Publishing, London, in association with General Publishing Group, Los Angeles, 1997.

I’d been friends with both Jeff Hakman and Harry Hodge for more than 20 years when Harry phoned me in Noosa in 1995 and asked me to fly to France to discuss a book project involving Hakman, the surfing legend who had burst into the limelight when he won the first Duke Kahanamoku Invitational at Sunset Beach in 1965, aged just 17. During my Tracks years in the early and mid-1970s, when he was arguably the world’s leading pro surfer, Jeff and I became friends, but I had no idea he was addicted to heroin most of that time.

Somehow in a drug-crazed state in 1976 he had convinced Quiksilver founder Alan Green to give him the licence for the brand in the US. Hakman and partner Bob McKnight made a huge success of the American operation and it was soon Quiksilver’s biggest market, but by 1980 Jeff was back on heroin and his life was falling apart. Nevertheless, when Harry Hodge was putting a partnership together to take over the European licence for the brand in 1983, Jeff was the first person he asked to join.

Visiting Harry at his girlfriend Brigitte’s Basque farmhouse near Biarritz in the summer of 1983, I thought Harry had gone mad – the French wore boardshorts with underpants liners, for Christ’s sake – but the operation was soon another huge success, and when it was finally sold to the American Quiksilver in the early ‘90s, it made Harry a rich man.

So we lounged around Harry’s Bidart estate that summer and made a beautiful plan, in which Hakman would tell me everything, I would write a bestseller that Hollywood would buy, and Quiksilver would pay for a huge book promotion around the world. I was in!

Working group in France 1996.
Left to right: Bruce Raymond, Harry Hodge, Phil Grace, Jeff Hakman, Phil Jarratt.

But Harry also had a secret agenda. Jeff had been backsliding into heroin addiction, and in fact had only recently left an expensive London rehab clinic. Harry thought that telling his story to the world would make it difficult for that to happen again. He was both right and wrong, but the many months he spent in the confessional with me, and then repeating his redemption story as we toured the world, were indeed therapeutic and helped our friend get a grip on his life. And Harry was also almost right about Hollywood – the book was optioned several times (and is again as I write) and at one point Sean Penn was in the slate to direct and star as Hakman. But we’re still waiting.

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