THE SIXTH ELEMENT: THE ROSS CLARKE-JONES STORY (a J!-ENT Surfing DVD Review)
January 15, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“Surfer Ross Clarke-Jones had it all, was on top in the surfing world but the life of Clarke-Jones was anything but simple. A complex individual with one hell of an interesting life!”
TITLE: THE SIXTH ELEMENT: THE ROSS CLARKE-JONES STORY
DURATION: 60 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: Dolby Digital
RATED: NOT RATED
COMPANY: Westlake Entertainment, Inc.
Directed by Justin McMillan
Narrated by Dennis Hopper
Editor: Nick Tomnay
Written by Chris Nelius
Executive Producers: Luke Hannan Garry “Spurter” Wall-Chris Mater
Original Music by Peter Glendenning
Gary “Kong” Elkerton
Peter “Joli” Wilson
The story of Ross Clarke-Jones is at once compelling. His manhandling of the biggest waves in the word is the same approach he applies to his life. Full tilt, bared teeth and a hunger that cannot be sated.
He’s an adventurer who’s intrepid exploring is breaking new barriers, whether that’s in the remote corners of Tasmania of the lush corridors of the Amazon. This film will take you as close to his life as you would want.
It’s captivating, dramatic, funny and inspirational. This story needs to be seen to be believed! It will take you on an incredible journey through a radical life, all set against some of the biggest waves ever surfed.
I grew up watching a lot of these surfers as a young grom. And back in the early 80’s, among the surfers that you would see occasionally on the magazines was Ross Clarke-Jones. And of course, now the guy is known for taking on some killer big wave surfing.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen his name but back in 2006, I was pretty surprised to see a documentary on this surfer’s life. “The Sixth Element” is derived from the fact that he was born on June 6, 1966 (6/6/66) and that this surfer’s life was nothing simple. This guy had a complex life with quite a bit of highs but also some major lows.
The film starts off an English explorer named Sir William Howell went to Borneo and met one of the chiefs and took the daughter back to England. Their child met Robert Clarke-Jones in Western Australia and had a child named Ross. Ross would surf a lot while living in Terrigal and eventually in his teens, he stayed in Bangkok, Thailand and got caught up in the partying and clubbing scene and all this experience with women. As a teenager, when he returned back to Terrigal, he was a different man.
With so much experience, Ross Clarke-Jones grown so much from that experience that he didn’t want to go to school anymore. Next thing you know, he moves to Hawaii and starts hanging out with a lot of the top surfers like Rabbit Bartholomew and Gary “Kong” Elkerton and focusing on his surfing career and eventually returned back to Australia where he developed a friendship and rivalry with Mark Sainsbury.
One of the most interesting features in the documentary is for the first surfing film with a storyline called “Mad Wax” featuring the top surfer at the time Gary “Kong” Elkerton, Tom Carroll, Mark Sainsbury and Ross Clarke-Jones and although the film was to feature primarily on Gary Elkerton, somehow Ross Clarke-Jones became a big star on the film.
And then you got see how Ross Clarke-Jones started to get all amped for big wave riding, how corporate sponsorship started to grow in the sport and how these athletes started to become celebrities. They would have the fans, the women, the cars and starting to make big money. Ross Clarke-Jones was a star. And that stardom would lead to more partying and not focusing on the sport that made him a star.
So, then Ross learned of how he lost his focus but also gained a perspective in life and thus went to Brazil and hooked up with Quicksilver’s Fernando and immediately he fell in love with a Brazilian woman who came with Fernando. The two dated, they got engaged and all of a sudden, he got married.
Meanwhile in the US, his friend/rival Mark Sainsbury started to grow distance from Ross and with corporate sponsorship starting to tighten up and struggling with bad results from competitions and then Ross’ mother was fighting and eventually succumed to cancer. He lost his mother and then all of a sudden Sainsbury died of a brain embolism not long after. With two deaths of two people close to him, this started to change Clarke-Jones and he was not winning any competitions. Ross then surfed at Backdoor and had one of his worst wipeouts which broke his back and had to undergo rehab.
While his career was not going well, Ross eventually started to have affairs with other women despite having a loving wife and children. Ross continued to travel and surf but while traveling, Ross met another woman named Marcia that he would instantly fall in love with. Ross eventually divorced his wife who he says he loved but felt that Marcia was his destiny.
When Ross returned to surfing, he started to focus on big wave surfing specifically tide surfing and then tow surfing and he was able to regain that excitement and passion for surfing and eventually accomplished another major feat in his life as the first non-Hawaiian to win the Quiksilver Eddie Akau big wave competition.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
The video features a lot of classic surfing video footage and footage in color and black and white. If anything, the fact that you have a surfing film that does include some classic surf footage is awesome. But don’t expect anything super clear or eye popping.
As for audio, this is a documentary and its primarily dialogue-based. So, no need for the use of 5.1 or higher audio channels or surround sound. If anything, dialogue is clear and you can hear Hopper and others interviewed quite well.
There are really no special features ion this DVD. You do get a Mad Wax Film promo, Red Bull surf team promo and Tracks Magazine promo but trailers or promotionals are not exactly major special features. If anything, it would have been interesting to hear a commentary track or maybe some blooper reels.
All in all, “THE SIXTH ELEMENT: THE ROSS CLARKE-JONES STORY” is a fun documentary. Fortunately, there are humorous segments and so many top surfers involved in this documentary that it made the film fun to watch. It’s one thing to have a legendary actor like Dennis Hopper narrate but Ross Clarke-Jones is quite a funny guy but knows when to be serious when discussing certain topics about his life. And of course, you get some cool segments with Kelly Slater, Wayne Bartholomew, Tom Carroll, Gary Elkerton, etc.
Suffice to say, Ross Clarke-Jones had an upbringing that many people don’t get to experience. Especially when he was in his young teens and got to experience some wild things in Thailand by himself. But most of all to see how he has managed to face life despite of two major deaths, a divorce and stardom at a young age and the pressures of winning competitions.
Overall, a fun surfing documentary and surfing fans will definitely like the classic and big wave surf clips, cool music and to see some of the top surfers all taking part in this documentary. Wish the DVD had more in terms of special features but overall, a solid surf documentary one one of surfing’s well-known surfers.
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