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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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Nigel Coates and Murray Smith, WA, 1972

by John Witzig

It’s almost impossible to believe that this photograph, featured on the cover of Tracks in March 1972, isn’t a trick; but Witzig did indeed take it from the water, struggling to maintain his own position very, very close to the action. Murray Smith’s sleek neoprene form is lofted on a veritable mountain of water. His profile itself resembles a granite headland; the lobe of his ear, between sideburn and lock of slick hair, is in the exact centre of the photograph. Coates focuses on his own path but there’s a profound sense of connection between the two surfers. Smith feels, in himself, the sweet ride his friend has caught, and his chest swells with exultation as he waits for his own. They say you never surf twice on the same wave.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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