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Mark Richards
, 1976

by John Witzig

type C photograph (mount: 81.5 cm x 101.8 cm, image: 48.8 cm x 73.5 cm)

Mark Richards (b. 1957), surfer and surfboard shaper, began his competitive career in 1973, when he came second in the Australian Titles Open division at the age of sixteen. He won the Smirnoff World Pro Am, an early professional competition, in 1975. After the International Professional Surfers’ Tour began in 1976, Richards competed in Japan, Hawaii and Australia while refining his boardmaking techniques. He designed the boards on which he won World Championships in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982. Richards held the record for most surfing World Championships until 1997, when he was overtaken by American Kelly Slater (although Australian surfer Layne Beachley holds seven women’s world titles). After 1982 Richards retired from full-time competition to his native Newcastle, where he owns a retail surfshop and manufacturing business. Richards was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985, and was the very first surf champion to receive a stone on California’s Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame in 1994.

John Witzig (b. 1944) was an early enthusiast of photographing surfers from the water. Using a 35-mm Nikonos, the only waterproof camera on the market at the time, he was able to convey the intense action that resulted from the shorter boards developed by Australians in the mid-1960s. Witzig took this photograph holding the camera out in his right hand, ‘hopefully pointing it in the right direction’, and found the result ‘wonderfully out of balance’. A recent review noted: ‘Witzig’s photos would have been impossible if not for his profound familiarity with, and reverence for, the coastal waters of Australia. The principle of full engagement with the environment is reflected in his images, which never document action for the sake of action.’ Forty of Witzig’s photographs featured in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Arcadia Sound of the Sea in 2014.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2007
Accession number: 2007.48