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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.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Mark Richards, 1976

John Witzig

type C photograph on paper (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
Purchased 2007

Accession number: 2007.48

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

John Witzig (age 32 in 1976)

Mark Richards (age 19 in 1976)

Subject professions

Sports and recreation

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Interview with Mark Richards video: 7 minutes
Interview with Mark Richards video: 7 minutes
Interview with Mark Richards video: 7 minutes
Interview with Mark Richards video: 7 minutes

Mark Richards

No choice, you’re going surfing, son

Portrait story

Australian surfing legend Mark Richards describes his professional surfing and surfboard shaping careers.

Mark Richards, 1976 John Witzig
Mark Richards, 1976 John Witzig
Mark Richards, 1976 John Witzig
Mark Richards, 1976 John Witzig

Off the wall

Magazine article by John Witzig, 2008
Photographer and surf mag editor John Witzig tells the stories behind his iconic surf images.
Nat Young, c. 1968 by Albert Falzon
Nat Young, c. 1968 by Albert Falzon
Nat Young, c. 1968 by Albert Falzon
Nat Young, c. 1968 by Albert Falzon

Arcadia

Sound of the sea

Previous exhibition, 2014

An exhibition of photographs by John Witzig, drawings by Nicholas Harding and film footage by Albe Falzon, expressive of the free-spirited, hot-blooded energy of Australian surfers under the cloud of conscription to Vietnam.

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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.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.