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Layne Beachley
, 2008

by Petrina Hicks

digital video, colour, without sound, continuous loop

Layne Beachley AO (b.1972), former surfer and business woman, is the world’s most successful female professional surfer. Growing up in Manly, Beachley had a negligible amateur surfing record before turning professional in 1989. By the time she was twenty she was ranked number six in the world. Over the course of the 1990s she persevered through debilitating illness to triumph at the World Championship in 1998. She won the same title in the next five consecutive years, between 1999 and 2003, and took a seventh title in 2006, her seventeenth year on the tour. Her other women’s surfing records include riding the biggest wave ever, gaining the most world championship tour victories and earning the most money on the circuit. In 2003, when she was Australian Female Athlete of the Year, she founded the Aim for the Stars Foundation to benefit young Australian women. She was inducted into the American Surfers’ Hall of Fame and earned a stone on the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame in 2006. That year, she initiated the richest event in women’s surfing history, the Havaianas Beachley Classic at Manly. Inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2011, Beachley is now chair of Surfing Australia, and is a powerful speaker and ambassador for various charities and causes.

Petrina Hicks has spent more than a decade making series of photographs of individuals that strain the definition of portraiture, finding, it has been said, ‘beauty in perceived imperfections and render[ing] idealised beauty strange’. Commissioned to portray Layne Beachley, Hicks said that she chose to make a stark representation of the champion as she ‘wanted her eyes to be the central focus… I realised these were where all her strength is revealed.’ During the shoot in Hicks’s Bondi apartment, Beachley observed that in her experience, ‘whales look you right in the eye, but sharks stare straight through you’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned 2008
Accession number: 2008.87.2