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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.

Bopping Bob McTavish, c. 1965 (printed 2012)

John Witzig

inkjet print on paper (image: 66.5 cm x 44.0 cm)

Bob McTavish began surfing in Queensland at the age of twelve - and for decades, he has written, he slept in cars, eating bread, bananas and the occasional spider and surfing at every opportunity. At one point he famously stowed away in an ocean liner bound for Hawaii. From 1961 onwards he worked for surfboard labels including Scott Dillon, Dale, Hayden, Bob Davie, Morey-Pope, Keyo and Cord. After winning the Queensland Open surf title in 1965, he abandoned competition; in 1969 he established his own brand, McTavish. His first major success came in 1972 with the 'Bluebird', the world's first production short-board. Thousands of Bluebirds were manufactured until 1979. After a period catering to the wind-surfing craze in the early 1980s, McTavish turned his attention to materials innovation, starting on a moulded epoxy construction process known as Pro Circuit Board (PCB). After PCB was phased out, a similar moulding process evolved into Surftech Tuflite. The mid-1990s saw the introduction of McTavish's 'Big M' longboards. The Big M logo, in refined form, is still produced in more than twenty models. With a factory and retail operation in Byron Bay, in 2007 McTavish signed an international manufacture and distribution agreement with Global Surf Industries which saw many models of McTavish boards become available in more than thirty countries. McTavish's autobiography, Stoked! (with an introduction by Tim Winton) was published in 2009.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2012
© John Witzig

Accession number: 2012.42

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

John Witzig (age 21 in 1965)

Bob McTavish (age 21 in 1965)

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.

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.