Reinventing the surf photo: The full story

Every angle of the game-changing wave caught by Taj Burrow and Mark Mathews in Western Australia.

Taj Burrow and Mark Mathews
Taj Burrow and Mark Mathews win surf photography© Russel Ord

The Right in Western Australia does not do halves. So when Mark Mathews and Taj Burrow towed into the same wave there on Friday, August 1, they had to be completely committed. Stab Magazine’s concept was simple: Mark would hold a camera and pull into a wave behind Taj, capturing surfing imagery unlike anything ever seen or done before.

Taj wanted to ride a wave solo first, to warm up. Mark said no; not under any circumstances. “The one I see you ride from the channel is the one I don’t get the shot on,” said Mark. “Pretend I’m not there. You won’t know I’m there. I’m invisible. But, don’t let your hand touch the face. Don’t wreck my shot.”

The session certainly had its consequences. Aside from the proposed shot never having been attempted over reef before, there was also the fact that The Right is notorious for multiple wave hold-downs. But, it had to be The Right; few other waves in the world could so perfectly fit two surfers in the barrel.

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Mark and Taj were playing for keeps. Mark didn’t want a shoulder; he even cut back deeper on some. After nailing a number of shots, a wave came through that was going to open up into the best studio ever seen in surf photography. They let go of the rope and pulled in. Taj drew a perfect high line and Mark’s camera was glued to his subject. Then, the exit closed.

Mark has experienced countless wipeouts in his big wave career. But this was number one. By a long margin. He took home a ruptured eardrum and a torn up face. But also some of the craziest footage ever captured.

The footage you see here was logged by the GoPros on hand during the session.

The full story of Stab and Red Bull’s trip to The Right in pursuit of the greatest surf photo of all time will air in a mini-doc this month, exclusively on RedBull.com/Surfing and Stabmag.com.

Press play on the videos below to see the wave first from the jetski and boat angles and then immerse yourself fully via Mark Mathews' GoPro!

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