Stab and Red Bull concept shoot: The Right

Taj Burrow and Mark Mathews at The Right – the full story behind the photo that shook the world.
By Brian Roddy

Like a tilted Vegas slot machine, odds are stacked high against the modern surf photographer. The problem is that a surf photographer has to deal with the ocean – the biggest and most unpredictable mass of matter on the planet. It’s this uncertainty that makes surfing seductive, but it also makes it damn hard to plan anything. Because unlike any other arena, the ocean guarantees you nothing. You could conceive the idea for a perfect shot, stand behind a lens for hours and never even get the opportunity to shoot it. Sure differs from a tennis court, but we’re finding there are ways around it.

A few weeks back, Red Bull teamed up with our friends at Stab for a concept shoot. Concept shoots are borderline unheard-of in surfing. But we had the imagination. We had the crew. And, hopefully, we would have the wave. So it was off to Western Australia with Taj Burrow and Mark Mathews. The plan was to whip Mark and Taj into the same massive wave at The Right – Taj in front of Mark – and have Mark shoot a photo of Taj from the belly of the beast. It would create a truly first-of-its-kind image, a perspective from the rarest of vantages. It was strange, curious, and bold. The best part is that it actually worked.

But all good things come with a cost. Mark mangled his eardrum and sustained one of the worst beatings of his life on that wave. Even still, he came up smiling – why wouldn’t he? Mark literally just had a hand in the reinvention of surf photography. This photo, this idea, this production is a game-changer. In a field defined as much for its one-upmanship as anything, this experiment might force photographers around this blue planet to reassess the ways in which they hone their craft. It could very well usher in a new school of surf photography.

It may mark a paradigm shift, a sea change. But at the very least, it will be the most entertaining video you see today.

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