Back To Top
Beach Grit

Mystery: World’s Most Popular Surf Photo!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Solve the greatest puzzle in surf and win prize!

Have you ever wondered what the most enduring surf shot in the world might be? Is it a Brewer of Bunker Spreckels?

A Todd Glaser wavepool shot?

Andy Irons at Teahupoo or Tom Curren at Off The Wall by  Tom Servais? 

Nothing so obvious, of course.

The one surf photo that has dominated photo agencies, that blazes fire and foam in ad campaigns spruiking medicine and wave-pools and betting agencies and accessories and even on the cover of a book is a mysterious shot of an almost-tubed unnamed surfer by an unnamed photographer.

It is a photograph neither lovely nor noble but it does have one important characteristic.

It’s cheap.

Thirteen bucks will get you, and your company, full commercial use of this image.

As seen here:

world's most popular surf photo

Here, in a Bali surf shop advertising the surf accessories company Ocean and Earth. Photo by Chris Binns whose Facebook post caused a waterfall of appearances of the photo. 


As an inducement to visit Indonesian medical clinics. Photo by Peter Neely. 


At Denpasar airport! Photo by Kieran Burke

And in an artist’s impression of an Australian wavepool.

The first time I saw it, I figured it was an ordinary shot of either Phil Macdonald (because of the O and E ad) and, later, revised it to be a very, very bad shot of Dave Rastovich, perhaps an out of the noted Bill Morris. (“Not me,” said Billy.)

A very brief search found it on Getty Images, where you can view the entire series of tube avoidance. 

The question posed to the reader is this:

Who is the surfer?

Who is the photographer?

A sleeveless BeachGrit t-shirt (cut so it reveals enough skin for gals to be “sexy” but not so much as to appear “slutty” or “whorish” and for men it shows the curve of the upper pectoral and any protrusion of the latissimus dorsi) sent to your hovel to the first reader who obliterates the mystery.