Photos: Merkel/A-Frame


The perfect synergy of a genius brain and athleticism. From 1979 to 1983, Mark Richards was untouchable, racking up four consecutive world titles and writing himself into the record books as one of the most stylish, well-rounded surfers in history. Born and raised in the rough and tumble steel working city of Newcastle two hours north of Sydney, MR’s dad was a used car salesman who also used to sell used surfboards to whatever salty hessians were passing through on their way north. With a career as a pro surfer still a distant fantasy, MR initially set his sights
on becoming a shaper. “I wanted to be a shaper because there was no such thing as pro surfing. The most you could aspire to was an Australian Title or World Amateur Title and get a great big trophy at the end of it. There was no such thing as cheques,” he says. MR was one of the early Australians to test the water in Hawaii, and part of the now infamous Bustin Down the Door crew, along with Rabbit Bartholomew, Ian Cairns and Peter Townend. In maxing conditions at Waimea, a 17-year-old MR took out the Smirnoff Pro in one of the greatest breakthrough big wave performances in history. He then went on to win the World Cup of surfing shortly after. Throughout this period,
MR was also deeply immersed in the shaping trade, spending time in the bay alongside the legendary craftsman Dick Brewer, and being heavily influenced by the likes of Reno Abellira and Lightning Bolt shaper Tom Parrish. By 1979 he had created himself what would become one of the most influential board designs in history: the twin fin. It was a sight to behold. From burgery beach breaks to the long period juice of Hawaii, MR was unstoppable. Loose, fast but with precision control and a signature avian style, MR’s four years on the twin-fin broke new ground in style, performance and innovative thinking. His good friend Simon Anderson would happen upon the thruster design shortly after but MR would cling to his design and far from embarrass himself as the rest of the world moved to the thruster. Recently voted the most influential Australian surfer of all time, MR is also the recipient of an order of Australia medal (kinda like a knighthood) and is one of the most humble, astute thinkers you’re likely to come across. He still shapes boards
out of Newcastle for anyone who wants one and once made conversation with me, a shirtless stranger holding a bag of trash, in a Gold Coast elevator.

– JS


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