Photographer Terry Ross tells the true story regarding the cacophony of errors surrounding the first photograph of Mark 'Sanga' Sainsbury and his floater.
My name is Terry Ross and if you have a minute, I'd like to tell you a short story.
During the mid-80s there was this young guy from Avoca Beach who was my best mate. We grew up together, played together, and surfed together.
He was a young athlete on his way through the surf club ranks and local surf comps, and I was his nerdy mate who could surf ok but was never going to make anything of it. I was into photography, and even in my early teens had a darkroom and this kick-arse 800mm Tokina lens that went on my old Ricoh XR1-S 35mm film camera.
This was the era of Mark Eymes, Bryce Ellis, Cheyne Horan, and of course Jeff McCoy, so there was no shortage of great surfers to shoot, and my enthusiasm grew.
Mark 'Sanga' Sainsbury had started to do this weird move where he was trying to get up on top of and behind the wave and ride it back down to continue along the face. There was no doubt he was the local young gun, so we all watched and waited to see just what it was he was trying to do (he would go on to win the Australian Professional Surfing Association Title, the Hot Buttered Pro Junior contest, and the Australian National Championship).
Lucky for me, I managed to capture this brand new move (on Kodachrome 64 no less) and the 'Floater' was officially on record. Everyone was blown away, and funnily enough, many of the old guard thought it was just some weird move and would never catch on.
Anyway, I'm rambling, but I feel like I need to give you the broad picture...
I submitted the original slides to Waves Mag (1985/6?), and as it was a cutting edge, new manoeuvre, it was printed as a double-page spread in black and white. Can you imagine my utter disappointment when they credited the shot to Aiton, who was some other contributor at the time. I was totally gutted. After a very direct phone call, they apologised in the next issue and ran a piss-ant sized apology buried on the contributor’s page.
Moving on to 2019, and I randomly Google my long gone mate only to discover that Tracks has the exact same shot credited to Sarge! Now I'm not one to jump up and down about stuff but it's time for things to be set straight. As you can see from the original slides (attached) my name is clearly visible.
Now, I realise this was all well before your time as editor, and forgive me if I come across as a cranky old bugger, but the shot is mine, the copyright belongs to me, the history-making moment belongs to Sanga and myself, and I'm totally over the image being passed around willy nilly and credited to two photographers who have no right to accept or acknowledge the credit given to them.
I even had the shot printed and framed for Mark’s funeral.
All I ask, is that where possible, your records and credits regarding this image of Sanga be corrected to show that Terry Ross is the photographer. It's also in honour of my mate and the hours and hours spent on the beach and uncountable rolls of film used to bring this now standard manoeuvre to the surfing community.
Sanga was not only a surfing pioneer, he was an ambassador for the sport and a true and loyal friend to many.