Dorian Takes Aim at Surf Photographer

by Tracks April 26, 2016 3 min read

The pressure to present pro surfers in a different light sometimes forces mag editors to do stupid things. A few years back I was on a trip with Team Billabong in WA. With Taj serving as tour guide we scored at a couple of undercover locations and gorged on tubes for three days straight. The Indian Ocean swells were so deliciously blue and hollow that we ended up running three separate covers of Taj, Parko and Shane Dorian on the cover of Tracks. That was the easy part. Not the stupid part.

While water photography specialist, Pat Stacy, dripped in the glory of three separate page ones, it had been Duncan Macfarlane who pulled off the toughest shot of the trip and subsequently received no recognition for it.

Dorian had showed up with his complete bow and arrow kit because he was headed to the NSW hinterland on a hunting trip after snaring a few baby barrels with the boys. Shane had actually secured his own hunting sponsorship and the archery rig he rolled with was a sophisticated example of weaponry engineering. This was no bent bit of wood with a twanging cord of pig’s gut. The intricately designed compound bow, complete with lever systems and cables carried all the mystique of a big wave gun. Shane told riveting tales of do or die shots on charging wild bulls and the moose he’d tracked for three days before making the kill. He also explained his unbending commitment to eat every pound of flesh on his prey. Shane was no joy slayer.

Eager to capture another dimension of Shane Dorian’s adventurous life I asked Duncan Macfarlane if he would be so bold as to take a shot of Shane with the bow drawn and the arrow aimed directly down the lens.

As a young photographer eager to make his bones in the industry, Duncan indicated he was game to take the shot. When we asked Shane if the photo was possible he assured us he could pull it off. This was Shane Dorian, Momentum generation ripper, conqueror of Jaws and slayer of razorbacks. If Shane said he could do it, I believed him.

We went out to the backyard, Shane with his bow and arrow, Duncan with his own shooting device and me suddenly wondering why I’d shot my mouth off about the idea in the first place. The horrific possibilities of what could go wrong were spinning through my mind as Shane loaded up the arrow and drew back on the bow while Duncan positioned himself directly in the line of fire. With camera lens pointed directly at the arrowhead, Shane squinted as if to take aim and Duncan hit the trigger a few times. For a few seconds, the machine gun clicking of the camera shutter was the only noise. Now that he’d taken the risk, Macfarlane was determined to get the shot just right and started working different angles. As I watched on in fear, Duncan’s every movement and press of the trigger felt like further tempting fate. Eventually Dorian said with quiet assurance, “Ok let’s get this done because, you know, I don’t want to hold this for too long just in case.” When Dorian suggests he’s tiring you listen, because it’s not often he admits to a thing like that. Duncan peppered a few my shots, then put the camera down and I breathed a sigh that I hadn’t been responsible for pro surfing’s first death by portrait shot.

When I delivered the shots to the art director back at the office he decided that the kamikaze angle wasn’t the one he wanted for the feature and went with a different image. I was pretty gutted and felt like the risk taken by Shane and Duncan had been a waste of time. Shane Dorian just won ride of the year for spearing through the eye of a giant Jaws tube. Thought it was as good time as any to tell the story of the time he aimed an arrow straight down the lens of Duncan Macfarlane’s camera.

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