Why Russell Ord has spent his life pursuing the perfect wave

Surfer Cale Grigson at a secret spot.Credit:Russell Ord

After injuring his knee in 1999, former firefighter and devoted surfer Russell Ord picked up a camera and started documenting the ocean from inside the mouth of the beast. "Surfing had become quite competitive and crowded, so photography was more of an incentive than jostling for waves," he says.

Russell Ord in the water capturing Trent Slatter.Credit:Russell Ord

Since then, Ord has braved every inclement weather condition imaginable in his quest to capture images from the most epic breaks in the world. His snaps have earned the Margaret River-based photographer legend status, and his work has graced the cover of surfing titles such as Tracks, Surfing Life and Stab. 

Cale Grigson pulls into a right-hand barrel.Credit:Russell Ord

Ord uses a jet ski or dons flippers to nail seemingly impossible angles, risking his life to document 60-foot waves and the split-second moments between surfing glory and wipeout.

Surfer Chris Shanahan at The Right, off the West Australian coast.Credit:Russell Ord

After completing his mission to capture the ultimate shot – an image of surfer Mark Mathews in an open barrel at The Right, a celebrated break off the coast of southern Western Australia – Ord began to take pictures of the empty ocean, minus the surfers. "It wasn't until I stripped everything back and remembered what is truly important to me – being submerged in the ocean and pushing your boundaries – that I started to develop work I was proud of."

Chris “Chippa” Wilson rides a Fijian wave.Credit: Russell Ord

Ord worked with writer Anthony Pancia for his first book, Surfing: Water Is Freedom, which combines the photographer's best pictures with wry stories of the culture and characters behind the shots.

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