Tuned-in, turned-on Aussie surf filmmaker from Sydney, Australia, whose trio of roughhewn films—The Hot Generation (1968), Evolution (1969), and Sea of Joy (1971)—cinematically defined the shortboard revolution.
Witzig was born (1940) and raised in Sydney, began surfing at Palm Beach at age 11, and got his first break as a filmmaker in 1962, when Californian Bruce Brown gave him a 16-millimeter camera and hired him to shoot Australian footage for Brown's upcoming movie The Endless Summer. Witzig later worked as Brown's Down Under liaison, screening Brown's movies in New South Wales and Queensland. He also worked as a judge in the 1964 World Surfing Championships.
Witzig became a full-time filmmaker after dropping out of architecture school in 1965. He made A Life in the Sun, his debut movie, the following year, right about the time his surf journalist brother John Witzig was outraging American surf society with his torrid pro-Aussie "We're Tops Now" article, published in Surfer magazine. The Hot Generation, Witzig's second film, includes the cinematic debut of the short surfboard, with Australians Bob McTavish and Nat Young riding their chunky vee-bottoms in flawless eight-footers at Hawaii's Honolua Bay.
But it was Evolution, Witzig's third film, that really captured the spirit of the times. The movie costars Young, George Greenough, and Ted Spencer, but is for the most part a showcase for Wayne Lynch, the 17-year-old surfing sensation from Victoria. Lynch is credited as the first surfer to really bank off the crest of the wave, and his turns and cutbacks in Evolution can be seen as the dividing line between the longboard and shortboard eras. While reviews for Evolution were tepid ("Witzig's photography is uninspired," one notice said, "but he proves that if your subjects are creative and talented, you don't have to do anything but push the button "), the film nonetheless became a period icon. Sea of Joy featured the same surfers, and was a worthy follow-up to Evolution.
Witzig produced or coproduced two more full-length surf movies: Islands (1972), and All Down the Line (1989). He also worked on three short subjects: Hawaii '68, Animals (1971), and Rolling Home (1974). In 1986, he made Blown Away!, a feature-length sailboarding movie. In 2010, Witzig put out a beautifully remixed and remasted DVD set of Hot Generation, Evolution and Sea of Joy,
Witzig received an M.A. in architecture from Columbia Pacific University in 1983, and began a career as an architect. He is married and has three children, and lives in Brooms Head, New South Wales.