Mary Carmel Osborne: Unintentional Icon


To call Mary Osborne a surfer girl is about as misleading a statement as calling me a surf photographer. Yes she is a surfer. But that description is a tight pigeonhole for her to fit into. It is what she is, not who.

Mary and I have history together. I doubt that there is anyone who knows me as well and anyone that I trust as much artistically and personally as her. The ability she has as an artist, producer, professional athlete, and model is often overlooked in a cursory glance. Too short to model, too nice to compete, and frequently dismissed as the stereotypical California blonde beach girl, one can easily underestimate her depth, as she is a perfect example of how appearances can mislead, and how one can be completely successful at whatever one desires if diligence, multiple talents and self confidence abide within your personal skill set.

California, Mexico, Maldives, Seychelles, Tahiti, Fiji, South America, Europe, Australia, acting, modeling, hosting, emceeing, representing, promoting, producing, teaching,  it seems the soft spoken, polite young woman at 27, has been more places and done more things than possible in several lifetimes.

I recall a funny series of phone calls  which occurred in the span of a day, between she and I awhile back. Mary was arriving on set for a commercial during call #1. It was a beach shoot. Call #2 she had just finished her stand in beach shot, and was asked to do some surfing. Call#3  She was doing a horse back segment and stunt work. The directors comment had been something to the effect of: “Is there anything that this girl doesn’t do?” Her versatility is remarkable and probably why I sort of laugh when I hear her described as a surfer girl.

Mary has been a promotional and iconic image source for a variety of concerns. I won’t list them all here. But her work with Patagonia, Betty Belts, Wet N Wild Makeup, Robert August Surfboards, Etnies, and multiple charities and concerns promoting women and female empowerment have over the course of her career helped to redefine the role of women in popular culture. Her affect has been not unlike that of the 1959 film and television series written by Frederick Kohner based on his daughter Kathy, which as the title “Gidget”, contributed and possibly generated, the huge groundswell of public interest that caused a trend boom in surfing and directed a shift in popular culture of that period.

But the main difference between the two characters, old Gidget and new, is one of scope and depth. Women long ago figured out where the boys are. Gidget to this day jokes about that. But today’s  woman wants in on the real action.  I find it interesting in looking back at the conception of Mary Osborne as a media personality, that she and I, working together and supplying imagery to editorial, preceded the media and glut of entertainment projects that eventually popularized modern surfing for women. Mary was there first. Ahead of Roxy, before Blue Crush, then through it all. I don’t think any one person ever really “got it” as the saying goes, because the world tends to compartmentalize a person in order to be better satisfied with it’s own tendency to settle for mediocrity and the mundane. In effect, the world should not ever really get it completely.

Mary is never mediocre, never limits herself, always encourages, contributes, and has been as relentless as the tide in the pursuit of her passions.

The following catalog of imagery is 1/10,000 of what she and I have produced and probably illustrates 1/100th of the subjects we have portrayed in the mediums of motion picture film, video, stills and literature. The things which we experience together as collaborators, friends and artists could fill books. It seems we have managed several lifetimes when I peruse our work.  This is truly a perfect example of how the strength of a subject defines a persons work. Lucky me that we like what we do, as neither of us really planned any of this. We were just having fun together.

Click on any image in this blog for a full view and more information. All website links are in color relief. Just click on them to open a new window.

4 Responses to Mary Carmel Osborne: Unintentional Icon

  1. […] The lovely, always smiling Mary Osborne was the very first athlete I wanted on my surf team when I got started with Betty Belts in 2003. I asked her “Mary, I’m starting a surf team, will you be on it?”. And luckily she said gladly and we’ve done a lot together since. The man I love who introduced me to Mary so many years ago, David Pu’u has reactivated his stimulating blog and started writing stories on each of the amazing young female surfers (the Betties) who are ambassadors of the Betty B. Brand. Here is Mary’s Story: […]

  2. Thank you David and Donna for the nice words. I have been lucky enough to work with both of you and enjoy every minute of it! You two are dear friends and I love you both!

  3. I have never met Mary, but I roomed with her mother in college and I am not surprised at the attributes you describe in Mary. The apple does not fall far from the tree, and her parents are great people. I find such joy in the woman Mary is becoming, and look forward to meeting her some day. Go girl!

Leave a reply