• Indigenous pro surfer Otis Carey on the cover of Tracks magazine. (Tracks magazine)Source: Tracks magazine
Indigneous pro surfer makes the cover of Tracks magazine, almost three years after a rival magazine ran an article calling him "ape-ish".
Robert Burton-Bradley

28 Feb 2017 - 1:44 PM  UPDATED 28 Feb 2017 - 1:49 PM

A lone figure perched on a surf board rises high above the waves, ocean spray trailing behind and a beer in hand. The board's underside flaunts a roughly drawn red outline of the Aboriginal flag.

The cover image of this month's Tracks magazine featuring Indigenous pro surfer Otis Carey is a striking image - and an obvious shot for the magazine's cover. lt's also a testament to his skill as a professional athlete.

"That photo was actually for a campaign trip with Billabong," Carey told NITV News.

"We had a big day of surfing and we were just sort of unwinding and having a beer. Then I thought it’d be fun to tow into a few waves. I was just being a smart arse and took my beer with me. Yeah, [that's] kinda how it happened."

It's a long way from three years ago when Carey initiated defamation proceedings against another surf magazine, after it ran an article where the journalist referred to Carey as "apeish" and described being surprised at his "eloquence". It is understood the News Corp-owned publication involved, Surfing Life magazine, later settled the matter with Carey.

While the photo occupying this month's Tracks cover celebrates Carey's skills as a surfer, and his cheeky idea of bringing a beer into the surf, it also pays homage to his Indigenous heritage.

“I’ve always got the flag on the top of my board or on the bottom,” he says.

Tracks magazine editor, Luke Kennedy, says Otis was singled out because of the quality of the image and his position as a prominent pro surfer.

"What generally happens with the selection of the cover is we go through a range of images and pick out which one composes best. And on merit, Otis’s one did," he told NITV News.

"To be honest, in this situation there was no kind of consideration of the fact that he had an Aboriginal background. That’s something we really support and we think that’s fantastic that he features the Aboriginal flag on his board, but it’s probably better for his stance and the Indigenous community that he is doing well as an independent surfer."

Carey said "it was a bit of a surprise" when he saw the photo, as he had no idea it would be used on the cover when he was interviewed by Tracks for an article featuring several other pro surfers.

However, he is pleased to be recognised as a surfer, rather than being there solely due to his Aboriginality.

"It’s nice to see some people sort of steering into a more positive direction and accepting what I do... I’m just as good as all the other non-Indigenous surfers within the community," he says.

“It’s nice to be recognized as equal to the other guys."