Mario Cortes: Surf Photographer

Beyond The Frame

Welcome to another episode of Surf Bank's Beyond The Frame where we dive into the captivating world of surf and ocean photography, going beyond mesmerising captures exploring the backstory of many talented photographers. In this episode we will be hearing from talented surf photographer Mario Cortes, a well known surf photographer from Cornwall offering up stunning shots of his local breaks. Beyond the frame aims to inspire and inform future surf photographers and ocean lovers being your backstage pass to detailed insights from the minds behind stunning surf shots.

What Did Your Childhood Look Like?

Well, I was born in the South East England and was moved down (by parents in search of a better life) to Cornwall when I was 10 years old. I lived an inland life for those early 10 years and didn't really know what the ocean looked like apart from my very occasional trips to Hastings with my grandparents. Post move, we landed on the south coast at Praa Sands where I lived for the following 18 years. I went to school/sixth form in Helston and went to college in Penzance. Being a very active kid, my early years of living at Praa were taken up with bodyboarding, golf & football. I was pretty good at golf and even thought about pursuing a career within it, but as I progressed through my teens, money became more important and it took a back seat. Bodyboarding then picked up and once I had a car, I was always looking for a spot when I had time in between work.

What Came First, Surfing or Photography?

Definitely surfing!

How Did You Get Into Surf Photography?

This was an accident! I remember I was walking with my wife in Porthleven and we took a stroll to the end of the pier. It was a great swell day and there were some spongers taking rights. Anyway, my wife had a small compact camera that I momentarily borrowed and just took aim and caught a perfect shot between the railings of a sponger taking off. To this day it is one of my favourites and where it all started for me!

Mario's First Shot

Where Do You Normally Shoot?

I shoot exclusively in Cornwall only! I try to mix it up but mainly shoot in West Cornwall. Porthleven, Praa, Porthtowan, Aggie to name a few!

Where Do You Shoot? Water or Land?

Land for me!

What Makes The Perfect Image?

For me, the full package is landscape & surfer all rolled into one. Obviously the light plays a big part that can be your best friend and your worst enemy, you need to know your spots and breaks to get this right!

Photo By Mario Cortes

How Did You Become So Involved In The Surf Scene?

Once we moved to Praa Sands from 10 years old I was able to see the sea from my house and watching surfers for the first time got me hooked. First thing we did when we moved was to get our first wetsuits/boards at 'Inner visions' (back in the day) in Penzance!

Do You Have A Favourite Photographer That Has Inspired You?

Not particularly. I'm inspired by what I see generally on socials & magazines, but not by anyone particular person.

What's Your Biggest Challenge To Overcome When Shooting?

Definately where to position yourself at a break. As I said above, light plays a big part (that is dictated by the seasons) and getting yourself set up in the right place is imperitive! With all the breaks I visit, I have my go to positions that I pitch up to. I would say the second challenge is trying to get a shot that's different to everybody else. Cornwall has its popular breaks and shooters flock in their masses on big days. Trying to get that different shot is difficult but not impossible. You just need to check out what shots get taken to see where you can put a different perspective on it. Being land-based, that gives you scope to do this.

Photo By Mario Cortes

Mario's Equipment List

Camera & Lenses

Mario sticks with his FujiFilm XT2 body attached with the following: 100-400mm telephoto, 55-200mm telephoto & 18-55 wide angle lens.

Mario's Favourite Shot Taken

Porthtowan, Winter 2020. On a chance trip to Porthtowan for a walk, I decided to take the camera (just in case). It just happened to be a perfect swell day! This shot that was taken on the Chapel Porth side of Porthtowan looking down, the light was perfect for shooting! I didn't realise how good the shot was until I downloaded them that evening. To this day, this shot has the highest amount of shares & reposts on socials of any shot I've taken to date! It's looks incredible in A3/A2 print for those interested!

Favourite Shot By Mario Cortes

Personal Message

Keep the oceans clean and stay safe out there! Respect the break and the locals that surf there and all should be good!!

I'm always open to collaborations with brands. I had a very short stint with Northcore but Covid put an end to that! I've provided shots to some large names/brands in/outside of the industry, but if I had a goal, it would be to do some solid collaboration work for a surf brand! The surf industry is about who you know, this can help you open doors!

Mario's Future Plans

Having been featured in various magazines/books already, I'd like to get a cover shot one day on the front of a mag. I terms of travel, I'd like to do a shoot abroad. Possibly going away later this year to the Canaries where I will be taking the camera to hopefully get some material! I'm exploring the possibility of a calendar in the future. Anyone that likes my work and wants to collaborate, hit me up!


You can keep up to date with Mario's new projects and recent captures on his Instagram or by email at

Do You Want To Be Involved In Beyond The Frame?

Are you a surf photographer wanting your story told? You may be our next Beyond The Frame feature! Please get in touch with us over email so we can get a conversation going:

Photo By Mario Cortes

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