Big swell strikes fear into surf comp
THE biggest storm swell for the year descended right along the East Coast thanks to an unusual weather event akin to an out of season cyclone. From Fraser Island to Tasmania, a series of deep low pressure troughs hammered the coastal fringe with devastating beach erosion such as at south Collaroy’s beachfront houses and surf club.
In the midst of this imperfect storm was the annual Red Bull Cape Fear competition at Cape Solander, South Sydney. Contest organiser and big wave Bra Boy, Mark Mathews, calculated the storm swell would be perfect for his event and called it a week out for a start on that Mad Monday. Local crazy-big-wave-aficionado Justin Allport, known as Jughead, defied all the laws of sanity taking on the seemingly wild waves with reckless abandon splashed all over the national news.
Laying your life on the line for the thrill and the exhilaration of one of the greatest slab waves on the planet is what Jughead and others breathe and live for. Forget the ratings, points and prize money, these guys are laying it all on the line for guts and glory and getting fully shacked like no other break.
It’s like getting shot out of a cannon or being shot, it’s all black and white. Monday’s swell was in the 5-metre plus range, compounded by the backwash off the rocks only millimetres from the cascading cavernous lips, was all life and death. Jughead and his fearless mates were surfing not only for pride but also for a suicide prevention cause known as FTW revolution. And while Jughead’s heaviest wipeout on Monster Monday put him out of action for Tuesday’s finals, he was there to cheer on and encourage his mates including the eventual winner.
After two straight days of unbelievably intense action, there was one man left standing, 18 year old Russel Bierke who took down some of the world’s best 16 slab riding specialists including Koby Abberton, Ryan Hipwood, Laurie Towner and Dean Morrison.
“Thanks to Mark Mathews and Red Bull for inviting me to this event!” Bierke said.
“It didn’t really feel like a surf contest, I was just surfing perfect waves with a bunch of guys I really look up to. The waves were really scary on Monday, and Tuesday was perfect. I can’t really believe that I won.”
The format involves 16 surfers with 8 head-to-head battles: four surfers in the water at all times (two contesting a 30 minute paddle-in element and two in a 30 minute tow-in element)
Each battle crowns a winner, and the four highest placed winners progressed to the final.
There was some breathtaking performances on the way to the final, with 10 point rides from both Ryan Hipwood - last year’s winner from the Gold Coast - and Yamba’s Laurie Towner, who incidentally starred as an extra in the Hollywood sequel Pointbreak movie.
However, Bierke was the highest placed surfer at the end of the final and was crowned the Red Bull Cape Fear champion.
Over the last few years, Bierke has been quietly building a reputation for his hard charging ways and his ability to tackle Australia’s biggest waves. The young South Coast surfer paddled and whipped into the biggest and deepest tubes of the day to overcome renowned big wave barrel hunters Koby Abberton, Ryan Hipwood and James Adams in a stacked final.
Bierke finished the day with a near-perfect two wave heat score of 19.97 - making surfing one of the world’s most difficult and dangerous waves look like a walk in the park. Hipwood and Abberton put up a fight, snaring some deep and dredging tubes of their own, but finished the event in second and third place respectively with James Adams, who scored a 10-point-ride rounding out the four-man final.
“It’s been an emotional roller-coaster of an event,” Hipwood said.
“I’m really glad that everyone is safe and there was no major injuries. It’s some of the scariest surf I’ve ever seen. It was an epic event!”