Live From The Red Bull Cape Fear Challenge
A rolling feed from surfing’s most frightening event.
Nine thousand distress calls and 3000 Sydneysiders in emergency shelter following one of the most vicious storms in recent memory, and guess what? They’re running the Red Bull Cape Fear Challenge.
15:00: The contest is off so it’s time for North Shore legend, Dave Wassel’s top five from a traumatic day of action:
1. Number one, nobody died. Straight up. It’s not even funny, this is a life and death situation.
2. I’d have to say James ‘The Rooster’s’ (Adams) barrel is right up there. I wrote him off! I mean that was a barrel Kelly Slater couldn’t have made. That was radical!
3. Richie Vass, that entire heat of him going mad, coming back. He took so many wipeouts, he was a prize fighter! He took ten on the chin and came back swinging. That was literally a cage match verse him and mother nature and as far as I’m concerned he won.
4. Russel Bierke and Mister (Riley) Laing, the two kids coming up against the established gentlemen, amazing. Amazing performance. Russ is in second place.
5. The fact Jughead is in one piece, boy he’s a lunatic, isn’t he?! The wife and kids on the beach, oh no. He could take all top ten himself. I’m just happy that, one the Sydney guys let us come here and Maroubra said okay. And yeah, nobody died.
2:00pm – Heat One Wrap: Winner of heat one, Blake Thornton, on his three waves, and the beating of a lifetime:
“The first one was nice,” said Blake. “It’s impossible to know how big the waves are when you’re on them. A bit of east, it was tapered, I think I got barrelled, I felt the spit. It spat it guts out, the boys were at me in the channel so it was a good one. After that I got a little grower, nice fast one, it kinda threw out of the barrel. The last one was the flogging of a lifetime. It was as violent a beating as I’ve ever had. I fell and was just weightless. I got flipped, cartwheeled, my jersey got ripped over my head. I hit the reef once, softly, because it kinda spat me back. Then I was held under and got a gasp just before the second one. When I got that gasp I saw how close I was to the rocks and I got lucky that I got to get deep enough under it and semi-flushed out and then the boys came and got me. I was just in all sorts, mate. I’ve had wipeouts before but that was bad as you can imagine.”
And what about the conditions?
“It’s almost amazing, almost. The bulk of the waves are still a bit too north its just full risk and reward. There’s the potential to get the best wave ever ridden out here and that’s the gamble everyone is taking. There’s also the reality there’s gonna be a lot of wipeouts. Fingers crossed everyone gets out okay.”
1:10pm: The inevitable has happened. Justin ‘Jughead’ Allport has been injured after going down on a set. He jumped from his board on a wave with very little water at the bottom of it. The wave beforehand drained the shelf. Maroubra’s Blake Thornton was on it, diving forward onto his stomach in a sickening lump of ocean. He survived but Jughead wasn’t as lucky. The contest has been put on hold until he can be looked after. Word is he will be okay but the mood has shifted at the contest site. There is a general unease amongst spectators. The question we are all asking ourselves: Are we going to watch someone get seriously injured today?
12:16pm: First waves are ridden. The fireman from the NSW Central Coast, Justin ‘Jughead’ Allport navigates the step expertly and even manages to chuck in a kick stall before getting thoroughly throated. He nose-dives on the exit but it’s still worth a 6.25. Underground Bra Boy charger and professional carpenter, Rooster Adams, eats it on a heavy, heavy wave, catching an inside rail, though comes up unscathed. Moments before the start of the contest a water photographer was sucked over the falls on an eight foot double up causing screams in the competitors area and a dramatic rescue attempt after it was feared he was knocked unconscious.
Former World Tour surfer, Blake Thornton, makes the first pit of the day, a tall-looking peak-shaped east bomb, for a low eight. Several vicious, near-fatal beatings follow. Nuts.
11:58am: Russell Bierke, 18, from Ulladulla on the NSW South Coast, gives his thoughts on the conditions prior to the first heat commencing:
“Pretty nerve wracking watching wash-throughs at Solander and knowing you’ve gotta surf a heat in it. It’d be one thing if you were kinda cruising and could just pick and choose. With the time limit and everything it definitely adds more pressure. It’s not even really a contest anymore. I don’t think I could be competitive out there. You just gotta kinda gotta try and survive I guess. You get what you get.”
To give you some idea of the who the surfers lining up in the contest are, heat one consists of Justin ‘Jughead’ Allport, who makes a living as a firemen on the NSW Central Coast. He is a ledge specialist who made his name stuffing evil bombs at The Zone (aka indicators), one of Australia’s heaviest waves. His opponent is Jesse Pollock, a Bra Boy and former pro surfer, who now works as a professional lifeguard and can be seen on TV show Bondi Rescue.
The anticipation in the lead up to the first wave being surfed is immense, bordering on emotional. Fathers are embracing their sons, and seasoned chargers are shifting nervously in the stiff wind. This’ll be quite a day.
11:15am: “You ever surfed it like this,” someone asks Bra Boy Richie Vaculik.
“Once before,” he says.
As I drove through Brighton Le Sands and looked out towards Botany Bay I saw sets breaking way out into the channel. It’s ludicrously big and only semi-rideable though, with conditions predicted to back off a touch there will still be opportunities. In an interesting twist, the draw is made of mostly local and underground chargers after a host of big names were forced to withdraw due to scheduling problems.
Russell Bierke, the 17 year-old South Coast slab surfing wunderkind, is skeptical.
“I don’t know if it’s ridable. It’s got that bit of north in it so once you’re in I don’t know if you can get out.”
Contest is scheduled to start at 11 am.
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