Stab Magazine | Russell Bierke Wins The 2016 Red Bull Cape Fear Challenge

Russell Bierke Wins The 2016 Red Bull Cape Fear Challenge

And beats Ryan Hipwood in the final.

news // Jun 8, 2016
Words by Jed Smith
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Nine thousand distress calls and 3000 Sydneysiders in emergency shelter following one of the most vicious storms in recent memory, and guess what? We’re being treated to a second day of the Red Bull Cape Fear Challenge.

14:25 Russ Bierke just won the 2016 Red Bull Cape Fear Challenge.
Yesterday I’d stood next to Russell Bierke’s mother as the 18-year-old went down on an apparently fatal wave and failed to resurface. “I don’t usually get to watch him do his big wave surfing. It always happens so far away. I wish I didn’t come up (from Ulladulla) to watch now,” she said afterwards, badly shaken. (Russ was fine. He’d been flushed into the bay and collected by water safety.) It was characteristic of a day in which it was almost as tough to be a spectator as it was a competitor. What a difference a day makes. The kid who once dropped Kelly Slater’s jaw with his heroics at a mysto South Oz slab is a revelation on the final day. His stand-tall perfect 10 in the dying stages of the final must be one of the tallest, widest kegs ever ridden at the Cape.

How does it feel? It feels amazing. Getting barrelled out there was good enough. Coming in and taking the title I’m still in shock. It doesn’t even feel real yet.

Can you talk us through the final? The final was crazy. Hippo and I were paddling at the start. It was still pretty much impossible to paddle, still too big and the current and everything. We were just watching Rooster and Koby get bombs thinking they’d be pretty hard to beat. Then it was Hippo and my turn and we were just going wave for wave, getting so many good ones.


The perfect 10? That 10, I thought it was gonna break off the reef and land on my head. When I got to the bottom I was just like, oh, thank god it’s holding. The thing just flared so nice and let me out of it with no backwash.

How experienced are you with this wave? I think that was my third or fourth time surfing out here. I’ve never surfed it anywhere near this big and good. I’ve only had fun paddle days out here. It was a sharp learning curve.

What about the carnage yesterday? Yesterday was absolutely crazy. It made today feel like three foot snapper or something. I’m glad everyone survived yesterday and we all had a good time. Especially Jug, he was loving it. I’m glad he’s alright. It was the heaviest waves ever yesterday, perfect today.

What’s the plan now? I think just keep chasing slabs and big waves, hopefully get on the big wave world tour. It would be nice to have more speciality events like this in big slabs. I can’t imagine the view count on it, especially yesterday. There was that much carnage going down.


Runner-up Hippo gives deserved props to winner Russ.

14:00 Heavy Crew Attracts The Coppers
Four riot vehicles and a dozen coppers have gotten wind of what’s going on and make their unwanted presence felt. It’s no secret there’s some heavy crew getting around the contest. It’s as blue-collar as it gets. Trade-unionists, wharfies, Bra Boys, builders, professional rugby league players, and every other kind of hard, uncompromising Australian archetype you can think of is here – including a member of the Rebels Motorcycle Club wearing colours, and it doesn’t take long before the police are onto him. He’s escorted out shortly after.

13:30 Laurie Towner Is Wildly Stylish
Yamba big wave madman, Laurie Towner, has to be one of the most stylish big wave surfers in the world. He is also a testament to how hard it is to get sponsorship if you’re not from one of the surf industry hotspots (southern California, the northern beaches of Sydney, Oahu, Hossegor, etc). He stuffs the first legitimate paddle effort of the day before putting on a clinic in poise and grace under the pump. Like most of the competitors in the event, he’s without a major sponsor.


Can you believe Laurie Towner is (still) without a major sponsor?

13:00 Koby Abberton Sets The Standard
Following on from several gallant backside efforts from his brother, Jai, Koby spends an age trying to paddle one but it’s still too big and too north. His opponent, Dean ‘Dingo’ Morrison attempts one and gets thoroughly lit up. Then it’s time to take the tow rope. For all his career ups and downs, Koby is still preternatural in the pit and a class above out here. A series of deep, perfectly positioned tow waves earns him the highest total of the day so far and a comfortable win over Dingo.


Koby was unstoppable in his first heat.

12:00: Heat One Winner, Kirk Flintoff, on surfing eight to 10 foot Ours backside against Jai Abberton:
“It’s so tricky, I don’t think anyone understands. You can’t slow down, you can’t do those fine little adjustments the guys on their forehand can do. It’s kinda like you’ve just gotta come from deep, set your line and you got no choice once you’re in there, you just gotta fucken stand straight. It’s too big to grab your rail cos if you stick your arse in the wave it just sucks you straight up and throws you straight over the falls.”

His opening wave required him to navigate a treacherous bit of jet ski wake. Here’s what it looked from where he was:

“I saw the wash coming down and just fucken opened up my eyes and hit the wash as hard as I could, and broke through it and it went so square when I was back inside it. “

Kirk also jagged the best wave of his life five minutes before the heat started:

“I came from deep, it was a big one, the comp was about to start in five minutes so I just stood there and it was the best I’ve fucken had. The sun came out and I was just standing there going, this is the best thing ever. It’s the best thing I’ve ever been a part of.”


Doing this on your backside is absolutely no joke. Kirk Flintoff has it covered.


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