The first day of the Red Bull Cape Fear big-wave surf contest in Australia was filled with so many intense wipeouts that event organizers had to postpone the event.
On Monday, conditions cleaned up a bit. And by the end of day two, soft-spoken 18-year-old Australian surfer Russell Bierke had emerged from the carnage unscathed and victorious.
“It didn’t really feel like a surf contest,” the young charger told Red Bull after the event. “I was just surfing perfect waves with a bunch of guys I really look up to. The waves yesterday were really scary [but] today was perfect. I can’t really believe that I won.”
Bierke finished the second day of the event with two nearly perfect rides — finishing the day with a cumulative heat wave score of 19.97, making the insanely difficult and dangerous Ours surf break look like child’s play.
While Bierke’s surfing was phenomenal, the main story of this event will be just how insanely dangerous the conditions were on day one.
Fed by a deep sea trench, the Ours break in Sydney’s Botany Bay is one of the most unpredictable and powerful waves in the world. Day one saw the biggest surf in contest history, with waves topping out at 15 feet and threatening to drive surfers into the jagged rock shelf that sits just a few meters from the break.
The wipeouts were memorable:
Unfortunately, those wipeouts had some very real consequences. The overall points leader after day one, Justen “Jughead” Allport, was slammed headfirst into a reef, producing this memorable image:
— Brett Costello (@Brett_Costello) June 6, 2016
Jughead had to be transported to a local hospital in a neck brace following the spill.
“Man, I get nervous with waves a quarter of that size, I’m only human,” Allport told the Daily Telegraph. “For a second (after getting dumped) I wasn’t too concerned but then I hit my head and it felt like I’d hurt my back.”
Ultimately, Allport was okay. While he wasn’t able to take home the championship trophy, he did take home a head full of stitches for his efforts:
“I was under the water for a long time,” Allport continued to the Daily Telegraph about his scary wipeout. “And when I tried to open my eyes I couldn’t see where I was in the water, or what side of the reef I was on.”
Perhaps the feelings of the surfers involved were most eloquently summed up by Bierke following his win.
“Still in disbelief, huge thanks to everyone involved in this amazing event,” Bierke wrote on Facebook following his win. “Congrats to all the surfers for surviving such a crazy event, you’re all maniacs!”
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