Cape Fear Pro Surfing Contest in Sydney, Australia – Event Overview
Sponsored by the extreme sports hosting powerhouse Red Bull, the 2016 Cape Fear professional surfing event will surely go down in competitive pro surfing history as one of the craziest and most dangerous events ever completed. There were many people present on the day of the event, in terms of pro surfers, event organizers and administrators, and audience members, who all seemed to feel that the event would be canceled.
This sentiment was floating around on the day of the Cape Fear contest primarily due to the fact that the surf conditions were so ridiculously intense that it appeared as though it wouldn’t even be safely possible to ride those breaks. Held in Sydney, Australia’s famous Botany Bay, the Cape Fear event is already one of the world’s most intense and risky surfing challenges. The breaking waves were so massive at the event, that the contest format had to be changed from half-tow/half-paddling to exclusively tow-in format.
Its towering, and especially massive and heavy wave breaks are known to seriously pound surfers who have the misfortune of wiping out on them. Not only are the large waves especially massive and unpredictable, they also break into very shallow water that is scattered with sharp reef all over the place. This is a wave break that is highly unlikely to be forgiving towards any unfortunate surfers who should suffer a mistake on the wave, or simply get tossed over by an unforeseen deformation in the wave break pattern.
Competitor Performances and Final Scoring
The final scoring at the 2016 Cape Fear event was definitely a little dicey and certainly quite flawed in the beginning, and this was due to multiple different factors on the day of the main event. For one thing, at the beginning of the event it was genuinely looking like none of the pro surfers in the competitive field were going to be able to actually thread any of the insanely large, 12-foot-tall average size barrels, and so the first riders to even achieve mediocre lines were awarded absurdly high scores such as an 8.75 near the beginning for a very medium-level barrel threading.
In an extremely rare move by the judges, they actually elected to modify that score later in the event as it became clear that other surfers were going to be able to do better on the goliath waves present in Botany Bay on that day. There were certainly many wipeouts to be seen on the day of the 2016 Cape Fear event, and some of them were actually quite bad and required medical attention.
For example, after tentatively catching a handful of waves the Sydney local pro named Justin Allport suffered a fairly nasty wipeout in a massive unevenly breaking tube. In a gentler break, his fall would have been rather commonplace but in the unforgiving waters of Cape Fear/Botany Bay on that day he suffered a serious injury from his fall. Emerging from under the surf after his wipeout, Justin Allport came up with a literal hole in his head that appeared to be bleeding fairly profusely. He remained conscious, and was taken to a local hospital to receive medical care.
Another surfer who seemed to have a hard time at Cape Fear and who undoubtedly took a beating there was the rookie seventeen year old surfer Riley Laing. Riley apprehensively entered the break and caught a couple rides before being tumbled in a furious rolling breaker. After he came up from that beating he looked visibly shaken, and seemed to back off after that. In spite of getting beaten by a monster wave, to Riley Laing’s credit, he was able to swim out the back of it which did appear a fairly incredible feat at the time.
Red Bull Cape Fear Surf Contest Grand Champion – Russel Bierke:
One of the youngest competitors in the entire 2016 Cape Fear contest, Russel Bierke managed to battle against the odds and against towering waves to take home the 1st place finish at the prestigious Botany Bay competition. Bierke is himself a native of the South Coast in Australia, and while still developing his talents as an elite surfer he certainly does already have some big wave chops under his belt.
This became abundantly clear as the judges and spectators watched Russel Bierke absolutely shred a handful of colossal, 12-foot breaks, even earning a perfect-10 score to take home the victory. While it could be argued, and likely has been by other analysts reporting on the event, that Russel gained an advantage by so many other competitors wiping out and getting injured out of the competition, this is hardly a fair assessment given that Russel had to contend with those monster waves also.
On his perfect-10, contest winning ride, it was clear that Russel was faced with a make-or-break situation. As he was threading the massive 12-footer, it started to break over his head and instead of getting nervous and bailing out to try and swim under, he held his line and flew through the tube as it smashed over him. The 2016 Cape Fear event was genuinely one of the most intense and dangerous contests in surfing history, and will likely live on in the memories of judges and spectators alike for quite some time.