Editor’s note: We were late to the party here. But after watching this vid about Russel Bierke, we had to know more. An 18-year-old casual madman. We watched and then called.
Russell Bierke roared into recognition at Red Bull’s Cape Fear event at the horrifying slab in Australia that resembles surfing suicide. It was Russel who wound up winning, announcing to the world that he didn’t just charge hard for an 18 year old, but that he was unshakeable. A prodigious talent who is focused solely on riding the most dangerous waves on the planet. And he did so with a casual confident demeanor.
His coming of age edit, “Bezerke” profiles the young Austrlian’s ascent from Ululdulla’s underground slab scene to a serious player amongst the big wave elite.
This year, I’ve been familiarizing myself with the oblivion that is Ocean Beach in hopes that I’d better understand what kind of man I am, and the one that I could be. I have learned that surfing waves of consequence requires an entirely different strain of humanity. It calls for composure and self confidence in the face of the ocean’s death roll. Losing your cool burns oxygen, but staying calm during a beat down is easier said than done.
In “Bezerke”, Russell gives the secret of his trade:
“The trick my dad always taught me when surfing big waves was to count underwater. You always think you are under for longer than you actually are. What feels like a 30 second hold down is probably closer to 5 or 10 seconds. It’s really beneficial for the mental side of things for when you’re down there.”
After we watched, we called Russel to chat about charging.
What Youth: One part of the movie that really stuck out to me was when you talked about how your Dad taught you to count when you were getting held down. What’s the longest time you think you’ve been held under?
Russel Bierke: I think my longest hold down would’ve been around 30 seconds. It was at a left bombie near home that features in the first section of the film. I fell at the start and got held down forever. I stopped counting at about 15 seconds when I got my eyes above water to see the lip for the next wave detonate in my face before I got a breath, then I only just got managed to surface before the third wave hit me. Definitely my worst beating so far.
That wave looks fucked up. You talked about your father’s influence in your desire to surf big waves. Where did he grow up surfing?
My dad was actually born in Wisconsin but moved to Torrance Beach when he was super young and picked up surfing and shaping there.
How did your family come to living in Uladulla?
I’m pretty sure he moved to Santa Barbara when he was 18 and shaped there for a few years. He kept spending months at Puerto Escondido and everyone would tell him to go to Hawaii. He finally did and spent nearly 20 years living and shaping on the North Shore. My mum was on holiday from Australia and they met over in Hawaii. I was born there and moved to Australia when I was five.
We lived up near the Gold Coast at a town called Cabarita, after living there for two years the crowd was just getting thicker and thicker so my parents shifted down the coast to where it’s a lot quieter and quite a bit colder. I think they made a pretty good move though.
You think if they stayed up on the Gold Coast you would of ended up doing the comp thing and not charging?
Yeah it’s so nice down here. Definitely a higher chance I would’ve ended up more on the comp scene, I did lots of comps until I was about 16 then just focused on surfing heavy waves.
Slab City is down there, isn’t it?
There’s a lot of dry rock slabs down here, and growing up on this part of the coast everyone charges like its no big deal so it makes you want to step it up too.
At 18, you’ve ticked off a lot of waves on your bucket list, what’s next?
There’s still some waves around Australia I’d like to score, at the moment Ireland and the rest of Northern Europe are pretty high on my bucket list. I’m also super keen to hit Mavericks this season too.
What about big wave contests?. Is winning the Eddie high up on the list or are you more focused on making more edits?
Yeah it’s been a dream of mine to get an invite in the Eddie, and I think the concept of a big wave contest is pretty cool. I think I’ll be able to pull off competing and making more edits pretty easily. I guess big wave comps aren’t like being on the WCT where it’s a full time gig, there’s only a handful of events that run each year and lots of downtime between them.
Watch Bezerke above and remember the name. Russel Bierke. He’s really damn gnarly. —Jake Tellcamp