It was intended to be a different kind of a surf contest, and the Red Bull Cape Fear Challenge, lived up to its billing. Held at Cape Solander on the outskirts of Sydney's Botany Bay, the break known as "Ours" went haywire on the final day of the waiting period as 16 of the world's premier big-wave riders took full advantage. Waves like this one caught by Ryan Hipwood proved that, given the opportunity, some guys will go on anything.
Credited as being one of the best big-wave chargers in the world, Laurie Towner would have loved to see another 20 feet on the swell, but not one to complain, the humble Australian was satisfied with what he was given. The Red Bull Cape contest featured a unique format. Rather than advancing through a series of heats, surfers were paired up in "battles." Eight heats were surfed, eight winners were crowned. Beating style-master Dave Rastovich in his battle, Towner was among the day's champs.
"This has been a day I'll never forget, I got to surf at one of my favorite spots, against who I believe is the greatest big wave surfer of all time -- Shane Dorian." said Mark Mathews, who was instrumental in putting the Cape Fear contest together. "I'm really happy with this event, the surf is not big enough to tow, but still one of the best days of the year out there and everyone has been going for it."
For as well-versed as Dorian is in big waves around the world, this one right here was his first-ever at Ours. "This is a powerful wave, just before the event started I was out there for the first time and my first wave got me in the head and drove me all the way to the bottom, into the reef and I got pounded. This wave has a lot of power," described Dorian.
A decade ago Cape Solander wasn't even considered a surfable wave, but today there's a handful who tempt fate in front of its treacherous cliffs and rocks.
Former world tour surfer Kirk Flintoff locked into this wide-open gem for one of the waves of the day at the Cape Fear Challenge. There were moments, and Flintoff capitalized.
Local or not, everybody pays dues at Ours. Regular Richie Vaculik won his battle, but had to cash in all his chips to do so.
Last week Hawaii's Jamie O'Brien was pulling into big, deep tubes at Newport Point in California. Forty-eight hours later he was surfing in Botany Bay for the first time in his career. "We'll see how it goes," he surmised in a text message after the 12-hour flight to Sydney. Experience won over as he ended up losing his battle against Hipwood.
Hipwood was one of the in-form surfers of the comp. No stranger to Ours, apparently familiarity does breed contempt. "I've been planning on doing something like this for six or seven years and for it now to be finish is a massive weight off my shoulders," said Hipwood after dispatching O'Brien. "I'm really stoked with the event and that all these international surfers came. Hopefully this is the beginning of a lot of exciting events to come."
Bruce Irons, Koby Abberton
Getting into the water at Ours can be as tricky as actually riding a wave. Longtime local Koby Abberton and friend Bruce Irons made a break for it, and while Irons made it out fine, Abberton ended up "getting flogged on the rocks for the first time ever."
More renowned for his clean lines and twin-fins, Rastovich also charges. Unable to get by Towner in their battle, it wasn't for lack of grace. He described the wave as being "beautiful."
"The contest was all put together by Mathews, a huge hats off to him," said Abberton afterwards. "It was his idea, he wrangled everybody together from around the world, and he knows the wave better than anybody else." A labor of love, it all paid off in the end as he won his battle against Dorian.
Ian Walsh rode some of the biggest waves of the year at Jaws, but couldn't get by a feisty Dean "Dingo" Morrison in their battle. A veteran world tour surfer, Morrison applied his competitive experience to great effect, but Walsh is no slouch and made it interesting with waves like this.
O'Brien did his best to learn from the locals, but was getting his intel from the wrong source. Never listen to a sea gull when it comes to the intricacies of taking off at Ours.
There was only one magazine editor invited to the party, Stab's Sam McIntosh. A wiz with the words and a heady charger, he wasn't able to rise up against an on-fire Jesse Polock, but he should have plenty to write about.
Hipwood on another dredger.
A more tranquil moment during the maelstrom that was the Red Bull Cape Fear spectacular.