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World’s best slab riders get event in Australia

Ben Mcartney, Mark Mathews, Koby Abberton & Azza Graham © Bill Morris



Big Wave Updates

Sydney gets its first big-wave event with Red Bull Cape Fear comp

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 19 March, 2014 - Red Bull Cape Fear is a new invitational only big wave surfing event held at one of the world’s most challenging and dangerous waves located in Sydney, Australia, and features 14 of the world’s best “slab” riding specialists, who all dedicate their lives to finding and riding waves that many would fear to look at.

In a world’s first, Red Bull Cape Fear will employ an overlapping heat format where surfers compete in designated battles in a new competition style; surfers are pitted against each other in a thrilling wave arena combining paddle and tow in surfing and each man-on-man clash will result in a winner. This battle style format is used to maximize the short waiting period and potential peak in a large swell and will give fans the chance to witness epic contests and the settling of old scores.

Red Bull Cape Fear. The name says it all. And for the uninitiated, it’s a deadly wave break that is even more daunting than it sounds. In the very bay where Captain Cook landed and settled Australia more than two hundred years ago, Red Bull Cape Fear has been the site of many a wreck – both man and craft – over the years.

An angry Pacific Ocean stirs and jerks like a mad witch’s melting pot, pushing into the bay before pitching furiously on a shallow ledge so sharp is has the Gillette scientists baffled. Within a matter of seconds a 10-foot slab is formed and races towards a cliff-face just metres ahead before imploding on itself and anyone who dares attempt ride it.

“Pound for pound, Red Bull Cape Fear is the heaviest and most dangerous wave in the world,” says big wave surfer and one of the brains behind the concept, Mark Mathews. “There’s no wave in the world from six to 10 feet that is heavier than it. Deep water swells pitch on a super shallow ledge that’s covered with razorblade barnacles and then it breaks only 10-15 metres from the cliff face. So if you fall off and don’t hit the bottom, chances are you’re going to get washed in to that cliff face. There are plenty of dangers and few people willing to navigate them.”

Red Bull Cape Fear has a waiting period from April 17 through to August 1 and the ocean wave forecasting expertise at will liaise with Red Bull to call the day. A Cape Fear location is searchable on for the duration of the waiting period.

The field for Red Bull Cape Fear brings together a unique breed of surfers from around the world capable of taking on this wave and the call up list includes – Hawaiians Jamie O'Brien, Ian Walsh, Shane Dorian, Bruce Irons and Makua Rothman, USA’s Alex Gray and Australian's Mark Matthews, Ryan Hipwood, Koby Abberton, Richie Vaculik, Laurie Towner, Dave Rastovich, Jesse Polock and Dean Morrison.

In a world first, Red Bull Cape Fear consists one-on-one battles, and each battle will consist of the two best-matched surfers. Like a boxing card, the first five battles are on the under card for the main event. Consider it a series of consecutive finals if you will. Each battle will consist of approximately 20-minutes of paddling in and 20-minutes of towing in, and surfers will be judged by wave size and difficulty. There will be four surfers in the water at all times – two contesting the paddle-in element and two contesting the tow-in element. Each battle will crown a winner.

Paddle-in: The traditional act of using one’s arms while lying facedown on a surfboard to propel the surfer forward and into the wave before attempting to stand-up. The slower-moving the wave is, the easier it is to paddle in to.

Tow-in: A little like wake-boarding, the surfer is given a tow rope attached to a jet-ski and pulled to his feet outside the breaking zone. The jet-ski operator, or tow-in partner, then tows the already-standing surfer at speed into the next wave where the surfer lets go of the rope and attempts to ride the wave. The quicker the wave the more speed the jet-ski requires to whip the rider in safely. The major benefit of the tow-in is it allows surfers to ride much bigger waves.

The location of Red Bull Cape Fear will not be precisely disclosed as this is a closed event, but fans are able to watch all the action live and exclusive on or Fuel TV.

A 60 minute documentary will be created by Red Bull Media House following the event, realised by Mint Pictures and directed by AFI winner Macario De Souza.

Erica Valenti

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