Bierke leaves crash be­hind

Gi­ant wave charger back on the board


BIG wave surfer Rus­sell Bierke knows it’s prob­a­bly best he has lit­tle mem­ory of a shock­ing wipe­out that left him float­ing un­con­scious in the wa­ter be­fore be­ing res­cued by fel­low surfers, in­clud­ing Amer­i­can leg­end Kelly Slater.

Best that he’s been able to put be­ing pulled from the surf out for the count “and blue like a Smurf” be­hind him.

Best that he’s still able to hold his nerve when fly­ing down the face of green-lipped mon­sters – in­clud­ing po­ten­tially the in­fa­mous Por­tuguese hot spot of Nazare where a deep un­der­wa­ter canyon spits up waves up to 110-feet high.

The 21-year-old from the NSW South Coast, one of only two Aus­tralians on the WSL Big Wave tour, now treats be­ing knocked out, get­ting wa­ter in his lungs and nearly dy­ing in 2017 as a freak ac­ci­dent, not a life, or ca­reer, chang­ing mo­ment

“It could have turned me off for life but it wasn’t any­thing I did wrong. It was just a freak ac­ci­dent. I have a friend who broke his jaw surf­ing waist height,” said Bierke, who at 18 won the famed Cape Fear big wave event in Syd­ney.

“A few weeks later I was surf­ing again and def­i­nitely had some nerves for sure.

“My very first wave I hit a wave and fell and took a semisolid wipe­out and it helped. It just clicked the switch again. You have to keep it in the back of the mind for safety but not dwell on it.” This at­ti­tude has seen Bierke’s skills and con­fi­dence grow to the ex­tent he is now con­sisted one of the world’s lead­ing big wave charg­ers.

It’s why this week he has flown to Praia do Norte in Por­tu­gal, where waves ex­plod­ing on the rocky coast­line lure big wave dare­dev­ils and where the Big Wave Tour could kick off this sum­mer.

This in­fa­mous venue is where Brazil­ian Ro­drigo Koxa last No­vem­ber rode a ver­i­fied wave 80-feet high, where Maya Gabeira set a world record for the hugest wave surfed by a woman when she con­quered a 68-footer and where Aus­tralian Ross Clarke-Jones al­most drowned last year.

“I’ve never even laid eyes on it so it’s im­por­tant I get to surf here, get a warm-up here in case the com­pe­ti­tion is called on soon,’’ Bierke said.

“I have been study­ing a lot of footage and look­ing at the surf on we­b­cam.”

“A few weeks later I was surf­ing again and had some nerves” RUS­SELL BIERKE


Big wave surfer Rus­sell Bierke cel­e­brates vic­tory dur­ing the Red Bull Cape Fear event and, inset, Bierke surf­ing in Tahiti

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