The Kid in The Pic­ture

Rus­sell Bierke is f in­ally on the cover .

Tracks - - Intro - Photo: Ryan Craig. By Luke Kennedy

A lit­tle over four years ago a shot ar­rived in the Tracks in­box fea­tur­ing a kid slalom­ing down the face of a colos­sal South Coast bombie. Truth be told, it was slot­ted as a po­ten­tial cover. Then we found out the kid was 15 and felt like maybe we had a duty of care. If we ran the shot we might com­pel this pre­co­cious youth to take even big­ger risks be­fore he was ready. No­body wanted that on their con­science. There were also mis­giv­ings about show­cas­ing a fif­teen-year-old as a su­pe­rior big wave rider – could it make all those other ca­reer hell­men feel in­fe­rior? Didn’t they de­serve a cover be­fore this blonde-mopped stick in­sect claimed the cov­eted slot? Half a decade later and Rus­sell Bierke is fi­nally grac­ing the cover of Tracks, iron­i­cally spear­ing through a hole in the ocean at the same deep wa­ter left. He’s still only 20, but is un­de­ni­ably al­ready an es­tab­lished mem­ber of the big wave surf­ing elite. Brett Burcher’s en­ter­tain­ing pro­file on Russ starts a gen­er­a­tion back with the ex­ploits of Russ’s Dad, Kirk, be­fore de­tail­ing Russ’s jour­ney from wun­derkind to world-beater. If Rus­sell Bierke goes big, then Ezekiel Lau is sim­ply a big hu­man. The hulk framed Hawai­ian has made his pres­ence felt on tour in his first year, most no­tably with a semi-fi­nal fin­ish at Bells. Zeke’s war­rior fo­cus and fierce Poly­ne­sian pride are com­ple­mented by a dy­namic surf­ing ap­proach – raw power blended with on rail pre­ci­sion and a so­phis­ti­cated aerial reper­toire – mak­ing him a com­pelling surfer to watch. In Jock Serong’s in-depth in­ter­view Zeke dis­cusses his her­itage along with his ded­i­ca­tion to men­tal and phys­i­cal prepa­ra­tion for surf­ing’s elite realm. Like Zeke, Pama Davies has Poly­ne­sian roots, but grew up in Bondi in­stead of Oahu’s south shore. Pama’s still old enough to re­mem­ber when his home sub­urb had a lit­tle more Bronx than bling, but has cer­tainly rolled with the changes he’s seen. Raised on a sta­ple diet of close­out beachies, he learned to punt to keep things in­ter­est­ing. I think you’ll agree that the shot on his sec­ond spread fea­tures a di­vine col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween surfer and pho­tog­ra­pher. If you’ve cho­sen the freesurf­ing route, as Pama has, it’s the abil­ity to pull off hook-ups like this that pays the bills. You also have to be pre­pared to take off to strange lo­ca­tions at the be­hest of the cre­ative direc­tors of the com­pa­nies who spon­sor you. Pama finds him­self wan­der­ing down tech­ni­colour moun­tains in the Colorado desert. Mean­while, for­mer Tracks ed­i­tor and dec­o­rated writer, Phil Jar­ratt, is far more con­cerned with the con­tin­gent who pull on con­test sin­glets for a liv­ing; where they be­gan and to what ends they are evolv­ing. How much do you re­ally know about the ori­gins of the sport you love and what can past ex­pe­ri­ences tell us about where the WSL will end up in a uni­verse with wave pools, no Kelly Slater and an elu­sive bil­lion­aire named Dirk cov­er­ing costs til it turns a buck. Don’t miss Jar­ratt’s re­veal­ing two-part fea­ture or his re­cently re­leased mem­oir, TheLife­ofBrine. (Look out for an ex­cerpt next month). Lastly, we put Coolan­gatta un­der the mi­cro­scope – a town that runs on the sup­ply of sand and the scent of surf­ing glory. Sev­eral in­di­vid­u­als with very dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives de­tail their re­spec­tive jour­neys down the line at Cooly. We also farewell Derek Re­cio af­ter more than ten years of ser­vice to the Tracks Ad­ver­tis­ing team. His pas­sion for the brand and en­ter­tain­ing ban­ter will be sore­lymissed.

These days, some­one is fol­low­ing Rus­sell Bierke from ev­ery an­gle.

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