COLOSSEUM

RUS­SELL BIERKE AND FRIENDS IN THE GLAD­I­A­TOR PIT

Carve - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY SHARPY PHO­TOS BY TIM NUNN & SHARPY

He's only a teenager but Rus­sell Bierke is al­ready veer­ing to­wards leg­endary sta­tus. Al­ready one of the lead­ing charg­ers in the world he came over to check out Ire­land's low key yet world class scene and scored ... even­tu­ally.

Afew is­sues back we ran a piece fea­tur­ing Conor Maguire, Gearoid Mcdaid and Pete Con­roy at home. That shoot came about as part of an O'neill team trip, our crew merged with their crew for a week of fun waves and a few pints of the black gold. Here's the other half we couldn't show you then as the wet­ties were for the new sea­son. The whole idea was to get young Aussie hell­man Rus­sell Bierke over to Ire­land and to surf with some of the Euro­pean and lo­cal crew and ex­plore the wave rich land. It went so much bet­ter than any­one could've hoped for...

Or­gan­is­ing peo­ple is hard. It's like herd­ing cats. Es­pe­cially when they're pro surfers dot­ted all over the globe. Ev­ery­one has sched­ules. Pros get to keep their con­tracts by keep­ing busy be it with comps or free surf shoots and projects. So find­ing win­dows when five of the bug­gers can all be some­where for ten days is tricky. It's hard to

say 'Swell! Come!' last minute when you're deal­ing with a big crew. So a win­dow has to be set. Then you cross your fin­gers and hope for the best. We did some good cross­ing. We had our share of flat days and driv­ing days and promis­ing fore­casts com­ing to noth­ing days but it all came to­gether in the end for three stun­ning days at one of the spook­i­est joints in all of surf­ing: Ri­leys. And we got to share it with Conor, G-man, Pete and lo­cal shoot­ers Fionn and Clem.

It's an am­phithe­ater, a raw Colosseum of oceanic rage, it's like nowhere else on Earth. The noise is Dolby 5.1 sur­round plus. Ev­ery break­ing wave goes through you. The roar is in­ces­sant and un­nerv­ing. Add to this the fact the wave is bor­der­line un­rid­able and dan­ger­ous and it's no sur­prise it's only ses­sioned by a hardy lo­cal crew. It's one of those spots that in­stills ca­ma­raderie, ev­ery­one looks out for ev­ery­one else as in­juries are fre­quent and the con­se­quences un­palat­able. But that ca­ma­raderie also means hoots and cheers for sick tubes and a ses­sion vibe where ev­ery­one is push­ing ev­ery­one else big­ger and deeper.

For all the hun­dreds of miles driven, the hikes made, the frus­trat­ing nearly there surfs, it's all worth it. Those three days with an epic crew from all over the world and Ire­land surf­ing mind­bend­ing waves will be seared into all our grey mat­ter for­ever. Those ses­sions are what we all live for. This is why we do what we do. The kind of days that make your mind glow...

ON IRE­LAND

Com­pared to the places I've surfed around the world, the big slabs at home in Aus­tralia, Hawaii and Tahiti this place is right up there. Ri­leys was a heavy as any other slab I've surfed. It was so shal­low, felt like ev­ery time you fell you'd hit the bot­tom. There's def­i­nitely some crazy waves around here. It's got the small town feel, heaps of coun­try­side, it's not that dif­fer­ent to home.

- RUS­SELL

Long time res­i­dent and core Ri­leys rider since Mickey Smith shared the spot with the world, Stef Ska­jarowski, who's wit­nessed most of the all time ses­sions and charges the joint when­ever pos­si­ble reck­oned Rus­sell's last wave (pic­tured) was one of the top three waves he's ever seen pad­dled there...

“I was pretty happy with my last wave, to have the lo­cal boys froth­ing on it and hoot­ing from the chan­nel made it even bet­ter. It's not of­ten you get a round of ap­plause from a line up. It was a pretty good feel­ing get­ting out of that one. I thought it was just go­ing to tease me and get me at the end or some­thing, but it just let out. We had a "few" Guin­nesses to cel­e­brate af­ter that ses­sion.”

- RUS­SELL

I knew it could get pretty big and scary in Ire­land, but surf­ing in chal­leng­ing, hol­low con­di­tions like this with all the boys ... you just want to get a big­ger one, a sicker one and you're just en­joy­ing the mo­ment.

- NEL­SON

First time in Ire­land, we had sick waves in Scot­land last year but the waves here are more per­fect.

- ADRIAN

I've been com­ing to Ire­land since I was eleven with my fam­ily and camp at Easkey and surf all sum­mer. I've sailed around the coast search­ing for waves with brother Taz and par­ents too. It's un­pre­dictable and sketchy when the winds get up so we spent a lot of time hid­ing up es­tu­ar­ies but it was awe­some. See­ing the Cliffs from a boat was stun­ning.

- PE­ONY

ON RI­LEYS

Walk­ing down to Ri­leys the first time was crazy, seen so many pho­tos of Ferg and Lowey over the years, you feel so dwarfed by the cliffs and ev­ery­thing, it's like a full am­phithe­atre. The cra­zi­est left slab just hid­den there. When we got there the tide was a bit wrong and we're all won­der­ing how the joint was even sur­fa­ble. Then when there's just enough wa­ter on the reef we gave it a shot ... Turned out to be pretty sick.

- RUS­SELL

Walk­ing in I was a bit stressed, ev­ery­one was laugh­ing and talk­ing wait­ing for the tide and we had plenty of time to gauge how it all worked. Once we got in and got a few we re­laxed. That said it's a re­ally dan­ger­ous spot, you've got to choose a good one, take your time. You can't just go any wave. When you're see­ing friends get­ting hurt it re­ally makes you think 'I've got to be care­ful' it's so easy to get re­ally hurt. But you just deal with it.

- NEL­SON

First time we went down to Ri­leys I was scared. It's one of the heav­i­est waves in the world and when you're sit­ting there so close to the wave and how shal­low it is ... I didn't think it was sur­fa­ble. Maybe only for tow ins. Once you've caught some medium ones you fig­ure it out a bit.

- ADRIAN

Walk­ing down to Ri­leys I was ner­vous. I've never been out any­where as heavy as that. Es­pe­cially on my back­hand!

Mul­lagh­more was an ex­pe­ri­ence, it was good to be out there and pick a few off. The guys got pretty nailed. It's all a good learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It's a steep learn­ing curve, but I'm froth­ing to come back and give it an­other dig.

- PE­ONY

It's been sick watch­ing Rus­sell, Nel­son and Adrian and the lo­cal crew catch some big ones.

It shows me where I want to be. My first thought go­ing down to Ri­leys was 'please don't make go in!' It's def­i­nitely he heav­i­est wave I've ever seen. It was so loud and thick.

- KIT

ON RUS­SELL

I was talk­ing to some friends be­fore the trip, when I said Russ was com­ing they were all 'you bet­ter take a hel­met and life vest if you're surf­ing with him'. I surf Hossegor beach­break all the time, he's a slab ex­pert so we've got a dif­fer­ent ap­proach but it's sick to surf with new peo­ple and learn from each other. We've given him some Euro­pean cul­ture as well... I hope he comes down to France and we can show him our waves as well.

- NEL­SON

It's been a fun trip with Nel­son, Kit and Pea such a good crew. Rus­sell is a mad­man, be­ing in the wa­ter with him you learn how he moves and how slabs work. They've got more of them there we don't have so many death slabs in Spain.

- ADRIAN

It was an ex­pe­ri­ence meet­ing and surf­ing with Rus­sell. So good to pad­dle out at Ri­leys and get some tips. He's so friendly and mel­low on land but a nutter in the wa­ter, just charg­ing. It's been fun with Conor and G-man they've been help­ing me too with the reefs, it's very dif­fer­ent to home in North Devon. It's all about hav­ing the con­fi­dence to throw your­self over the ledge.

- PE­ONY

Rus­sell is su­per chilled, it's like I've known him for ages, he's re­ally nice. I thought he'd be all Mr Big Wave Surfer but he's not. He is crazy in the wa­ter.

- KIT

LO­CALS I'd seen a lot of Conor and Gearoid's waves from this win­ter, es­pe­cially Conor at Mul­lagh­more, the lo­cals here go hard. They're su­per nice guys as well which is pretty sick. Al­ways good to surf with crew like that. - RUS­SELL

I knew Gearoid from the pro ju­nior cir­cuit but not Conor, they're both so friendly, so wel­com­ing. Thanks to them and Pete we got a few tow waves. Some trips you aren't that wel­come but in a place like this when ev­ery­one's cool it makes the whole trip amaz­ing. Like be­ing at home. Just a big gang hang­ing out.

- NEL­SON

ON IN­JURIES

Ri­leys is some­where if you surf it too much you'll hurt your­self. We had three ses­sions and Conor smashed his face, Adrian his leg and Gearoid did his an­kle. Pete Con­roy broke his back there and Sham­bles did his leg. It's a sketchy spot.

- RUS­SELL

The last day in Ri­leys I broke my an­kle, I'd been re­cov­er­ing from a break two months ago, it was pretty much fixed then I re­broke it. So I've been strap­ping it and get­ting on with it.

Mul­lagh­more was hi­lar­i­ous. First wave face planted on a rock. Not so good for me. And the first ses­sion at Bun­do­ran Peak when it was two foot I face planted on to a rock and my back full scor­pi­oned. All the waves in Ire­land are try­ing to kill me even the two foot­ers! This is the price you pay. I need to come back with a work­ing leg and be­ing 100 per­cent ready to push for the big ones. Hope­fully for big Mul­lagh­more, Axi and Natxo know it well now so it would be sick to come back in the win­ter with them and pad­dle it big with Conor, G-man and the boys.

They're such le­gends, Conor towed me into one of the big­gest bar­rels of my life at Ri­leys...

- ADRIAN

Rus­sell Bierke might have been a long way from home. But he was right at home in fear­some Ir­ish pits.

Adrian FDV can't touch the sides. There are not many spots where just get­ting there is in­tim­i­dat­ing. This is Pe­ony.

Adrian is an ana­gram of “a drain”.

Pete, Clem and Rus­sell re­flect on a ridicu­lous ses­sion.

(right) Nel­son on a per­fect one.

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