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KNOTS
On Hold
Athletes
Ian Walsh
Ian Walsh

His CV reads like you'd expect of a world-renowned big wave surfer. Born in Maui, Hawaii, Walshy spent more time in the water than he did on dry land during his formative years any by the age of 18 had established himself as a slayer of big waves. And with a penchant for swell forecasting, it wasn't long before the Red Bull athlete found himself hundreds of kilometers off the American coast in search of monsters never before conquered.

A multiple Big Wave Awards nominee and a master of Jaws - the guy survived a 70-foot giant at the age of 21 - Walsh is among that crazy bunch, most of whom are contesting Cape Fear, doing away with jet-skis in favour of paddling in to the world's biggest waves for that "extra" challenge.

He may be a rookie at Cape Fear but if there's one world to describe Walsh, it's fearless.

Jamie O'Brien
Jamie O'Brien

A former Pipeline Masters winner, Hawaiian Jamie O'Brien is as well a credentialed big wave surfer as anyone. Having grown up in Haleiwa on Hawaii's North Shore, O'Brien has called Pipeline home for all his 29 years and in 2004 claimed the coveted Banzai Masters event from the world's best. Another free surfer in search of the ultimate big wave experience, O'Brien is multiple nominee of Surfer Poll's Heavy Water Award for the bravest soul on the scariest wave and the 2010 winner. He's also an X Games gold medalist and MVP and is helping continue big wave surfing's transition to mainstream through his film-making. Often a relaxed nature can be mistaken for laziness. But in 40-foot swell it can make you a hero in the face of adversity - and Jamie O'Brien isn't lazy. He's a sleeping giant of big wave surfing.

Ryan Hipwood
Ryan Hipwood

Affectionately known as Hippo, Ryan Hipwood is another of Australia's full-time big wave surfers with an unhealthy obsession for being hurt. He made international headlines from Shipsterns Bluff, Tasmania in 2009 after near wiping out on a monster when he somehow rescued a 2metre free-fall beneath a deadly slab. But in true Hippo fashion, the 27-year-old conceded it was worth while to finish runner-up in the Big Wave Awards. He's made a name for himself paddling in to giants at Teahapoo and is a thrill-seeker in the true sense of the term. Tow-in partners with fellow Cape Fear competitor Mark Mathews, Hipwood is no stranger to the unique challenges of Cape Fear. Nor is he to paddling in to 10-foot slabs in the face of unforgiving rocks, all in the name of fun. He's a veteran of Cloud Break, Cloud Nine and Teahupoo, and the former pro junior isn't shy of a little competition.

Jesse Polock
Jesse Polock

He mightn't be a big name in the surfing world but in TV land, Jesse Pollock is one of Australia's most recognizable faces. A lifeguard by trade, the 24-year-old is a star of hit factual reality program Bondi Rescue, where camera's capture lifeguards as they go about saving the lives of hundreds of people over a summer at Australia's most popular beach. The award-wining show - a real-life version of Baywatch if you will but without the bikinis - features Maroubra's Pollock frequently. But when he's not lighting up the silver screen and saving lives, Pollock is challenging big swell and fighting for his own survival. He's a charger and at his home break, this aspiring big wave rider has got nothing to lose and everything to prove against his more experienced rivals. He won't take a backwards stroke.

Alex Gray
Alex Gray

Arguably one of the most versatile surfers contesting Cape Fear, Alex Gray took a different path to most to arrive on the big wave scene.

A Californian native, Gray was pinpointed by surf industry scouts as a future world tour star at the ripe old age of 10 and by the time he celebrated his 12th birthday Gray had won major sponsorship deals with Volcom and BodyGlove. He was groomed to be a future world champion throughout his teen years, honing his technical skills and flair on Hawaii's many islands. And before he could make an impression on the world tour, Gray made a career-defining decision to give up on the world title aspirations many held for him and instead focus on the pursuit of giant waves. He remains one of the most technically gifted surfers on the Cape Fear card but his big wave credentials aren't to be sneezed at. Like the majority of Cape Fear contenders, Gray spends nine months of the year searching for waves, paddling for dear life and fighting for air.

Bruce Irons
Bruce Irons

His surname is as synonymous with surfing as Richards, Carroll and Curren. And as the younger brother to the late and legendary three-times world champion Andy, Bruce is considered surfing royalty. A product of Kauai, Irons burst onto the professional surfing scene in the 1990s and quickly asserted his dominance in big waves. At Pipeline, he proved near unbeatable, making consecutive finals and defeating Kelly Slater to claim the event in 2001. And if winning Pipeline is considered a Masters in Surfing Credibility than winning The Eddie is a Doctorate - and Bruce Irons has both. Seemingly never that comfortable in competition, Irons’ 2004 victory at The Eddie in 40-foot swell cemented his status as one of the world’s best big-wave surfers. And ever since, he has continued to live up to that reputation and lives in constant search of giant waves. And he’s found just that in Cape Fear.

Mark Mathews
Mark Mathews

Having cut his teeth as a youngster at this very break, Maroubra big-wave surfer Mark Matthews knows Cape Fear better than most. Hell, with fellow competitor Richie Vaculik, Mathews surfed the deadly break at night for the pair's blockbuster film, Fighting Fear. The documentary followed the two as they used surfing and their friendship to overcome troubled childhoods and realize their dreams.

Mathews is now world-renowned as one of the modern era's best big wave surfers and he is using his experiences to pave another career as a motivational speaker.

Quietly spoken but calculated, Mathews is one of the brains behind the Cape Fear project.

Koby Abberton
Koby Abberton

The international face of Sydney surf gang the Bra Boys, Abberton shot to fame in 2007 when a cinematic documentary based on the Bra Boys and starring Abberton was released worldwide. But doubt not his surfing credentials. For before and since the film Abberton - another product of Sydney's Maroubra Beach - has made a living from surfing big waves. Never having cared for competition or reputation, Abberton won acclaim as a youngster for his power surfing and gutsy style and before long was sponsored as a professional big wave surfer, traversing the globe in search of monsters. So accomplished is he as a big wave surfer, that Abberton has featured on the alternate list for world's most prestigious surfing event - The Eddie, at Waimea Bay. Like Richie Vas and Mark Mathews, Abberton cut his teeth at Cape Fear and will be only too happy to extinguish the flames of his high-profiled rivals - many of whom featured in the Bra Boys film.

Dave Rastovich
Dave Rastovich

Largely credited with starting the professional free-surfing movement some 15 year ago, New Zealand-born Dave Rastovich is one of surfing's greatest cult figures.

His well-publicised environmental work with Sea Shepherd and Surfers 4 Cetaceans has helped surfing transcend its roots, Rasta becoming a world-wide face for the protection of marine animals and habitat.

But his love of surfing hasn't dwindled, and at 35 years of age the man affectionately known as Rasta remains one of the most popular surfers in the world and a giant-killer to boot.

With effortless style and grace, he continues to feature in popular surf films and magazines, and at the isolated Cape Fear in Botany Bay, Rasta will be right at home at a break all-but un-touched by civilization bar the men so far wild enough to attempt surving it.

So far as his big wave credentials go? Look no further than his back-to-back XXXL Big Wave entries from Hawaii's Jaws or Fiji's Cloudbreak in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

When it comes to the ocean, this man has no fear - only an unwavering respect and gift for taming it.

Makua Rothman
Makua Rothman

He may look like your ordinary big wave surfer but Hawaiian Makua Rothman’s story is like no other. He was raised on the North Shore like many of his peers, heroes and big wave pioneers but unlike others, but Rothman didn’t have a choice of riding big waves – we was forced to.

Growing up overweight, Rothman couldn’t rely on smaller waves to fulfill his needs and as a result his father pushed him to ride waves much bigger than those of his friends. At age six we was surfing Sunset Beach and by age eight found himself at Waimea Bay, being pounded by 12-foot swell. It only strengthened his steely resolve and after overcoming his asthma, Rothman went on to claim the 2002 Big Wave Award for riding a 66-foot monster – he was barely 18. Taught to tow-surf at age 13 by the pioneer of tow-in himself, Darrick Doerner, Rothman was literally born to be a big wave surfer.

Richie Vaculik
Richie Vaculik

Better known as Richie Vas, this local product's knowledge of the unforgiving break is second to none. With best mate and fellow competitor Mark Mathews, Vas spent his formative years trying to tame Cape Fear. Star of Fuel TV dramality series The Crew with Mathews, Vas has earned a reputation as one of Australian sport's most respected competitors - a gentlemanly sportsman in every sense of the term. And while he mightn't be the most technical of surfers, Vas is up there as the most courageous.

When he's not risking his life in the water, he's doing so in the ring - Vas an accomplished MMA fighter and UFC contender. If there's a bomb no one wants to touch, Vas will put his hand-up.

Nicknamed "Manchild", the diminutive but powerful Vas is a force to be reckoned with.

Laurie Towner
Laurie Towner

It's hard to believe Laurie Towner is barely 25. One of Australia's best known non-tour surfers, Towner is a freak of nature whose miraculous journey to Shipstern's Bluff, Tasmania is thing of legend.

It was there, with Joel Parkinson and the late, great Andy Irons that Towner announced himself to world surfing, paddling into one of the biggest waves ever seen on film to catapult himself to stardom. Seven years on and that trip is one of legend, and one forever linking Towner to childhood idol Irons. Since that fateful day, Towner has gone on to cement himself a maverick of green monsters. He's a Big Wave Awards winner and a perpetual nominee, known for taming some of the biggest waves Hawaii and Australia's coveted Cow Bombie have ever had to offer. A carefree Towner doesn't look the big wave type but don't let the slight frame and wry grin fool you.

What is Red Bull Cape Fear?
Cape Fear. The name says it all. And for the uninitiated, it's a deadly wave break in Sydney, Australia that is even more daunting than it sounds.

In the very bay where Captain Cook landed and settled in Australia more than two hundred years ago, 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, 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.

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