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Athletes
Ryan Hipwood

Ryan “Hippo” Hipwood has made big wave history – not only through his unhealthy adrenaline obsession, but also through the co-creation of Red Bull Cape Fear. Before the first event kicked off in 2014, he and Mark Mathews put aside their never-ending hunt for big waves and worked together to make Cape Fear happen.
But his accomplishments don’t come close to ending there. In 2009, he inadvertently made international headlines when he survived a two-metre free-fall at Shipsterns Bluff, Tasmania and recovered to complete the wave standing tall. And as a reward, 29-year-old Hippo claimed a runner-up finish in the world’s most important big wave event, the annual Big Wave Awards. He’s also made a name for himself paddling into giants at Teahupo’o, Cloudbreak and Cloud Nine. Even when it’s too big to paddle, he doesn’t back down – instead, he and Mark grab and jet ski and whip each other into some of the most unforgiving waves on the planet.

Russell Bierke

Although he’s only a teenager, Russell Bierke has seen more slabs than a concreter, and he’s punished them all. He’s thrown himself over more ledges than any surfer his age, and alongside a few other grommets, like Cape Fear competitor Jack Robinson, he’s ushering in an all-new generation of progressive big wave surfers.

While most kids his age are stuck in the classroom, his lessons involve razor sharp reefs, crushing overhead swells and paddling into monsters. Suffice to say, he’s one teenager only too happy to do his homework.

Big things are expected from the South Australian teen. Consider this your opportunity to get to know him… before he’s famous.

Richie Vaculik

Richie Vaculik is one the biggest inspirations behind Red Bull Cape Fear. The part-time big wave chaser and accomplished MMA fighter is considered one of Sydney’s most courageous, and under-appreciated, surfers. Better known as Richie Vas, this Maroubra local’s knowledge of the unforgiving break is second to none, having spent the majority of his formative years attempting to tame the beast. Here? Yeah. He’s almost unbeatable.

And it’s for that reason Mathews and Ryan Hipwood included him, and so many other locals, on the invite card – to prove that despite a lack of international opportunity, Vas and his Maroubra mates are more than deserved of top billing at big wave contests.

Star of Fuel TV series The Crew with Mathews, Vas is one Australia’s most respected competitors – humble, respectful and gentlemanly in every sense of the term.

Mark Mathews

A last-start winner at the debut event in 2014 and one of the main brains behind the Cape Fear concept, Mark Mathews’ credentials speak for themselves. From a young age he was charging out at this death-defying slab, and over time, was one of the surfers who really helped shine a spotlight on Maroubra and the break itself. Hell, along with fellow competitor Richie Vaculik, he actually paddled out at Cape Fear during a massive swell, in the middle of the night – a stunt that became a feature in a blockbuster film all about Maroubra locals, Fighting Fear. Mark is now world-renowned as one of our modern era’s most talented big wave surfers, and he is using his experiences to pave another career as a sought-after motivational speaker.

Makua Rothman

A last-minute withdrawal from the inaugural Red Bull Cape Fear contest in 2014 courtesy of a scheduling clash, 2014 Big Wave world champion Makua Rothman is champing at the bit to get a piece of Cape Fear and take home to Hawaii a memento in the form of a trophy. Raised on the North Shore like many of his peers, heroes and big wave pioneers, Rothman didn’t have a choice of riding big waves – we was born to.

Growing twice as rapidly as his peers, a young Rothman couldn’t rely on smaller waves to fulfil his needs and as a result his father pushed him to ride waves much bigger than those of his friends. And 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 asthma – yet another seemingly impossible hurdle for a big wave surfer – 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. And he’ll relish an opportunity to claim victory over an Australian on out their home soil.

Laurie Towner

One of Australia’s best known non-tour surfers, Laurie Towner is a freak of nature. He first burst onto the big wave seen when he took the trip to Shipstern’s Bluff, Tasmania, with Joel Parkinson and the late, great Andy Irons. On that trip he paddled into one of the biggest waves ever caught on film, and instantly catapulted himself to stardom. Seven years on, that trip is still one of legendary status.

Since then Laurie has just cemented himself further in the big wave world, winning multiple Big Wave Awards and taming some of the biggest surf to pound the coastlines of Australia, Hawaii and more.

Kirk Flintoff

A former World Qualifying Series surfer known for his progressive aerial maneuvers, Kirk Flintoff was a bit late to the big wave game. It wasn’t until 2008, after years of competitive surfing, that he realized his heart wasn’t entirely in it. At that time he decided to take the road less travelled, and he spent the ensuing years travelling the globe as a darling of the surf media. As he uncovered more and more waves, he slowly developed an undying love for bigger, scarier surf. He was hooked, and the rest is history, as they say.

He has the uncanny knack of being able to get the best out of any wave he comes across, and as such, he’ll be well worth keeping an eye on as he goes head-to-head with some of his old friends and foes.

Jesse Polock

As the star of reality TV show Bondi Rescue, Jesse Polock is one of Australia’s most recognizable faces. Throughout the show the cameras follow him, and his co-workers, as they save lives on a daily basis at Australia’s most popular beach. Not bad, for a day job. But it doesn’t end there. Off the silver screen, Jesse shines brighter than ever, destroying big waves around the globe and charging harder than most surfers could even imagine. This is one man who’s not short of talent or moxie, so come go time, expect Jesse to punch above his weight and look good doing it.

Evan Faulks

Evan Faulks is known as one of the big wave world’s toughest chargers, both in and out of the water. In fact, he’s probably most well-known for an epic wipeout back in 2011 – a beating that earnt him Wipeout of the Year runner-up honours. A lesser-known fact, however, is that minutes after being catapulted through the air and held under a huge set, he got right back on his board and hit the next bomb that came through. Needless to say, he’s not short of guts.

But even before that wipeout he had made a name for himself, starring in the 2007 hit Bra Boys: Blood Is Thicker Than Water. Over the years he’s proven himself, time and time again, with countless conquests and death-defying wipeouts, and you can bet he’ll be chomping at the bit to do it again in front of an international audience at Cape Fear.

Dean Morrison

The third of the “Cooly Kids”, Dean “Dingo” Morrison never quite scaled the heights of the World Tour like best mates Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson. But nonetheless, the one-time Quiksilver Pro winner has proven to be a giant in the free surfing world. Renowned for his similarities to World Champion and Australian surfing icon Tom Carroll, Dingo’s low centre of gravity has made him a barrel specialist, and he’s spent the best part of the past five years seeking out the biggest barrels the earth has to offer.

Albee Layer

Although Albee is best known for his aerial prowess, it’s important to remember where he comes from – that heavy Hawaiian blood courses through his veins, and that means that Albee is just as capable beneath the lip and deep inside the roaring barrel, as he is above it.

Over the years he’s proved himself with achievements… like winning Surfer Poll’s 2014 Breakthrough Performer of the Year, and winning Taylor Steele’s $100,000 Innersection video contest. But he really catapulted into legend status when he released his hit movie, Attractive Distractions, back in 2014.

Keep your eye on Albee this year. Just what he will do when faced with the 10-foot slab that is Cape Fear, we can’t be sure – but it’ll be one helluva show.