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Russ Bierke: “He was blue! Like a smurf!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

"I remember seeing a wave coming and then I was on the beach on all fours spewing!" 

You play, you pay, as they say. Eventually.

Big-wave teen Russell Bierke, who is nineteen and lives in Ulladulla in between dragon-slaying adventures around the world, survived a two-wave hold-down at Port Campbell, in Warrnambool, Victoria, yesterday.

The waves were fifteen-to-eighteen feet, clean as anything, the sun warm, and after a day tooling around with his pals Tom Carroll, Ross Clarke-Jones, Ryan Hipwood and Kelly Slater, Russ stole into a smaller insider.

Always the insider. Takes off, gets hit by his board, knocked unconscious. Hippo sees it. Gets the ski in. Ben Serrano throws him on the jet ski’s sled. Slater joins ’em.

“It’s super vague,” Russ told Warrnambool newspaper The Standard from his hospital bed. “I remember seeing a wave coming and then I was on the beach on all fours spewing (up water). I can’t remember the ski ride. It was a freak accident. I don’t really remember but the wave did something big like dropped out and my board must have hit me.”

From the story in The Standard.

Bierke was blue when he was brought to shore and said he had no recollection of what happened except for what he’d been told by witnesses.

“I know I’m pretty lucky from everyone I’ve talked to. It’s probably good I don’t remember much. (I woke up this morning) and I was trying my best to remember but can’t really. The way everything came together was pretty lucky for sure.

“Everyone out in the line up really helped, the paramedics and the crew and the hospital.”
A female paramedic who was walking past gave him oxygen from the nearby Port Campbell Surf Lilfesaving Club.

Moyne Shire councillor and Port Fairy surfer Jordan Lockett, who was attending a training day at the surf club, was one of the people who helped.

“Kevin Leddin one of our (Moyne Shire) directors said ‘I swear I just saw Kelly Slater carrying someone’ so I ran out onto the balcony,” Cr Lockett said.

“I yelled out and there was about four or five people standing around a body and I said ‘do you want me to call an ambulance?’

“Kelly said ‘call an ambulance’ then I was relaying down the phone what Kelly Slater was telling me – the vital signs. He’s got a pulse, he’s breathing but he’s not well. He was very disoriented. I grabbed the oxygen and ran outside.

“There was Slater, three or four other surfers and (Bierke) was just vomiting up water like flat out.

“He had really bloodshot eyes and he didn’t know where he was, who he was or what was happening. He was blue. He was like a smurf or an avatar.

“So we got the oxygen on as quick as we could. He had a really big cut (across his neck/jawline) which was swollen so they were applying pressure to that but that was obviously restricting his breathing so that was tricky.”

Bierke was bleeding from a cut on his neck near his jawline where the nine foot long board which weighs almost 10 kilograms struck him. The force dented the board.

“Kelly was talking to him and said ‘It’s alright brother, help’s on its way’,” Cr Lockett said. “I let him know the ambulance said they would be under 10 minutes. They arrived, they were really quick.”

Cr Lockett said the response made him proud to be a surfer.

“Everyone helped and thank God that paramedic was there,” Cr Lockett said.

“I was talking to Kelly (Slater) after it and he was saying how could not have done it if the jetski wasn’t there. It would have been, given he’s an 11 time world champion and he’s fit, a 20-minute paddle minimum.

“I personally don’t know if he would have survived if it wasn’t for the jet ski because the bloke was blue, and that was getting rushed in on the jetski.”

Cobden and Port Campbell police and ambulance attended the scene which was reported at 1.30pm on Wednesday.

Bierke was taken to the Warrnambool Base Hospital intensive care by ambulance and will remain in hospital until the weekend.

Read the rest here. 

Just in: Surf Media Is Guilty!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

Almost an apology...

Yesterday I had a wonderful meeting with Sharp Eye’s Marcio Zouvi in which we discussed surfing’s past, present and future. You’ll be able to read that whole interview shortly, but for today I’d like to touch on one of Marcio’s biggest gripes.

“The Internet has really done a disservice to the world of surfboard design,” Marcio told me.

“Nowadays, nobody really knows who’s for real and who’s not. You’ll see guys with not a lot of talent, but who have a lot of ‘techniques’ online, taking off. So they become the next ‘guru’ even though they don’t know what they’re doing. You know, the boards aren’t really impressive. ”

Marcio continued, “This is where you guys, Surfline, and Surfer really need to put out the correct information. For a long time I’ve seen a lot of information and coverage being bought. So people are getting this misinformation — stuff that’s not real. And that’s sad.”

And damn it, he’s right! Surf media is majorly responsible for the lies that consume us all. I’ve never ridden a Channel Islands, Chilli, Sharp Eye, Slater Designs, or many other of the major board brands, yet I ponder incessantly about how hard I’d be shredding on all of them. This can only be due to all the positive coverage they get, and to Marcio’s point, a vast majority of that adulation is purchased.

This is, of course, the crux of what we do. Surf media exists only with the help of advertorial funding, and most of that funding comes from surf-endemic brands. In an effort to maintain our financial bond with said brands, the media caresses them with flattery, product placement and the odd reach-around.

That’s why Surfing did a wetsuit review with zero negative feedback. That’s why Stab no longer rates their In The Dark boards numerically.

Without ass-kissing and falsified endorsement, surf media can’t exist. With ass-kissing and falsified endorsement, surf media hurts certain businesses and consumers. It’s a double-edged sword and somebody’s gotta fall on it.

So unless you guys decide to stop clicking on BeachGrit, Surfline, Stab, and The Inertia, the media will continue to deceive until we are old and bald and still very poor.

We fall on the sword together like a shish kabob of surf misery!

Just in: John John screws Dane!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Come and marvel and what might have been...

Son of a bitch. I just watched the clip of Dane Reynolds surfing in his new trunks (on Stab!) and the trunks are ugly but his surfing makes me weep. Makes me weep big tears of hot regret. Makes me weep big fat tears of “what if…” Makes me weep a proverbial waterfall of “Damn, girl!”

And son of a bitch. Why didn’t Dane Reynolds stay on tour? Why did he leave us without his turns?

You just got done watching Bells. And Marg before her. And just imagine what he would have done to that canvas. Just picture it in your third chakra. It would have been something to behold, truly. A renaissance masterpiece. And Tahiti coming up and Fiji and Dane in big barrels. And Rio with the samba and damn, girl.

I know the simple reasons why Dane left. I think the World Surf League was regarded as dumb back five years ago and that cool kids didn’t do the fucking wannabe tennis tour. Well guess what? It is still dumb and a fucking wannabe tennis tour. The only problem, for Dane, is the best surfers in the world are on it, cool be damned.

John John Florence, in particular, really fucked Dane Reynolds here. If John John would have sniggered and said, “Yeah. Lame.” And just done video parts and surf big barrels all by himself etc. then he would have proven Dane Reynolds right. Off tour is the place to be.

But he surfs in the events and wins and leaves us all breathless and he oops Mick Fanning to hell. On tour is the place to be. The only place, frankly, that really matters.

Am I right?

I am right.

Revealed: “Faulty audio connection!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Is the World Surf League hurting its judges?

Yesterday’s Bells Classic was one of the better days of surfing competition in quite some time. Maybe even the best in… the last five years? It had everything from steady, large surf to stunning end of heat moves to John John to Mick to judging controversies to potential scandal.

If you show me what you believe to be a better day in the last five I will show you Zeke Lau and the “faulty audio connection” in the judging tower.

And how wonderfully revealing was that episode?

In case you missed, catch up here but in brief Zeke caught a wave at the end of his round 4 heat vs. Filipe Toledo/Adriano Lima. Zeke had priority at the end. Filipe caught a screamer. Zeke paddled into it to block him, very clearly before the horn. The judges ruled not very clearly before the horn, dinged him with an interference and sent him to round 5. Zeke stormed the judging tower and things were eventually cleared up when the World Surf League’s commissioner Kieren Perrow announced that the mix-up occurred due to a “faulty audio connection” in the judges booth. Zeke was sent to the quarters.

Now, I am such a fan of the judges. Hardworking salts of the earth who live only to differentiate between Caio Ibelli’s mid-face wrap and Ace Buchan’s floater re-entry. They slave over surfing minutia like I slave over cocaine. They are artists in their craft and much better at discerning subtleties than you or me.

Except this year there have been some very strange calls. Many, in fact. I feel, I know, that the judges are much better at the nuanced game than you or me but… this year… it hasn’t really felt like it and I have been confused. Sad even.

With the revelation of the “faulty audio connection”, though, everything has been made clear!

The World Surf League must have the judges sitting in some frigid box, huddled around a vintage RCA 1940s tv that periodically goes kaput. Head Judge Renato must have to slam the top with his open hand, from time to time, while Kieren screams, “Hitting it won’t do anything! Jiggle the cables!”

And it is time World Surf League. I know the free Michelob Ultra cases that can be sold on Ebay for cash haven’t come in yet but doesn’t anyone have a credit card? A 24″ Insignia flat screen television can be purchased at Best Buy for $99.99. It is small, yes, but almost high-def.

The judges deserve better. Give them the wings they need to soar.

WSL: Jordy Rings the Bell!

Michael Ciaramella

by Michael Ciaramella

It's a good day for pro surfing!

Like employees wary of their potential expulsion, Bells and Margies came into 2017 with renewed sense of vigor and verve. Both produced consistently big, consistently cleanish swell for the entirety of their contest windows. Really makes a viewer think.

Finals day at the 2017 Rip Curl Pro Bells was a Commissioner’s dream — a full ten hours of solid surf matched with doubly solid surfing. The day’s heat average teetered around sixteen, which pretty much speaks for itself. Oh and, fun storylines!

John vs. Mick (and Owen) in round four

An amazing heat on paper doesn’t typically equate to inspired viewing. This heat broke the mold by producing the highest scoring, most climactic moment of the event. After Mick dropped a near-nine and near-ten, John became the honorary mayor of Comboville. In world champion fashion John responded with a mid-nine and saw a glimmer of hope. With one minute remaining and a nine-something required, John took off on a lumpy, windswept wall and did something nobody has ever done: a six-foot alleyoop on a legitimate Bells bomb. 9.97.

The Zeke fiasco

Man catches wave on horn; chaos ensues. Potential beatdowns a la Sunny Garcia. Judges cower in fear. Read more about that here.

Filipe, in general

Bless this little lightning rod. Filipe’s ability in the air is innate. That shouldn’t make it any less impressive, but for some reason it does. Alternatively, Filipe’s ability to sink the rail came from years of nose-to-the-grindstone labor. Sure it’s more fun than laying brick, but Filipe’s commitment to power-surfing (roughly 200% improvement from 2015) is honorable. Imagine if he shifted that focus toward Teahupo’o, Pipe, etc…

The curse of round five

None of the surfers relegated to round five made it through to the semis. Is this a result of fatigue, psychological weight or merely coincidence? The world may never know.

Can Anybody Beat John?

Yes, WSL. His name is Caio Ibelli. You might remember him from the two times he beat John last year. He’s 3-1 vs. John, career.

It’s also worth mentioning that the two semis John has lost in 2017 came down to overly-conservative surfing. John’s coach, the wonderful Ross Williams, noted mid-semi that he was happy for John to have his first “normal” heat of the event, meaning he got one strong score and back-up early on in the match. Then Caio happened. Again.

The workhorses

Frederico Morais and Caio Ibelli are as flashy as a bag o’ potatoes but equally as nourishing. They surf, for lack of a better metaphor, like dads. Strong, sturdy, always there when you need ’em and even sometimes when you don’t. I didn’t have either on my team so it was painful to watch them tear apart the talent-rich field. That said, I respect the hell outta what they do.

Zeke

With forty bucks on the line, my heart jumped  when Jordy took that last wave in the semi. The Saffa needed a 7.25, and I could really use the gas money. When he stomped the final lip-line float I squealed with glee. Still, I wanna offer congratulations to Zeke. Dude surfed a Herculean event and you can bet no one wants to draw his name from this point on.

Final

Caio looked significantly more solid on his feet and he picked better waves than Jordy all day. With that in mind, I slated him as the unlikely favorite going into the final. He surfed that 9.63 to perfection and was a legitimate threat until the dying seconds. It’s amazing how many guys could potentially win an event on Tour in 2017.

A claiming Jordy is my favorite Jordy. When those fanatical gestures start pouring out, well that must be the greatest expression of happiness I can imagine. Jordy’s preemptive bell-ring made me laugh out loud. The silly, the smile! Who could hate that?

Jordy’s final performance was an example of an athlete peaking in confidence. Backwashy floaters, under-the-lip larries, and sandy faceplants had no chance at stopping the big Saffa. He got his bell, I got my forty bucks. Everybody wins!