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Beach Grit

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.