Big time: Russell Bierke qualifies for the Big Wave Tour

Stu Nettle
Talking Heads

Take a look around our wide brown land, we've got big waves breaking on almost very coast: wild ocean bommies, compressed shallow slabs, with everything in between. And each one of 'em is home to a committed crew of madmen, guys (and gals) capable of surfing the heaviest waves on Earth.

Despite this, Austalia is under-represented on the Big Wave Tour (BWT). Call it the tyanny of distance, a predilection for slabs...whatever, but to date only Jamie Mitchell and Ben Wilkinson have been regular performers with a lone cameo by Hippo. However, that'll soon change with the recent promotion of Russell Bierke.

When the Big Wave Tour kicks off again on the Ist October the young fella from Ulladulla will be in the draw.

Swellnet spoke to Russ about his promotion to the big time.

Swellnet: What's the qualification process for the Big Wave Tour? Do you have to apply or does Pete Mel keep an eye on your effort over the last 12 months?
Russell Bierke: The Overall Performer category in the WSL Big Wave Awards is the closest thing to a qualifying series for the Big Wave Tour. Out of the ten nominees they take the top four people who aren’t already on the tour. To be nominated for Overall Performer you just have to travel to and put in a decent performance at a number of big wave locations around the globe. 

You travelled to Jaws and Mavs last northern winter. How were those trips in terms of building experience?
I’ve surfed Jaws a fair few times now and especially after this last trip I feel like I’ve got the lineups figured out and know which waves are the good ones out there. This winter I had my first surf at Mavs and got to catch a lot of waves and see a couple different moods. I really like the way it doubles up on the ledge and I'm frothing to get back there.

"I really like the way Mavericks doubles up on the ledge." Uh-huh...

So that leaves Nazare. You surfed there? If not, you keen?
I haven’t been to Nazare yet. For me, the risk versus reward on a big tow day just doesn’t quite add up. I’m thinking I’ll try and post up there towards the end of the year because the 15-20 foot paddle days look like the best training you can get. It has to be the most consistent big wave there is even if the wave quality isn’t on the same level as a lot of other spots. 

What's your thoughts on a paddle comp at big Nazare?
The comps look like chaos out there! It’s pretty crazy that there’s no channel, but then the water safety guys are really onto it. It'll be an exciting experience, hopefully I can get a few surfs out there to figure it out before the comp runs. 

It's still six months away, but you reckon you'll start doing anymore training because you're on the BWT? Gonna bother chasing slabs when it's breath hold you'll need?
I feel confident with my breath hold and fitness in the water at the moment, but that said I'll make an extra effort to be super on top of my fitness leading into the season. In the contests you surf multiple times and want to catch at least two waves each heat, so it’s about having the stamina to perform at 100% the whole day and recover from beatings as quickly as you can. 

I’ll still be chasing some slabs this winter, for sure, though I'll mostly stick to paddling. This year, my goal was to paddle as much as I can and now I’m on the tour I’ll be focusing even more on that.

Russ' finest contest moment to date: winning the 2016 Red Bull Cape Fear in the biggest waves yet surfed at Cape Solander

Planning to do anything different with boards? Got your old man giving input for boards at the various waves on the tour?
I feel like I’ve got my quiver pretty sorted at the moment. The boards I rode at Jaws and Mavs this year feel amazing so I'll probably just duplicate them so I have a couple backups.

I’ve also got a big 10’6" waiting to be ridden which I think will work great at Nazare. 

Speaking to Twiggy a while back he said when you're on the BWT you watch weather maps every day for six months and gotta be ready to fly at a moment's notice. You ready for that?
Ha...I watch the charts year round anyway so I don’t think much will be changing there! In fact, it might actually make things easier as they'll make the call for me.

All the best Russ.
Thanks

Comments

Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython commented Wednesday, 2 May 2018 at 3:58pm

I believed in his ability when I filmed him at the age of 13 at BL's Blast of back in 2010 in 6 to 8 foot Palm Beach. Look at him now!
http://www.surfingvisions.com/tbp/russell-bierke-the-next-chapter-in-big...

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 8:56am

Awesome, cool guy and very likely a true contender.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

deckstrus's picture
deckstrus's picture
deckstrus commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 8:57am

awesome stuff, go russ

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 9:50am

Not that I am against the decision. How did he qualify though?
Or how can the WSL crown a world champ when they hand pick the riders without any real contest results .
"Can't script this"
WTF.

Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71 commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 10:00am

I like this kids style and balls but seems like the media may have elevated his status in the eyes of the WSL.

Please don't think Im talking him down but its got to be something along those lines that made his star rise above the rest

OHV500's picture
OHV500's picture
OHV500 commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 10:07am

Absolutely agree Tarz.
But shit, I wouldn't go on some of those - good luck to him :))

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 10:11am

Check out Bezerke on Vimeo..

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 10:23am

Winning the 2016 Cape Fear event?
His numerous sessions at shallow Supers, big DB, awesome Chopes?
The way he came back from his near-drowing down south?
The way he's captured the attention of other big wave riders who see something in him that guys like you don't?

Just a few things that elevated Russ' star.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 10:47am

Not too mention Leaving Europe’s premier chargers gobsmacked at what he did in Ireland...

Kinda baffled how you can’t see it guys?

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 2:07pm

Cape fear and WSL are two very different contest Stu net. All WSL Employees and Competitors were banned from promoting the cape fear event.

I don't disagree with the decision by the WSL to include Russel.

I just don't think it's correct to claim a big wave world tour champion ......based on the fact that all positions are invitational....
There are great surfers from all over the world who deserve the chance or trial to become a B W W T surfer.
I wish red bull would pony up and create the big wave series. Cape fear format.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 2:34pm

Talking at cross purposes, LD.

Fella asked why does Russ' star shine more than others, and my answer - at least part of it - is that he's proven himself by winning one of the heaviest surfing competitions in history.

Doesn't matter if it's like the WSL or not, Russell's big wave reputation isn't word of mouth, he's got the runs on the board. Ergo, that's why his star is shining.

I agree with you RE crowning a champ without a qualifying process but I'm really not sure how they'd ever get to that point. Hard enough to run three or four big wave comps in a year, let alone a slew of qualifying ones too.

In a way big wave contests are like a return to the mid-70s era of invitationals, but instead of Fred Hemmings as the gatekeeper we now have Peter Mel.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 3:13pm

Once again I am fine with the riders inclusion.
I just have a lot of questions about the overall format , WSL selection process. Wild card selection.

From the surface ( media) there doesn't seem to be all that many big wave riders.
For those who surf big waves , or have surfed big waves . You notice a lot more great and committed big wave surfers guys and gals, then the media portrays.
A lot of the people who may be on tour might be there because of sponsor influence.
Leaving brighter , younger or more committed surfers in the shadows. I can name plenty of surfers who should get the call up.

Different perspectives.

Mango Carafino's picture
Mango Carafino's picture
Mango Carafino commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 11:36pm

Yes, your very correct, it is a boys club only for the events. You can never crown a champion if the champion has not been challenged by competent contenders. Good Luck to him, learning how to hold your breath is equally important as learning how to make the wave all the way to the end. Get yourself a Dick Brewer tow board, you can never go wrong with a Dick Brewer for tow in.

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 10:51am

Hes a polite little fucker too.

(seriously not sarcastically)

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 3:27pm

Does any one that commented have any other riders they would like to see included in BWWT?

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 8:02pm

Laurie Towner, Medina, Rusty Long

Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 3:41pm

Jughead Allport
Laurie Towner
Andrew Mooney
Othmane Choufani
Axi Muniain
And one day in the future Zac Haynes

OHV500's picture
OHV500's picture
OHV500 commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 7:08pm

I think everyone here thinks Russell deserves a crack - no denying he is as good or better than many.
But how do they select the tour ?
He has proved himself many a time, but so have others.
What I think people are saying is that the media created around Russell may be a major contributing factor in getting him a ticket on tour.
Good luck to him in putting himself into all the right media channels, its his job and what he needs to do to promote Brand Bierke.
But does this give him a crack before or above others ?

neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 7:22pm

No wonder the BWT is mostly americans when theres fuckwits like you trying to tear Aussie kids down.
Cut the "Brand Russell" passive aggression and be happy for him. He doesn't choose who surfs.
Kerrist there's some muppets on here.

OHV500's picture
OHV500's picture
OHV500 commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 9:33am

Not passive aggressive at all - and I thought i was totally clear in not tearing him down, he deserves a place on the tour. IMO
If you don't think that social media plays a part in creating a wage for Russell Bierke then I think you may be the muppet.

neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 9:49am

Maybe look up passive aggression before you deny it. A targeted statement veiled as "thoughtful".
Here's another word for it - pissweak.
I can't think of a single surfer on the WCT, QS, or BWT that doesn't use social media, and if you cared to look around before making uninformed statements, you'd see Russ is one of the least energetic guys on social media. His surfing does the talking, but arseholes like you would never know it.

OHV500's picture
OHV500's picture
OHV500 commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 9:57am

Totally not related to my argument/statement.

neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 2:31pm

Stop back pedalling mate. I understand full well.
The BWT has been going for ten years, there's been maybe 50 americans in that time and just two aussies. And no-one has said squat. Not you, not anyone.
Another aussie gets on, a legit great surfer, and all of a sudden he has to justify himself??
Tall poppy much?

Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71 commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 1:56pm

You got a few personality issues on display right here mate, very un-Buddha like, keep ya chin up.

neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 2:32pm

Thanks for the psych report jungle boy.

Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71's picture
Tarzan71 commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 2:42pm

Short man much?

neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 2:48pm

Unfunny mucher.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 2:50pm

Neville,
Any one else from OZ who deserves a spot on tour ?

neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha's picture
neville-beats-buddha commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 3:05pm

Hippo, heath Joske, Mark Matthews (if he can get 100% again), Sandy Ryan. Bunch of 2M guys.
I'd rather see nations or regions get equal representation rather than the way it is now where the guys living in SF, Haiku, or now Portugal get an advatntage by being on every swell. Costs so much to keep travelling to those places Pete Mel is watching that it's prohibitive. Should be regional commissioners put forth their 4 surfers. 6 regions and there's your 24. Local alternates plug the gaps.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 10:17pm

Cool , sound like a good idea!

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 7:33pm

No question the bloke deserves a guernsey........must be my age but I always worry about that fair complexion and skin cancer

Clam's picture
Clam's picture
Clam commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 8:25pm

Hippo is a contender also with Russell.
It was only a few months ago i mentioned on here these two guys are knocking on the door, first 2 in line ...
You would need to paddle either Hawaii,(Jaws) mavs ,nazare, peurto, todos, ireland, chile ,peru, dungeons or something xxl to #proveit .
I dont think it matters how many tow in contests you win, even xxl wave awards you've won biggest slabs, biggest tubes
If its tow in its irrelevant . It isnt gonna matter one bit ,its all about paddling in, and wanting to compete in the bwt events. Getting noticed is critical

Wharfjunkie's picture
Wharfjunkie's picture
Wharfjunkie commented Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 8:51pm

Well done Russ.
People here have fairly questioned the selection criteria maybe there needs a clear qualifying criteria.

Maybe a regional series where the best ranked big wave surfers from the year before within each area get a singlet.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 2:24pm

Contenders
In no particular order.
Nathan Florence
Ivan Florence
Ryan Hipwood
Albert Layer
Kala Alexander
Josh Kerr
Damo Hobgood
Nathan Fletcher
Kirin Jabour
Matt Becker
Pat gudang
Mark Healy
Dave Rastovich
R c j
Luke shepardson
Gabriel Vilaran
Mark Mathews

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 10:32pm

Chris Bertish
Skeeta
Landon McNamara
John Florence
Evan Valiere
Mark Healey

filthyphil's picture
filthyphil's picture
filthyphil commented Tuesday, 8 May 2018 at 6:52pm

Skeeta?

Too be mentioned in the company of these other names is impressive

Gary G's picture
Gary G's picture
Gary G commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 3:12pm

Gary G

You and me, Gary, ain’t nothing but mammals so let’s do it* like they do it on the aerobics channel

*faceys

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 3:15pm

Ha.

Gary G's picture
Gary G's picture
Gary G commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 3:37pm

Anyone that has been caressed by one of Gary's giant hands would find it credible that Gary has a Big Wave.

You and me, Gary, ain’t nothing but mammals so let’s do it* like they do it on the aerobics channel

*faceys

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 10:22pm

Bet ya couldn't handle the hold downs Garry G .

Gary G's picture
Gary G's picture
Gary G commented Saturday, 5 May 2018 at 3:42pm

Au contraire,

Gary loves a bit of a ragdolling from time to time. Comes with the territory if one wants to put themselves in those sorts of situations.

You and me, Gary, ain’t nothing but mammals so let’s do it* like they do it on the aerobics channel

*faceys

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Friday, 4 May 2018 at 11:30pm

.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Saturday, 5 May 2018 at 4:52pm

I'd like to second the nominations for Ryan Hipwell and Laurie Towner, if they are into it. Certainly they have form.

I don't know the name of the fellow who posts on here as Camel, probably one of those who has earned consideration.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Saturday, 5 May 2018 at 4:57pm

Plus any of those names on Lanky Dean's list that have already proven themselves in contests at Peahi. Would have thought that Albee Layer was already on the list.

I think Mark Mathews surely if he could, but know he was quite busted up. Only had his first waves in a long time, published in the local paper last year some time. Serious shoulder and ankle problems if I recall correctly, quite bad injuries. Someone here might know better. If he's out there, hope the rehab is going well.

Wharfjunkie's picture
Wharfjunkie's picture
Wharfjunkie commented Saturday, 5 May 2018 at 7:56pm

Hope the rest of the bra boys rehab go well too.

.cylinders's picture
.cylinders's picture
.cylinders commented Tuesday, 8 May 2018 at 6:03pm

Congrats Russ, the spot couldn't have gone to a nicer guy. Surfed fun-sized Desert Pipe with him in January and he put on an absolute clinic out there. I've never seen anyone else fit a boards rocker into the curve of a hollow wave quite like the way he did that morning.

AKA's picture
AKA's picture
AKA commented Tuesday, 8 May 2018 at 9:43pm

Good on ya Russ hope you win

What about this for a big wave surf comp format
anyone who wants to go in the contest can go in it but they have to put in $5000 or however much is needed to make it worth while, of there own money. If you really want to be in it the money wont be a problem you will get it (work, borrow ,steal ect).
Winner takes all

have a website with someone who can pick the swells accurately over 25ft/ 50ft faces or what ever they call it now.

The website announces the contest will be on the date that the swell will be big for and location.
all competitors have to take turns to do water safety on jet skis while the others surf.
No sponsors needed.

I have no idea about contests but it sounds better than letting companies isolate surfers who should be in the big wave contests

Brodey Sheppard's picture
Brodey Sheppard's picture
Brodey Sheppard commented Thursday, 28 Jun 2018 at 9:40pm

At 19 this kid should be an inspiration to every boy and girl looking to make it in surfing long-term and make the pro scene!