Hobby, Sport, Lebenseinstellung - Was bedeutet Wellenreiten für Dich?
Das schöne daran ist doch, dass jeder seinen eigenen Zugang findet und sich auf seine Art glücklich surft. Ob man mit Russell Bierke auf einen Nenner kommt, bleibt eher fraglich. Der Australier sieht Herausforderungen, wo andere nicht mal Mindsurfen wollen. Wie tickt der O'Neill Teamrider und welche Schraube ist locker, wenn man sich in solche Slabs wirft? Unser Gespräch (in Englisch) zeichnet das Bild eines überraschend besonnenen Jungen, dessen Leidenschaft für grenzwertige Wellen schon früh begann.

 Russell Bierke Portrait Interview Bluemag
Durch nichts aus der Ruhe zu bringen: Russell Bierke.

5 quick ones to (re-)introduce yourself to our readers:

- I was: a school kid who frothed on surfing.
- I am: now a professional surfer.
- I’m going to: keep surfing big waves.
- I’ve never: surfed while it’s snowing.
- I’ve always wanted: to do what I do now.

Before we get to your recent trip to Ireland and that insane ender of your clip – let’s talk cape fear and you taking the win. How did you feel coming up to the event and what changed after?
The hype leading up to the event was insane; all the forecasts were calling for the biggest waves in over a decade on the East Coast of Australia. It was a nerve wrecking few days waiting to see if it was all coming true and imagining how big it will get. I went into the event not really thinking about winning, more excited to be invited and get to surf with the other invitees and somehow everything came together perfectly. Winning Red Bull Cape Fear changed everything, all of a sudden I was going to TV studios and getting recognized walking down the street.

Russell Bierke Interview Bluemag Oneill
The event that changed it all: Red Bull Cape Fear.

I’m always fascinated by the different mindsets that lead guys like you to eventually charging these waves of consequence. Can you walk me through the transition from surfing, “normal’’ waves to crossing that threshold into that big-wave realm? Was there a pivotal moment or more of a natural progression?
My dad always loved surfing big waves, so I naturally wanted to follow what he was doing. Stepping into surfing big waves definitely didn’t happen overnight, but there were some pivotal sessions.

A memorable session was at Bells Beach with my dad when I was 12, it was a solid 10ft and for some reason I decided I wanted to head out there. I was paddling around regretting leaving the shore and a huge wash through landed on my head and pounded me. After surviving that my nerves were gone and I picked off a couple of good ones. I knew I wanted to keep surfing big waves after that day.

So what’s your advice for someone who actively wants to take that step into surfing heavier waves?
Ease into it - don’t just paddle out on a day ten times bigger than anything you’ve surfed before. If you rush into surfing big waves there’s a good chance it wont be a good experience. Get your equipment and training dialed first, but most of all push your comfort zone in small increments.

How did you recover – mentally and physically – from that session with Kelly that landed you in the hospital?
The physical recovery was really quick and I was back in the water within two weeks. The mental aspect to these things is always tougher but it didn’t get to me too much, it happened on probably the smallest wave I rode all day and there was nothing crazy about the way I fell. It would’ve been more likely to crash my car driving to the wave than surfing it so I just need to take it as a freak accident. It just showed the importance of having a good team of people who know what to do if the unexpected does happen, because it nearly always happens at times no one sees coming.

Russell Bierke Injury Hospital
Through the wire: Still smiling... kinda.

Do we all (as surfers and humans) need to tackle fear more openly and often?
I think everyone should try and overcome fear. I’ve learnt so much from facing my fears in the water and out; it helps build character and has taught me so much about myself.

Tell me about those fears out of the water.
I think my biggest fear would be public speaking. It’s super irrational and once I’m up in front of the crowd it’s okay, but leading up is terrifying for some reason. I see it as another fear to overcome and I’ve definitely made progress from when I was younger!

Are you drawing inspiration from someone in particular to tackle these challenges?
I think everyone feels fear one way or another, but some people can override it better than others. From what I’ve seen, Mark Mathews has mastered overcoming fear - from being scared of public speaking and big waves as a kid to being a professional big wave surfer/motivational speaker. He’s now also dealt with a horror run of injuries and seems to be handling it better than I could’ve ever imagined.

Mark has been a huge influence in my surfing career, showing me what is possible to achieve. There’s also a tight knit group of surfers from all generations where I live, that have helped shape who I am today, pushing me in the surf and showing how to be a good person on land.

Russell Bierke Bigwave Surfing Interview Blue Mag
Who else would stall in this situation? 

About the edit. Why was Ireland so high on your list?
All my friends from home who’ve been, all came back talking about how good the whole place is, and growing up seeing footage of Fergal, Lowey and all the other boys over there scoring huge slabs put Ireland on my hit list for a long time.

Most memorable moment of the trip?
Scoring that left slab was the most memorable part of the trip. I used to watch every video of the place and dream of surfing it when I was younger, so to finally be there felt really special.

Russell Bierke Irland Slab
Russ charging the Irish colosseum.

How do you approach spots you haven’t surfed before?
I love the challenge of surfing new waves. When I surf a wave regularly, it becomes a lot easier to tell the good ones from the close-outs, but in a new lineup I have to start from scratch. There’s a lot of mindsurfing involved before I paddle out - watching the way different waves line up on the reef. I find it can help to have a wipeout early in the session, to see how the water’s moving on the inside and settle the nerves a little. It’s such a good feeling getting that first good wave at a new spot.

Doesn’t look too bad on film either. That left at the end is insane! Well, to cap this off we’re always offering free trips with the blue-time machine. Anything goes.
I always think how good it’d be to go back in time to when no one surfed on the North Shore. I’d love to hop in a time machine with a few mates and surf perfect 8-10ft Pipeline with no one else in sight!

Cheers Russ!

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Credits:

O'Neill 
Red Bull