2019 Red Bull Cape Fear ready to go at Shipstern Bluff

May 9, 2019 | Surfing
Tyler Hollmer-Cross: riding the beast in 2017 | Photo: Chisholm/Red Bull

The Red Bull Cape Fear has been given the green light for 2019.

The world's best big wave surfers will gather at Tasmania's Shipstern Bluff on May 13 to see who can come out on top of the sport's iconic event.

The unique invitation-only event will see 20 surfers such as Australian legend Mick Fanning and 2016 defending champion Russell Bierke take to the sea.

"Winning the first Red Bull Cape Fear event was huge for me, that got me to where I was aiming to be much sooner than I'd dreamed," recalls Bierke.

"I've had so many opportunities come up due to that win and that day it was an amazing thing for my career."

Bierke predicts Monday's action will live up to, and possibly even exceed the hype of 2016.

"When we ran at Cape Solander it was the craziest day anyone had ever seen it and definitely the biggest that spot had been ridden. It was very close to the rocks, very shallow, lots of power," the surfer notes.

"Shipsterns is a taller wave, and it receives a lot more swell size, so I expect it will be even bigger than what we saw in 2016, a lot bigger. Monday should be amazing. I think we can guarantee it will be an incredible show."

A Fast and Heavy Wave

It will be the first-ever event to held at the famous surf spot located on Cape Raoul, at the very southern end of the Tasman Peninsula.

Surfers have a few days to make their way to Tasmania to compete alongside local stars culminating in a 30-kilometer boat ride from the state's capital, Hobart, or a two-hour hike to reach Shipstern Bluff.

It is regarded as one of the wildest and most dangerous surf locations, thanks to waves of up to 30 feet (10 meters), the equivalent to a four-story building.

One of the most notable characteristics of "Shippies" is when a wave within a wave is created due to the shape of the reef bottom, causing several steps to emerge.

The rest of the wave is a fast-paced barrel of up to 50 km/h. The weight in volume of water is equivalent to 15 semi-trailers or 27 Olympic swimming pools, making it a violent hold-down.

Mark Mathews: a dramatic leg injury in 2016 put an end to his big wave surfing career | Photo: Chisholm/Red Bull

A Daunting Arena

Shipstern Bluff was first surfed in the early 2000s and is widely considered one of the most dangerous and difficult waves in the world.

Each monster breaks just 30 feet away from a large rocky cliff.

It is also welcoming to sea life such as seals, orcas and great white sharks with several sightings over the years, adding to the fear factor of this chilling coastline.

Red Bull Cape Fear uses a unique, overlapping heat format in which five surfers compete in four heats, and only the winner of each heat progresses to the final.

The ocean conditions will determine whether heats will be paddle-only, tow-only, or a combination of both.

Australian founder Mark Mathews will be competing for the first time since a gruesome leg injury in 2016 put an end to his big wave surfing career.

Famed Hawaiian big wave charger Koa Rothman has also been confirmed as the final 20th invitee. Rothman brings a wealth of experience to Tasmania, having put in stand out performances at breaks like Teahupoo, Pipeline, Jaws, and Nazaré.

As a goofy foot, Rothman will surf Shipstern Bluff with his back to the wave, a task Bierke predicts will deliver an incredible show.

"It'll be interesting to see how he goes; it'll be tough. I think the natural-footers will have the advantage, just because 'Shippies' is so tricky."

2019 Red Bull Cape Fear | Invitees

Alex Zawadzki (AUS)
Billy Kemper (USA)
Brook Phillips (AUS)
Daniel Griffiths (AUS)
James Hollmer-Cross (AUS)
James McKean (AUS)
Justen 'Jughead' Allport (AUS)
Koa Rothman (USA)
Laurie Towner (AUS)
Mark Mathews (AUS)
Marti Paradisis (AUS)
Michael Brennan (AUS)
Mick Fanning (AUS)
Nathan Florence (USA)
Pedro "Scooby" Vianna (BRA)
Russell Bierke (AUS)
Ryan Hipwood (AUS)
Shaun Wallbank (AUS)
Tyler Hollmer-Cross (AUS)
Zebulon Critchlow (AUS)