Nathan Florence is your 2019 Red Bull Cape Fear champion.
The Hawaiian surfer dominated the paddle-in final held in double overhead conditions in Shipstern Bluff in Tasmania, Australia.
The cold-water venue is renowned for its grotesque, at times unrideable, ledgey, staircase of a wave that forces surfers to maneuver and adjust for the duration of their rides – often with disastrous consequences.
Contestants used impact jackets to help absorb shock from serious wipeouts in 12-degree water temperatures, with frigid southerly winds also posing problems.
The emphasis was on skill and positioning, with judges rewarding higher scores to those who take the greatest risk.
A large wave caught using arm strength (paddle) will score much higher technically than a surfer who uses jet-ski assist to be towed into a wave.
Initially, surfers chose the rope. But as they got acquainted with Mother Nature's will, they just paddled for their favorite waves.
There were a few scary wipeouts.
Mark Mathews, who had just returned to high waters after a four-year rehabilitation, may have broken his foot after getting stuck in the tow strap.
An Unforgettable Day
Incredibly, the Red Bull Cape Fear victory is the first ever notable competition win for Florence, who calls Hawaii's North Shore home, where he lives with his famous surfing siblings John John and Ivan.
Florence looked good from the get-go, comfortably winning his opening heat to garner a spot in the final despite never previously having surfed Shipstern Bluff.
He then started the one-hour final in superb fashion, securing an excellent 9.33 ride (out of a possible perfect 10) in the opening minutes.
Nathan was ecstatic with this performance on his first trip to Tasmania.
"I am so baffled right now. That's the first contest I've ever won in my life. It's huge to be in this event and venue," said Nathan Florence.
Florence paddled into and successfully negotiated a double-overhead barrel and Shipstern's notorious step' to score an excellent 9.33 to cement himself as the one to beat and followed up with a 5.83 to seal the win as Hollmer-Cross failed to find a second wave.
Florence's excellent rhythm continued. He soon backed up his quality start with a series of great barrel rides.
His second-highest-scoring ride netted him 5.83 points from the judges, and Florence's eventual two-wave combined total of 15.16 points was more than enough to win him the coveted Red Bull Cape Fear 2019 champion's trophy.
"I'm so psyched. We drew straws to decide priority and, as soon as the horn blew, I was looking at this thing going, 'It's mine!' It was the best wave I caught."
James Hollmer-Cross scored a Perfect 10, but he was not able to find an average backup wave. Florence had just won his first professional surf contest.
"James had that unbelievable wave. It was perfect, and he got a perfect score, but I'm so stoked he couldn't get another one… I was counting the minutes. It was the longest hour of my life," concluded Florence.
It is only the third time Red Bull Cape Fear has run in six years, after Sydney's ledge-break "Ours" editions in 2014 and 2016.
Contestants and organizers have to wait for serious and dangerous conditions that provide the ultimate test for the best global surfers.
Major safety precautions were implemented with numerous professionals on hand, including trained lifeguards and medical personnel maintained all day on stand-by.
Of all 20 Red Bull Cape Fear invitees, half of them were Tasmanian locals.
2019 Red Bull Cape Fear | Final
1. Nathan Florence (HAW) 15.16
2. Laurie Towner (AUS) 14.10
3. Justin Allport (AUS) 10.93
4. James Hollmer-Cross (AUS) 10.00
5. Michael Brennan (AUS) 6.50