When organizers decided late last week that Red Bull Cape Fear would run at Tasmania’s Shipstern Bluff we were promised guts and glory. “The event that changed the face of big wave surfing as we knew it returns in 2019 for the first time at Shipstern Bluff,” read Red Bull’s website following Cape Fear’s two-year hiatus.
In short, it did not disappoint. And while it wasn’t consistently gigantic, Hawaiian hellman Nathan Florence took home his first contest win ever at a spot that strikes fear into most of the big wave community.
Changing things up, Cape Fear employed a novel format letting competitors choose to paddle-in, tow-in, or use a combination. Paddle-in waves garnered additional percentage points but the precise mechanics of the judging system were not entirely clear.
While Shippies served up plenty of glory for the middle Florence – who defeated Aussies Laurie Towner, Justen Allport, James Hollmer-Cross and Mikey Brennan in the final – the wave’s infamous step was akin to a teenage prankster running around a golf tournament with an air horn. Wipeouts were highly watchable (lookout for a carnage-only reel soon), and came at highly-crucial moments.
That the Oahu-raised Florence was able to come out with his first-ever contest win over a field of Australians, especially Tasmanian locals Hollmer-Cross and Brennan, makes the win even sweeter.
“I’m so baffled,” said Florence after. “To be at this venue and win is amazing. To be surfing with the boys and the local legends, I just can’t believe it. I’m so psyched!”
In the final, Florence set the bar high early by scoring a 9.33 on his first ride. It was that momentum that carried him through to the top of the podium.
“We drew straws to decide priority and as soon as the horn blew I was looking at this thing going, ‘It’s mine!'” he said. “I knew it was a good wave. And it was the best wave I caught all event. James [Hollmer-Cross] 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!”
Huge congrats to Florence on the win. Here’s how the final scores shook out after a historic day of big wave surfing:
1st Nathan Florence (Oahu, HAW) 15.16pts
2nd Laurie Towner (NSW, AUS) 14.10pts
3rd Justen “Jughead” Allport (Central Coast, NSW, AUS) 10.93pts
4th James Hollmer-Cross (TAS, AUS) 10.0pts
5th Mikey Brennan (TAS, AUS) 6.50pts