A young professional surfer owes his life to some of the sport’s biggest names after a dramatic rescue at Port Campbell on Wednesday.
Big wave surfer Russell Bierke, 19, from Ulladulla in New South Wales, was surfing with mates, including American pro Kelly Slater, Ross Clarke-Jones, Tom Carroll and Ryan Hipwood when he was knocked unconscious by his board.
“I don’t really remember too much,” Bierke told Australia’s The Standard from his hospital bed. “Just seeing a wave coming to me. The next thing you know, I was on the beach spewing everywhere. The boys did a really good job on the rescue.”
Bierke was under water for about 45 seconds, taking on litres of sea water.
According to Surfline, after bowing out at Bells in Round 3, Kelly Slater took advantage of the continuing swell in South Oz and was on hand for the rescue, along with big wave heavies Ross Clarke-Jones, Ryan Hipwood, Benjamin Serrano, and Tom Carroll. Via Instagram, Tom described what happened:
“My prayers go out to @russellbierke who took his big wave board to the chin and needed urgent attention. Swift work in the water from @kellyslater @ryanhipwood @benjserrano & Will on the Jetski made it possible for Russ to make the long ride safely into the beach for medical attention wishing for a solid recovery. BTW was an absolute joy watching the lines you took into those deep ones.”
It was that wave that nearly took the life of Bierke. Ryan ‘Hippo’ Hipwood was sitting in the channel on his ski and watched the board hit Bierke in the chin before taking him down. His board resurfaced but it wasn’t until the sets ran through that the skis could provide any assistance. Serrano and Slater got to Bierke within the minute before returning him to shore unconscious.
Back on land Slater quickly coordinated locals to assist with the first aid and ensure paramedics were fast to the scene.
Bierke was transferred to Warrnambool Hospital where he remains in a stable condition, under observation. It is reported that he has no recollection of the ‘freak accident’ but that he took in a lot of water in the hold down and a laceration across his jawline.