This week we ventured to the Antarctic Ocean to see a whole bunch of maniacs approach Shipstern Bluff or ‘Shippies’. Tim Bonython was there during one of the biggest swells of the season to capture the beauty of the most photogenic big wave, surfed by Tyler Hollmer-Cross, James McKean, Zeb Critchlow, Bradley Norris, Mick Corbett, Jarryd Foster, Kipp Caddy, and Tobias Fahey.
This terrifying and huge wave breaks on the south coast of Tasmania and is considered one of the most dangerous and difficult to surf. It owes its name to the imposing wedge-shaped cliff that grows on a nearby cape and is only accessible by boat or by walking, after crossing the Tasman National Park for several hours.
When the conditions come together though it is a very special wave with a ‘step’ in the face which needs to be navigated prior to the big wave surfer getting a huge tube. It’s this added extra and the fact that it’s just so photogenic that has propelled ‘Shippies’ into the big league of big wave surfing.
Shipstern Bluff is the most famous wave in Australia. When the southern hemisphere begins to shake and make noise under the weight of savage winter, The Stern, in the southeastern part of Tasmania, suddenly receives all those inhospitable conditions. Shipstern is a wave of swell, that is born far from the coast and advances by the outcrops of rock partially submerged in the water of the Pacific Ocean. The rugged topography makes the wave grow with each step it takes and for each cliff that passes.
Shipstern Bluff, is considered challenging enough to ride for the likes of world champions Kelly Slater and Andy Irons. Facing into the mighty Southern Ocean it is regularly massive in the southern hemisphere winter, but it is rarely surfable. It only breaks correctly during the long southwest swells that occur during the winter and, often, the wave becomes insurmountable, while the northwest winds prevail. You can also paddle surf in it. The days when the sea is calmer. Although it is the bravery of Shiptern, that makes it a unique spot.
Originally, this giant wave was known as “Devil’s Point” and was first surfed in 1986 by David Guiney, who related the experience to Surfer magazine: “I had heard about the wave at a guy who had a piece of land in the vicinity and, at first, I thought the wave was not surfable. But, I went one day with my boat and I looked at it from the rocks and I thought: ‘OK, it looks like a wave’. It was about 3 or 4 meters high when I first surfed it, but I did not know its actual size until I caught a wave and paddled back.”
Recently, Laura Enever whipped into a twelve foot bomb at Shipstern Bluff in Tasmania, during the first shoot for an upcoming documentary about the Aussie surfer. “What an incredible experience, What a powerful place.” She said
This time, Mick Corbett, Jarryd Foster and the local Tyler Hollmer-Cross, habitual in the most monstrous and incredible waves, leave us these impressive images in Shipstern Bluff, one of the most dangerous waves in the world. In the company of James McKean, Zeb Critchlow, Bradley Norris, Kipp Caddy and Tobias Fahey, they caught it all from above, and it was every bit as spectacular as you’d expect.