O​‌’​‌Neill Blog

Russel Bierke – BY A THREAD

Check out Russell Bierke’s first day back in the water after an 18-footer drove his chin through 5 layers of 6-ounce glass and nearly totalled him. Russ is back and going deeper and steeper than ever in this edit, By A Thread! “This sort of thing can happen in any size conditions,” said Russ. “I just need to take it as a freak accident”. 

Russel Bierke in the hospital

On April 19 2017, in the closing days of the WSL event at Bells, big wave prodigy Russell Bierke got smashed by a large wave 2km off shore, in 18-foot surf. Knocked unconscious by his board , he was saved by the quick actions of his buddies and a fast drive back to shore on a sled behind a jetski. “By A Thread” is an epic film edit of Russ’s first day back in the water after coming out of intensive care.It’s obvious by how hard Russ surfs and how deep he gets in the barrel, that the accident hasn’t dampened his will to charge in waves of consequence.

It was 15-18 feet on an outer ledge, and Russ and his buddies, with a days worth of roaring pits, called in their last wave.Russ remembers paddling for the second wave of a set ,then he’s blank as to what happended to him after that. He briefly recalls the moments back on shore, coming to, with an oxygen mask on his face and vomitting litres of sea water from his lungs.

Story goes, as told by his buddy Ben and Kelly Slater who was also out surfing that day, that Russ pulled in to the barrel, got pitted, but didn’t come out of the end section.Russ had been pressed and had his chin drilled through the 5 layers of 6-ounce glass of his 9’8” gun. This leaving a hole that Russ would later describe as looking like someone had taken a baseball bat to his board.It had knocked Russ clean out cold,and he was underwater tethered to the world above, held only by his surf leash.

 He was down under the water for two waves, before Ryan Hipwood saw his board tombstoning in the turbulence and called in his buddy Ben to haul him out. Luckily, a local had a jetski and a sled out there, which Ben hauled him onto and with Hippo driving and Kelly holding Russ on the sled, hammered their way back to the harbour.

After a few days on a ventilator in intensive care, with lungs full of water, Russ was back out into the sunshine and the world. But it would be a few weeks before he was back in the water again.

By a Thread records his first day back in the water on a bombie far out to sea in Russ’a local region.

Fast and heavy with vert drops, it was the sort of baptism of fire that suits Russ and good medicine to blow away any jitters left from the accident. Straight back on the bike so to speak.

“This sort of thing can happen in any size conditions,” said Russ of the accident. “I just need to take it as a freak accident”.

 Taking backhand drops, hand locked on the rail and his knee dropped to stall, Russ was soon after nailing a medley of beastly lefthanders. 

Russel Bierke - By a Thread