Mark Mathews discusses the challenges of running the most hyped surfing event in Australia.
“I would have been way more disappointed if we ran the event in conditions like last year. For me it doesn’t matter, we’ll just build the hype and when we get that monster swell everyone will understand that it was worth the wait,” Mark Mathews tells Tracks on a beautiful spring day.
Earlier this week the big wave charger and contest director of the Red Bull Cape Fear event was forced to abandon the most hyped barrel shootout in Australia as the four month waiting period came to a close. The event pitches two slab specialists against each other like a pair of prized fighters at one of the most infamous waves in Oz . The lineup included some of the best surfers in the world with invitees including Hawaiians Jamie O’Brien and Albee Layer, Jack Robinson, Russell Bierke and locals Koby Abberton and Kirk Flintoff. For Mathews the event’s success hinges on delivering jaw-dropping images to an international audience, however to pull off such a grandiose spectacle you need a perfect swell direction and a rock solid forecast to get it right.
“Premium Cape Fear for this event is eight foot, ESE swell. But you need four days minimum to get everything ready. That means all the flash swells, like the one we had last week are impossible to run the event in. Therefore you need to give away a little bit in swell direction and have a SE swell that builds out off the bottom of New Zealand. Once you can see that thing formed you get a forecast that holds true.”
So was last Friday’s pulse of perfection something to lament, an opportunity missed?
“I talked to a bunch of the forecasters, Ben McCartney from Coastalwatch, Ben Matson from Swellnet and no one was even looking at that one. It was forecast to be four foot,” says Mathews.
“That size would have been sick for a first ever event, but in saying that it was one that no one knew was coming. It was impossible to forecast. It was one of those flash east coast lows - short period swells where people waking up in the morning didn’t know that it was going to be there.”
There’s also the matter of requiring a serious piggy bank to get the event off the ground, fortunately Red Bull were willing to come to the party. Despite being unable to disclose a dollar figure Red Bull Communications Manager, Jessica Lee told Tracks, “The preparation and setup for such an event is quite a task.”
Big money or not, even in the era of advanced forecasting no one can predict the ocean’s movements with 100% accuracy and despite the event fizzing this year it’s in no danger of becoming extinct just yet insists Mathews.
“Red Bull have locked it in for next year and they’re really excited. I won’t give up until we run Cape Fear and nail it big and show what we’ve been dreaming about for so long. It will be amazing when we get an opportunity to run the event in big waves.”