During the Bells CT event in April, Russell Bierke and a small army of hellman including Kelly Slater and Ryan Hipwood, were scoring a slab off the Victorian coast. Towards the end of the session, Bierke took a wave he'd rather forget, driving his chin into his heavy-glassed rhino chaser and near drowning.

"I remember feeling almost euphoric and really dazed like I was in a dream almost," recalls Russ. "I came to pretty much as they put the oxygen mask on me and started coughing and vomiting litres of water and realised where I was."

The quick thinking of Kelly Slater and the tight knit crew of big wave surfers on hand ensured Russ survived. However, he remained in hospital on a ventilator, still suffering the effects of having his lungs full of water. 

"The wave breaks a couple of kilometres out to sea so if the local boys didn’t have a jetski out there I’m not sure I would have made it back to the beach in time," says the south coast charger thankful he dodged a bullet. 

Oneill have just dropped By A Thread which features Russ' first session back from injury, tackling a slab close to home. As you can see, Russ has shook off any signs of psychological trauma from the events of earlier this year and remains one of the finest surfers in heavy water. 

"It hasn’t really turned me off surfing big waves at all. This sort of thing can happen in any size conditions, I just didn’t take it as a freak accident."

Russ features in the latest Tracks Issue 561, on sale now.