No bluff: Red Bull Cape Fear is back for 2021
Stay tuned to this page for regular Red Bull Cape Fear updates as Laura Enever and Lizzie Stokely join Mick Fanning in an all-Australian field of big wave surfers at Tasmania’s Shipstern Bluff.
Meet the local women set to charge Australia's heaviest big wave surf comp
Red Bull Cape Fear will once again take to the savage seas of Tasmania’s Shipstern Bluff this year and for Aussie surfers Laura Enever and Lizzie Stokely, getting the call up was a dream come true.
“I was just frothing that I was even considered. Watching all the Tasmanian surfers, the guys that go down there and charge – they made me want to do that, too.”
Lizzie Stokely is talking to us over the phone, reflecting on her recent invite to Red Bull Cape Fear, one of the heaviest big wave events in the world of surfing. She’s just finished up her Wednesday shift on a Bruny Island tourist boat, aboard which she works as a deck hand. “I guess I just never thought this opportunity would come up,” she adds.
With women invited to the lineup for the first time in Red Bull Cape Fear’s short history, the 23-year-old will join a handful of other Australians as they do their best to score points on one of the most unpredictable and dangerous waves in surfing: Tasmania’s Shipstern Bluff.
The wave itself is all kinds of trouble. The consequence of a galloping ground swell hitting the shallow reef at around 70kph. It’s a dense slab (as heavy as 300,000kg at times) that can reach the size of a small building. Not only that, but the jagged reef causes ‘mutations’ on the surface of the wave; these are the famous ‘steps’. That is, a literal step; a wave within a wave.
And then there’s the fact that you need to drive two hours from Hobart, then either take a 30km boat ride or hike up to two hours through Cape Raoul National Park to even get to it. All told, this thing goes to great lengths not to be ridden. If The Right is The Right, then Shipstern is The Wrong. It’s one of the wildest, least predictable and most remote rides in Australian surfing. And that’s just the way the surfers like it.
Lizzie, who part-funds her surfing by making and selling jewellery, is no stranger to Shipstern Bluff. In 2016, she became the second woman to ever surf it, after Hobart’s Dara Penfold a year earlier. Lizzie was 18 at the time and still in high school. “I’ll never forget it, she says. “One session at Shippies is the same as 10 sessions anywhere else. It’s a different feeling completely. It brings you to life.”
You just feel so inspired to get more and go bigger next time. It’s just the best day ever
Born and raised on Bruny (“they can’t get rid of me,” she says), Lizzie has spent most of her life outside. In fact, scrolling through her Instagram feed it’s almost impossible to find a photo of her inside. Growing up, Lizzie and her brother would do “everything outdoors that you can think of” – skating, building cubby houses, fishing for yabbies, playing in the mud, making spears in the bush. Surfing entered the fray when she was just seven years old; handed down to her by her passionate surfer father, Paul Stokely.
Lizzie wasn’t even planning on surfing Shipstern on her first trip out. It was a hot day. She hiked in and ended up in the water to cool off. Marti Paradisis, a local Tassie surfer, encouraged her to paddle out into the line-up. “Five minutes later, he turns around and goes: ‘Alright, this one’s yours’,” remembers Lizzie.
And so she did what any self-respecting Tasmanian surfer would do when presented with a challenge in the form of one of the heaviest slabs on the planet: she went for it.
She got “absolutely flogged” on her first attempt. Same story on her second and third attempts too – the heaviest wipeouts she’s ever had, she says. Still, she was all-in now, fuelled by some heady cocktail of adrenaline and pride. “I just wanted to get back out there and try and get another one,” she says. “I got beaten down a few times, but I was just frothing.”
She got her wave, of course. Several of them. And as the youngest woman to ever surf Shipstern Bluff, she made both local news and surfing history in the process. She’s since developed her own relationship with the wave and heads down with the local Tasmanian crew as often as she can (which, owing to work, injuries, the swell and other variables out of her control isn’t always as often as she’d like). “You just feel so inspired to get more and go bigger next time,” she says. “Everyone down there is in the best spirits, and they’re always supporting and encouraging you. It’s just the best day ever.”
On the subject of encouragement, one thing Lizzie couldn’t have known back in 2016 was the impact her actions might have on other surfers. Surfers like WSL Championship Tour star Laura Enever. “I remember looking at the waves Lizzie got at Shipstern Bluff a few years ago,” recalls Laura. “That’s what inspired me to give it a shot.”
Laura’s first encounter with Shipstern Bluff is the opening scene for her 2020 movie Undone, which charts her transition from WSL wunderkind (she competed for seven years, and always finished top-10) to full-time big wave hunter. “I paddled into the line-up and just thought, ‘nope, I can’t do this’,” recalls Laura of her first time out at Shipstern. She had a crack at several waves that afternoon and after several wipeouts managed to find something of a groove – but still no wave.
Though already an experienced big wave surfer by this point, Shipstern ultimately proved too much for Laura on her first encounter. The remainder of Undone sees her gradually working her way back to that cold, harsh slab on the southeast coast. “That afternoon was enough for me to be like, ‘oh my god, I can do it,” says Laura. “It was all kinds of wipeouts, but with every wave I got further and further. After that, I was super-excited to go home and focus on getting better.”
She did. And what happened when Laura returned to Shipstern Bluff some 18 months later? “I got the wave of my life,” she says. “One really special wave at the end of the day. I was so stoked.”
Now, with Red Bull Cape Fear 2021 ready to be called ‘on’ at any time between now and August, Laura and Lizzie are prepping to tackle Shipstern Bluff once again. But, perhaps surprisingly for a wave of this size, neither are feeling much pressure.
For Lizzie, the competition is just an excuse to surf, hang out with her favourite Tasmanian surfers and rub shoulders with a handful of Australian greats. “There’s a handful of us girls going in, I get to go down there with some of the best surfers in Australia… this opportunity has already been huge,” says Lizzie. “I’m just lapping it up. I’ve got nothing to lose.”
For Laura, it’s one of a rapidly growing number of opportunities for surfers like herself, Lizzie and fellow competitor Laura Macaulay (who, in 2020 became the first woman to surf The Right in WA) to put on a show. “And I think that’s just epic for women’s surfing,” she says.
Take a look at the insane mechanics behind Shipstern Bluff
The Southern Hemisphere’s most notorious surfing slab will host this year’s Red Bull Cape Fear, so watch the video below to learn how the wave keeps on motoring.
The mechanics of Shipstern Bluff
And take a look at the full breakdown of the incredible workings behind one of Australia's wildest waves, and the home of Red Bull Cape Fear in 2021, Shipstern Bluff, right here.
All the high (and low) lights from Red Bull Cape Fear's previous editions
With the fourth edition of Red Bull Cape Fear in the gates and raring to be given the green light, let's recap the highlights of the three previous outings.
2019 – Shipstern Bluff shines as Red Bull Cape Fear heads south
Highlights from Shipstern Bluff
Download the free Red Bull TV app and watch unmissable surfing action on all your devices! Get the app here.
2016 – Cape Solander goes ballistic
Watch Russell Bierke's 2016 Cape Fear winning waves
2014 – Red Bull Cape Fear debuts in Sydney
2014 Red Bull Cape Fear: The Action
The who, when, what, why of Red Bull Cape Fear in 2021
Red Bull Cape Fear is a one-of-a-kind, invitation-only big wave surfing competition that's about to get under way at Tasmania's Shipstern Bluff.
Red Bull Cape Fear returns in 2021
For the first time in the event's history, an all-Australian field of big wave surfers will compete in this year’s Red Bull Cape Fear, with a strong showing from female athletes that include former World Surfing League Championship Tour competitor Laura Enever and up-and-coming ripper Lizzie Stokely.
"I’m honoured to be one of the first female surfers to take part in Red Bull Cape Fear and I’m excited and nervous to push myself and compete against some of the best female slab surfers in Australia," says Enever. "It’s going to be one crazy event!”
"When I left the World Tour to venture into big wave surfing, my eyes were opened to what it takes physically and mentally to surf the heaviest waves around. Shipstern Bluff truly embodies that challenge."
When the competition window officially opens on March 3, Red Bull Cape Fear can be called "on" at any time until August, with surfers dropping everything and having only 48 hours to make their way to Shipstern Bluff to compete. This means that Red Bull Cape Fear will take place in optimal conditions.
Australian surfing legend and three-time world champion Mick Fanning will be competing once again, and much like in 2019, when Red Bull Cape Fear last took place, he's excited by the prospect of tackling one of world's heaviest waves.
“My expertise definitely lies in high performance surfing, so taking on these crazy waves is definitely out of my comfort zone, but it's an epic challenge post-retirement all the same," says Fanning. "There are going to be a lot of more experienced big wave shredders from Tasmania and other parts of Australia out there with me, and I'm honoured to surf beside them for my second Red Bull Cape Fear.”
In 2019, Red Bull Cape Fear moved from Cape Solander in Sydney's Botany Bay to Shipstern Bluff on the southeastern corner of Tasmania. Known for being home to one of the most terrifying waves in the world – due in part to the natural steps occurring within the waves – Shipstern serves as an epic backdrop to an epic event. With huge amounts of water breaking over a shallow reef, and with waves breaking only 10 metres from the bare rocks at the base of the cliffs, the event promises to be a spectacle of the highest order.
Competition founder and renowned big wave surfer Mark Mathews says he can’t wait to get out there again. “Red Bull Cape Fear is an event big wave surfers across the globe keep an eye out for, and Shipstern Bluff is known for taking no prisoners," he says.
“The 2019 event was epic and this year will be unique again with such strong female competitors involved, and of course an all-Aussie lineup to showcase local talent. I can’t wait to get the green light and test myself against the ocean once again.”
The mechanics of Shipstern Bluff
For Enever, the event represents an opportunity to drop into a whole new competitive challenge. "Everything that goes into big wave surfing is on a whole new level," she says. "I love the challenge and I'm looking forward to testing myself in a competitive format for the first time."
The event site for Red Bull Cape Fear will be strictly closed to spectators, but the entire competition will be broadcast live on Red Bull TV. To find out more information, head to over the the event's dedicated event page, where you can also stay up to date with when conditions are just right for the action to get under way.