Koby Abberton: Cape Fear
© Billy Morris

Red Bull Cape Fear: The History Behind the Wave

From Captain Cook to Kelly Slater it seems everyone has a story about Red Bull Cape Fear.
By Larry Earvin
2 min readPublished on

3 min

Red Bull Cape Fear: The history

Find out the full story behind one of the most notorious waves on the planet.

Botany Bay may have been made famous by the first landing of Captain Cook way back in 1770, but the deadly break that hides inside it took almost 200 years to discover.
Bodysurfers first tasted the punishing 10-foot slabs on offer during the 1960s as surfers -- including world champion Mark Occhilupo -- watched on in awe and thought the wave, then known as Pikers Hole, impossible to surf.
Come the 1990s and with no record and only rumours of the wave being surfed, bodyboarders claimed the break as their own before a ragtag bunch of kids from Sydney’s Maroubra Beach uncovered the best kept secret in Australian surfing and dared surf it.
First they attempted it at six-foot by paddle-in before calling in for jet-ski support to attempt the 10-foot monsters.Then, the true test of courage came in the form of a paddle-in challenge on giant waves that were previously only attempted my tow-in. Paddling in as max height has gone on to define the location and those who’ve survived it.
It’s gone by many names over the year, from Pikers Hole to South Sydney Reef to Ours -- the latter courtesy of local surf tribe the Bra Boys, who made the break popular courtesy of their 2007 cinematic documentary Bra Boys.
But the one name that details the brutal break to perfection is Cape Fear.

2 min

Red Bull Cape Fear: The Hype

Pound for pound, the heaviest wave in the world. Welcome to Red Bull Cape Fear.

A seemingly purpose-built arena for those devoid of any sense of self-preservation, Cape Fear only comes to life a few days of the year -- typically between April and August -- and the results are always thrilling, often capturing the attention of an entire nation once images permeate commercial and social media.
Even into the new millennium bodyboarders tried to hide the break from surfers but now Cape Fear is a rite of passage for surfers the world over.
It featured in 2011 cinematic documentary Fighting Fear, where Red Bull Cape Fear contest director and competitor Mark Mathews surfed the break at night under flood lights with best friend and fellow contestant Richie Vas.
It’s also featured in Fuel TV series The Crew.
While its history is relatively limited, one thing is for sure -- Cape Fear has never been the scene of a contest, meaning the Red Bull Cape Fear event will make history come time to run one of the scariest contests in modern surfing history.