UNSTOPPABLE: SHIP STERN BLUFF
Australia’s Heaviest Wave
Five-time world paddleboard champion Matt Bevilacqua did not have to look far from home in Tasmania to find the inspiration to tackle and conquer the most ambitious and fearless challenge of his life.
Growing up in Tasmania never discouraged Bevilacqua from chasing his dreams as a surf athlete … and tasting success at the top of his sport, winning both the prestigious Coolangatta Gold and the Nutri-Grain Ironman Series.
And it was his Tassie upbringing that drove him to be the first in the world to surf one of the world’s most notorious waves on a paddle board.
Bevilacqua found that wave in a mythical secret spot of his childhood, the awe-inspiring Shipstern Bluff, which has risen to fame in recent years as a treacherous testing ground for the world’s most courageous surfers.
A powerful and dangerous slab of a wave that breaks on a razor-sharp reef, only metres from a rocky ledge, “Shippies” is a globally-renowned big-wave surfing location on the south-eastern coast of Tasmania, known for breaking boards and bones and filling lungs with water.
A meticulous Bevilacqua spent two-and-a-half years planning for the challenge, assisted by local big wave rider Marti Paradisis. To train for the stunt, he underwent a comprehensive underwater breath-holding regime to help prepare for the inevitable wipe-outs.
“No one had ever done it before. It was terrifying,” said Bevilacqua.
“We had to design a special board that was capable of handling the gradient of the wave.
“Our centre of gravity is a lot lower on a paddle board than a surfboard; it’s a lot more dangerous as you are closer to the board. It was crazy.”