Wave: Shipsterns, aka Shipstern’s Bluff, The Stern, Shippies
Where: Off the Tasman Peninsula, Raoul Bay, SE Tasmania, Australia
When: ??? Who knows exactly, but the media found out about this beast in 2001 and it was first officially ridden in 1997.
Why: Sick, warped and extremely heavy.
Stats: Holds 6ft - 25ft+, best at low tide, 50m - 150m of ride
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Off the steep cliffs of Raoul Bay on the Tasman Peninsula of Australia, lies the monster wave that is known as “Shipsterns”. This wave is so heavy and dangerous that very few surfers brave its lumpy ride, and when they do... it is the pros and the local legends that turn up in the water. Shipsterns is a wave to gawk at, but not to be attempted by your average joe.
Since 2001, ridiculous footage has come out of just how crazy Shippies really is. The thick lipped right hander wave barrels over its peak onto the rock reef bottom... but wait, it doesn’t end there. Bizarre formations are churned up by the massive boulders that are lurking beneath its surface. Often a ledge appears on the face and surfers are made jump a few feet in the air while in the barrel!
The fuss over this wave has been going on for decades, but it wasn’t ridden until 1997 when the heroic/madman (delete where applicable) Andy Campbell decided to just do it. Big wave riding was his thing, and Shipsterns certainly delivered. Campbell is now renowned for conquering the wave.
After Campbell’s success it was only a matter of time before the word got out. In 2000 Tasmanian photographer Sean Davey recorded the highs and lows of pro surfers Mark Mathews, Drew Courtney and Kieren Perrows as they rode/were beaten by Shipsterns. In spite of the freezing water, the pulverizing white water and the sharks, the team survived to tell the tale, and the surfing world took notice. Cue a deluge of surfers talking about Shipsterns and making the trek to the ancient site.
The monumental wave lies at the heart of Tasmania’s wild coastline. The walk alone from the car park to the site can take over an hour, whilst the only other access is via boat. So, if you get hurt here, there simply isn’t an easy option for getting help. The ancient wave demands respect. The lonely barrel derived its name from the ship like cliff formation close by after originally being named “The Devil’s Point”... whoever came up with that did have a point.
However, despite the fervour that has been whipped up since its rise to global notoriety, Shippies really does humble surfers. Few brave it, so it remains relatively uncrowded unlike its northern hemisphere counterpart Maverick’s. It simply crops up when the swell and all important wind is right, and you have a few crazies in the water.
Check out this insane footage of Michael Brennan as he makes riding the loopy beast look like a piece of cake.