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Richie Chases The Ultimate Challenge

By Duncan Horscroft on August 28, 2011 in Sport

Photo: Grant Brooks

You had to be tough to grow up around Maroubra, and surfing and fighting usually went hand in hand.

The reputation of the Bra Boys was something to aspire to and looking after your mates was just as important as looking after yourself.

Richie ‘Vas’ Vaculik is a graduate of Maroubra’s School of Hard Knocks and has taken surfing and fighting to another level.

Thankfully he restricts his fighting to the ring and has become a successful mixed martial arts exponent with six wins from seven professional fights.

His surfing has also reached greater heights and he is continually on a quest to ride the world’s biggest waves with his best mate Mark Matthews.

Richie was recognised for his gutsy efforts in the surf, albeit for the wrong reason, when he received the Surfers Poll Award in 2007 for the best wipeout after an horrific fall at Ours.

It might come as a surprise to many that this 28 year-old pocket rocket began his surfing career on a bodyboard.

“As a kid I lived at Little Bay and Mum (Linda) would never let me have a surfboard because she reckoned it was too dangerous, so I started riding a bodyboard,” Richie said.

“But I used to spend some time with my uncle who lived at Avalon and he was a keen surfer and taught me how to ride a fibreglass board.

“Eventually mum realised how keen I was and let me join the Maroubra Boardriders Club where guys like Koby (Abberton) and Mark (Matthews) took me under their wing.”

This association also played a big part in Richie’s ability to defend himself because when there were no waves most of the boys would meet at someone’s house and inevitably put on a pair of boxing gloves.

“Yeah, we were always putting on the pads and always sparring with our mates because it was the best way of letting off steam when there were no waves,” he said.

“When I was 19 I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and from that I progressed to mixed martial arts and had my first professional fight four years ago.

“Fighting is similar to surfing – it’s all about the adrenalin… the thrill of it all.

“Although Mum has come to accept my choice of careers, she still worries about me. There’s no way she would ever come and watch me fight but she’s always on the phone straight after a bout to make sure I’m alright.”

Richie hopes to progress to the next level and eventually fight in the UFC.

He said he’d been lucky enough to meet UFC President Dana White and pass his highlight reel onto him while teaching a few UFC fighters how to surf, and he hopes that it won’t be too long before he is part of one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

His surfing has been put on hold while he is training for his next fight at the UNSW Roundhouse on September 3 (tickets are available at, and while he’s done most of his striking training at Kick Tactics with the Gardner brothers, he’s also been lucky enough to be shown a few things by boxing legend Johnny Lewis at TP Gym in the lead-up to the event.

And you can rest assured after his next hit-out in the ring he will be sitting down with his mates Abberton and Matthews and plotting the next big-wave mountain to climb.