Nic von Rupp: A Force Of Nature
Professional surfer Nic von Rupp talks fear, passion and preparing yourself to take on Mother Nature.
Known as the Portuguese version of Nazareth, Nazaré is a seaside location with a history tied to Christianity. It’s not just biblical stories that draw people to Nazaré, though, but the behaviour of its ocean. Between October and March, this coast becomes home to the largest waves in the world, bringing photographers and tourists to its beaches, and people similar to Nic von Rupp to experience their size first-hand.
“For us, it’s the only wonder in the world,” says von Rupp. “There’s no place in the world that refracts the wave in the way Nazaré does. There’s a lot of big waves, but none are as consistent and big as Nazaré. It’s amazing. People are starting to realize that and comparing it to wonders in nature.”
Having grown up around this phenomenon, surfing is something that came naturally to von Rupp. It’s something he says happened “spontaneously.” He’s been professionally surfing since he was 14, spending time competing in the World Tour until something changed. “It got to a point where I reached out to my sponsor and said I want to do the biggest waves in the world. They were a bit skeptical because anything you do that’s outside the norm is criticized, but I wanted to do it anyway.”
Head to von Rupp’s Instagram page or YouTube channel and you’ll be treated to not just some of the waves he’s tackled, but also the skill, determination and resolve it takes to enter the water to surf the waves. “In my profession, there are two types of people,” he explains. “The crazy ones and the skilled ones. To ride these waves, you have to have the skills and really respect the process of getting to a certain place. There are steps that need to be taken, and it’s a long process.”
“In My Profession, There Are Two Types Of People: The Crazy Ones And The Skilled Ones”
And, while von Rupp makes it look easy, navigating the swell of the ocean and its looming barrels with finesse comes with a fear that never goes away. In a 2017 interview with CNN, he stated that he had a particular phobia of the rocks and, after three more years on the water, it still remains. “Fear is natural and part of everything you do,” he continues. “It’s how you deal with it, and whether you let yourself be blocked by fear. When I was very young, I was always told to face my fears, be it big waves or the rocks. That’s a lesson I brought into my life.”
Another way von Rupp grounds himself before facing the current is to approach it as he would any other job — as just another day at work. “I’ve prepared hard for that moment,” he continues. “It’s something you work on as you go. When I wake up in the morning, I just pretend it’s another day. Don’t let the fear get into your head and prepare hard.”
The time he spends on shore is no less intense. Last year, von Rupp launched his own brand Brusco. Inspired by the rawness of the Atlantic Ocean, its name comes from the word for ‘rough’ in Portuguese. “The Atlantic is a rough ocean,” he says. “It’s where the biggest waves in the world are created and the people that define the Atlantic are rough people. They wake up on a cold morning and make a decision to leave the family behind to surf big waves. It’s a pretty rough lifestyle.”
von Rupp attributes the passion that drives his work in the water as a surfer and out of the water promoting his career to his parents. “My parents educated me in being respectful, passionate, a fighter,” he says. “Not being content with what we have today, and really trying to evolve myself. My parents definitely shaped me into who I am today.”
He’s also found a way to use the passion he has for surfing to benefit others. In particular, he supports Wave By Wave, a charity funded by the Portuguese government that takes underprivileged children surfing — a sport he says has been clinically proven to benefit their state of mind.
“In every work you do — and I consider surfing work — there are ups and downs, but it’s the balance that counts,” he says. “The balance of professional surfing is la dolce vita. I get to live my life to the fullest, face and overcome my fears, and become a better version of myself, while tackling the biggest force of nature.”
Interview by Michelle Zerillo-Sosa