“When I am preparing for my big wave season, I am really preparing for survival,” big wave surfer Nic Von Rupp told DMARGE recently. “I want to give it all in the gym to be sure when I do fall to have the best physical capacity a man can have to survive the superior power of nature.”
“My season start three months before – training in the gym, we do cardio to start off and get the cardio and VO2 max levels up, then we shift into body strengthening, legs and arms.”Nic Von Rupp
Von Rupp added: “My primary concern [when training] is making myself stronger – both physically and mentally – for a better chance of survival and then obviously I also train for better performance.”
If this sounds scary; that’s because it is. Von Rupp, a Portuguese big wave surfer who recently “quietly became one of the world’s best big wave surfers” (as called by The Inertia) is having a purple patch. And with purple patches (if you’re a big wave surfer) comes the confidence to surf insane hunks of water.
But Von Rupp’s up and coming status isn’t just a stroke of fortune. Von Rupp hasn’t even always enjoyed big waves. He’s worked hard, incrementally, and respectfully, to earn his reputation as one of the world’s best big wave surfers.
“I wasn’t necessarily the bravest kid on the block, but I was always taught to challenge myself,” Von Rupp told DMARGE. “That’s the backbone of the progression as a professional career. Always dare to challenge yourself to take that one step further.. and that’s what I did, unconscious, but I kept daring to take those daily steps…”
“Guess what; 20 years later I am surfing the biggest waves in the world.”Nic Von Rupp
Those looking for proof of Von Rupp’s big wave chops need only look at January the 8th’s historic session at Nazaré.
It was a day full of mayhem and injuries. One surfer went over the falls of a monster and said it was the closest they had ever come to death. Another accomplished big wave rider got smashed by a trademark Nazaré triangle, breaking their arm and blowing their eardrum.
Von Rupp, though, was reportedly a “steely, calm, presence in the lineup” who, with his partner Pedro Scooby, surfed a dozen waves and returned safely to the harbour.
No one was paddling that day – it was simply too big. Von Rupp told DMARGE: “Paddling huge Nazaré waves is big challenge. Once it starts getting over 30ft it’s just too dangerous to paddle.”
This is because there is a large area over which the waves might break. And getting smashed by big sets over 30ft puts your life at risk. As Von Rupp told us: “You can sustain big injuries that can ruin your career.”
“We want to ride big waves, not get cleaned up by them, that’s why you see people towing when it’s over 30ft instead of paddling.”
It’s not just in the big wave arena where Von Rupp is coming into his own. Von Rupp also runs a successful Youtube channel, which sees him document his wave-chasing adventures all around the world, from Scotland to Indonesia.
Speaking of which: big wave surfers – particularly entrepreneurial ones, like Von Rupp – have to be ready to go at any moment. As Von Rupp explained to DMARGE: “Technology is extremely advanced these days which facilitates to know when the big waves are going to show up, but forecasting isn’t 100% accurate.”
“To know when that record-breaking wave will break is a combination between size of a swell, direction, wind, tide and being at the right place right time.”Nic Von Rupp
On that note: Von Rupp is a Tudor ambassador. He wears the Tudor Pelagos, and he’s a hell of a test pilot. Von Rupp takes the Swiss luxury wristwatch manufacturer’s ethos of being “field-tested to the extreme” to a whole new level.
“All my life has been about daring,” Von Rupp told DMARGE. “This is the reason why this partnership happened so naturally.”
“While I surf, I wear the Tudor Pelagos, which I love because it is sporty and light. It is hard to measure the size of the waves, but I have been using the Pelagos with its black dial since early January and it’s been on my wrist on the biggest waves I rode this season.”
“I hate measuring the size of the waves, they are all huge, but they must be very close to record-breaking 80ft.”
Von Rupp had a massive wipeout while wearing the Tudor Pelagos, during the TUDOR Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge in February. He told DMARGE: “I fell at the bottom of the wave, skipped down with my arm and got dragged deep down.
“Good news is the watch has been tested by the power of Nazaré’s big waves and it’s still ticking and shiny.”Nic Von Rupp
“It is definitely the best companion for these extreme conditions.”
Von Rupp added: “I am very excited to join forces with TUDOR and I am humbled to now become a part of that legacy of people going for their dream even if it seems crazy to all the others around. Also very happy to reconnect somewhat to my Swiss roots through this new partnership.”
As for those still wondering what it’s like to surf Nazaré, we’ll leave you with this final quote from Von Rupp:
“Surfing Nazaré is a roller coaster of emotions, desire, strength and fear… but when you are going for that wave it’s a moment of zen, where everything slows down and you are 100% aware of what the wave is giving you. During that moment you just want to ride the wave and make it to the channel safely.”