One City: From Lisbon to LA, with Nic Von Rupp
Story by Jake Howard Nic Von Rupp’s a smart cat… and a hell of a tuberider. Rather than go the conventional route of contests and sponsored promos he’s taking play into his own hands. As of late he’s been busying himself working on an extended video project called My Road Series. The basic idea is […]
Story by Jake Howard
Nic Von Rupp’s a smart cat… and a hell of a tuberider. Rather than go the conventional route of contests and sponsored promos he’s taking play into his own hands. As of late he’s been busying himself working on an extended video project called My Road Series. The basic idea is to chase swell and tell the stories of what happens along the way. His first instalment, One City: From Lisbon to LA, was directed by Nic’s running mate Gustavo Imigrante. The following is a conversation Stab had with Nic about the project, Portuguese surfing in general and how Garrett McNamara is actually a good thing for the country.
How did the idea for the My Road Series project come about? Last year we did a few trips and did the standard action clip thing you put on the Internet, but this year we wanted to make something different with a documentary twist. We wanted to create stories around what it’s like to chase swells and all the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens along the way. Europe’s been suffering in recent years. There are a lot of European guys trying to make it out and onto the international stage, and they will be a lot of the stories we tell, as well as European surfers’ position is in the whole international scene. Our goal wasn’t to create the standard action clip, but that a surf trip is also a vehicle for going far beyond what’s happening in the water. The series is called One City, and in our episodes we visit Hawaii and talk about how important it is to make a name for yourself. We visit California, which is essentially the center of surf. And we tell the story of those places through European eyes and what they mean to us. We’re very fortunate here in Portugal that the government and tourism industry has been very supportive of the growth of the sport.
Yeah, surfing’s been gaining a lot of traction in Portugal. Soccer will always be the biggest sport in Portugal, or Europe for that matter, but in Lisbon we’re surrounded by water. We are a coastal people. You have all these great waves — Ericeira, Nazare, Peniche — they’re all within an hour of Lisbon. To have those quality waves that close to a capital city, well, it’s slowly being recognized as a very important, mainstream sport. It’s a small country but definitely big in spirit.
There are definitely more Europeans having an impact than there were five or 10 years ago. What’s changed? Surfing in Hawaii and California has been around for way longer than it has in Europe. There you see generations of families that have evolved around the beach lifestyle — the grandfather surfs, the father surfs, the son surfs. In Portugal at the moment we’re just starting to have our first generation of fathers surfing with their children. For me growing up it was all about traveling. Surfing wasn’t recognized as a credible sport. When I was going to school I told the kids that I wanted to be a professional surfer and they looked at me like I was crazy. It was unheard of to be a pro surfer at the time. Tiago (Pires) had a very big impact over here and really put surfing on the map. All these big events followed and these days it’s a credible sport. Parents are encouraging their kids to surf, whether as a career or just for fun, so that’s been a huge shift. We’re definitely underdogs, but we’re growing and we’re trying to keep up.
You mentioned Tiago, how big has his influence in the country really been? In Portugal Tiago was a big influence for big brands starting to get involved in surfing. It’s same as Brazil these days, you know. Soccer’s not doing as well as it once was, but then all of a sudden this Brazilian kid is the world champ and the media goes crazy. It’s the same over here. Soccer was was struggling a little and then Tiago became part of the Formula One of surfing and people payed attention. People need heroes like that. All of a sudden he was all over the place, totally mainstream. He goes anywhere and people recognise him. He has to be in the top 10 most famous athletes in the county. As soon as the mainstream corporations started supporting the events everything just turned more professional. And the thing about Portugal is that everything revolves around the beach. Even though it gets cold in the winter everyone relates to the beaches.
What are your thoughts on people taking more notice of the waves in your country? The swells have always been there. We get pounded by 20-foot swells every second day, it’s definitely one of the oceans that pump the most swell, but nobody ever really cared about us. I’m not a big fan of Nazare, but that has opened the eyes of the world to what’s possible. Before people thought that Hawaii had the biggest waves, and all of a sudden there’s this 100-foot monster right in our backyard. That’s put Europe on the map. And there’s so much potential here. On any given swell somewhere’s going to be pumping. The reef setups are great, it’s unknown, it’s uncrowded, there’s not many people chasing them down. We are happy to welcome people that want to come and explore our waves like Shane Dorian did a couple years ago, or Garrett McNamara in Nazare. We really enjoy that because those guys have the experience and we’re still kind of learning everything.
And with media the way it is these days you don’t have to rely on an editor in another country to run a shot of you. Essentially you can create your own brand now. The online media has really busted down the doors for the potential of the waves we have over here. For European surfers it’s really hard to get into international magazines, so our stuff never gets seen, and that’s probably why Europe has never been that popular. It’s all about creating your own content.
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