"Starting to get the hang of these big boards, bring on the Nazaré Challenge," wrote Nic von Rupp on his Instagram after another mega paddle-in session at Nazaré in December.
Von Rupp, 27, grew up in Lisbon and after considerable stint on the Qualifying Series, started to forge a reputation as one of the world's premier slab-hunting surfers. Whether charging the chunky reef breaks near his home or further afield in Mullaghmore, Teahupo'o, Mentawais, the Canaries and Hawaii have seen the goofy-footer consistently charge, and make some of the meanest waves on the planet.
For years he has been chasing swells all over the world, dedicating his life to the pursuit of the barrel. However more recently he has turned his attention to the big-wave behemoth located only two hours drive north of his home in the capital.
"Nic has slowly been making his mark at Nazaré, but it's taken a while," said Andrew Cotton, a Nazaré pioneer. "I've been lucky enough to see him surf at Mullaghmore and other reefs and he's easily one of the best tuberiders in the world. He's fricken nuts. I just think the transformation to bigger boards, riding 10 foot and 11 foot guns takes time. With his talent he'll get there, but it's not easy."
Von Rupp has been making that transformation over the last few seasons. When Nazaré is paddle-able at 25-feet and offshore, the slabs he made his name on are usually in the optimum (well, for him) 15-foot and perfect range. To drive past those waves, and their identifiable channels, and paddle out on a 10'6" into the unpredictable maelstrom that is the Nazaré lineup takes real commitment and dedicated resolve.
He's made a conscious decision to do that in the past few winters and that resolve is now starting to pay off. Last year he secured an invitation into the inaugural Nazaré Challenge and was rewarded with some heavy beatings and a Round One loss. Twelve months down the line, Von Rupp is way more experienced and way more prepared. Once he gets the hang of those big boards, anything is possible.