Nic von Rupp makes his way around Europe the old school way.

Igrew up lis­ten­ing to my elders talk­ing about their jour­neys through Europe. They talked about the leg­endary rite of pas­sage the Euro­pean In­ter Rail, con­nect­ing all cor­ners of Europe by train. A long steady jour­ney full of new friend­ships, ex­pe­ri­ences and joy. A jour­ney where you took time to bond. Jour­neys that took months with the bad and good. Ev­ery­thing leaves a mark on you in life and these ups and downs shaped the char­ac­ters they be­came. You can feel their con­nec­tion to a place through their voice.

I come from a gen­er­a­tion where that cul­ture is long lost. A gen­er­a­tion where fast, low-cost air­lines took over and peo­ple are on fast foward want­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery­thing at once. I feel it in my skin that I’m part of that gen­er­a­tion. I want to be every­where at the same time, fil­ter­ing life, only em­brac­ing what we like and want. Don’t get me wrong it’s awe­some to be able to be in the four cor­ners of the world in less then a week, scor­ing bar­rels every­where at once. But you gotta be able to turn that fast for­ward mode off and re­ally em­brace the places you go to. I feel like trains do that to you. They choose your tempo, they choose your path. You are just one of many. You meet peo­ple you wouldn’t meet, you see places that roads wouldn’t lead you to and your ac­tu­ally sit back and en­joy the scenery.

I’ve taken trains all my life, since be­ing a13-year old grom. I took the night train from Lis­bon to Irun to go to France for the King of the Grom comps back in 2004. I used to do it that all the way un­til I was 18. I would rather take the longer train than fly. I’m not sure why. But it gave me a sense of free­dom, be­ing in­de­pen­dent. The has­sle of get­ting the train, fit­ting boards in to your com­part­ment, sit­ting next to a com­plete stranger for 10 hours all adds up to a feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment at the end of the jour­ney. I had my first beer on a train … at the bar by my­self. Those were the days.

All these good mem­o­ries, that’s prob­a­bly what made me want to go back on a rail­road…

We started our jour­ney in the fall at Es­tação do Ori­ente in Lis­bon, the same place I would take the train to Irun many years ago. On board my­self and my filmer Gus­tavo Imi­grante. We headed north to­wards Spain. The Basque Coun­try didn’t de­liver for us. But there was a back up plan: my best man Fred­die Mead­ows is a pi­o­neer of surf­ing in ice-cold Scan­di­navia. He’s been se­cretly telling me about the po­ten­tial of the north­ern sea. There was a swell and we had time. The swell was about to hit this re­mote lo­ca­tion in the far north. We had to take the short cut, the first hop to Scan­di­navia sounded like a bet­ter op­tion than tak­ing the train. Ha ha ha!

Our rail­road jour­ney was not about to tak­ing the train at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, it was about re­pro­duc­ing feel­ings, when we had the time. Scan­di­navia was freez­ing cold and beau­ti­ful as ex­pected. Tak­ing the train be­tween mountains, fjords and snow were some of the most beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ences we’d been through.

Af­ter a long jour­ney up north we fi­nally got there. My buddy Fred­die picked us up and lead us fur­ther to the end of the world, in all se­crecy of course. We got to this is­land, there was no one around. No ho­tels, no restau­rants, just a run down hos­tel man­aged by our guy Vito. He’s in his six­ties and runs fish­ing char­ters dur­ing sum­mer and hi­ber­nates dur­ing win­ter. How can you not? It’s cold, there is no one around and the sun barely shines. I’ve never been to such an iso­lated place, just our crew, Vito and the vast north­ern sea.

The rea­son we were up there was Fred­die. He had been scout­ing this vast coast for sev­eral years. He knows his stuff, he’s been ex­plor­ing Scan­di­navia for the last decade. The pre­vi­ous year he men­tioned he had found a world-class wave, never surfed be­fore, and that’s why we were up there.

We man­aged to ne­go­ti­ate with Vito to drive us thru the fjords into the open ocean. Not a cheap and easy task. No one wants to take their boat out when it’s -10C de­grees. Fred­die had his whole set up with a truck and ski. We got out there and it was rough. I pad­dled out and the first thing I know a 12 foot set lands on me and pushes me so deep. I barely make it up be­fore the se­cond one hits. That was it for me want­ing to be a hero and pad­dle. From that mo­ment on we de­cided we were go­ing to tow. I towed Fred­die into a cou­ple bombs but as soon as I grabbed the rope the weather de­cided to take a turn on us. Howl­ing on­shore! Fred­die nor me had any tow­ing in ex­pe­ri­ence and things could eas­ily go wrong. Vito was not go­ing to res­cue us nor the ski. He made that clear from the start. So that was that…

We hung around for an­other week hop­ing for an­other win­dow of op­por­tu­nity at this wave, but the se­vere win­ter weather was set in. Storm af­ter very, very shallow, and no lo­cals around. That ac­tu­ally says it all.

Af­ter look­ing at it skep­ti­cally for a while, a car shows up, and it’s only Mick Fan­ning and his crew. We both looked at it for a long time, it looked wrong to surf but we had time to kill be­fore the next ses­sion so we de­cided to get a closer look. A closer look ended up be­ing two waves straight into dry reef. Ev­ery­thing was wrong on my first Ri­leys ses­sion, tide, size and di­rec­tion. All the rea­sons no lo­cals were on it.

I was amazed about the raw power storm with small breaks. Soon enough our hopes and bud­get ran out and we had no choice but head back home­ward. We didn’t score, but we sure raised the bar­rier of ad­ven­ture. A wave full of po­ten­tial break­ing on and off amongst the rough north­ern sea.

Ire­land, my favourite place in the world. I ob­vi­ously love the waves, but the peo­ple, the cul­ture, the af­ter surf pints in front of the fire­place might be my favourite part of the jour­ney. Peo­ple ask me if I don’t mind surf­ing in those freez­ing cold win­ter con­di­tions full of rub­ber. I do. It sucks putting on all those booties, gloves, wet­suits. But it makes me feel like a war­rior, a hero pre­par­ing for bat­tle, pro­tected by all that rub­ber.

We fi­nally made it to Ire­land. Both of my filmers are body­board­ers so for them the tides be­ing a lit­tle off or the swell di­rec­tion not be­ing ideal doesn’t re­ally mat­ter. They push me to go for it. We showed up at dawn at Ri­leys, it was clearly not the day of days: big, fast and of this place. It was an ex­pe­ri­ence just sit­ting out there look­ing at those 10-foot Chopes style bombs blast­ing into dry reef. Some waves are just not meant to be rid­den, but I knew I had to come back.

When you are in Ire­land you are chas­ing tides, high tide there and low tide elsewhere. Any­where else is in the world you park your car by the beach on the wa­ter’s edge. Ire­land is a 30-minute hike down the cliff fol­lowed by a 30-minute pad­dle out any­where you go. It’s a full ad­ven­ture at all times. Ev­ery­thing takes a long time and

I was amazed about the raw power of this place. It was an ex­pe­ri­ence just sit­ting out there look­ing at those 10-foot Chopes style bombs blast­ing into dry reef.

day­light hours are short, which makes you run from one spot to an­other.

The Cliffs. What a mag­i­cal place. Where land meets sea. Tom Lowe had been talk­ing to me about the en­ergy of this place, long be­fore I made it over. I’d seen plenty of pho­tos, videos, done my re­search and fi­nally years later

I was stand­ing in front of the cliffs over­look­ing Europe’s most iconic big wave slab. Look­ing at this arena makes you feel in­signif­i­cant. So much power com­bined, both ocean and rock. Look­ing down the cliffs makes the wave look small, you don’t take much no­tice of it un­til you are ac­tu­ally in there, and that’s one hour later. It’s an ad­ven­ture get­ting down there, not only surf­ing this wave, it’s a dan­ger­ous hike too. I had the hon­our to be led by the local crew, Tom Lowe, Dan Ska­jarowski, Jack Johns a di­verse of group of peo­ple shar­ing the pas­sion for thick, cold, heavy waves and pints in the pub. Some of the best peo­ple I’ve met, grounded, hum­ble and brave. Just how you like them, re­gard­less if you stand up or lay down.

I fi­nally reached the line up and I felt the power of the waves. It’s got a dif­fer­ent en­ergy than all of the oth­ers; raw and ruth­less. It lets you in easy yet builds into a wall that that only a few have the balls to han­dle. Un­pre­dictable too. Some roll into a Teahupo’o bar­rel, oth­ers look like they are go­ing to do the same but just eat you alive with the chan­de­liers. No won­der peo­ple get hurt out there. It’s a heavy wave that re­minds me of a Jaws wall that ac­tu­ally bar­rels top to bot­tom.

Af­ter hours of get­ting pounded, Tommy Lowe pad­dled over to me and whis­pered that with the tide switch­ing go­ing up high, that was the time for the big­gest bombs. He also pointed out on where to sit. Not long af­ter the words of wis­dom and I’m rolling into this eight-foot wave and cruis­ing down the face. Then the eight-foot wave quickly grew into a 12 footer. It sucked so much off the bot­tom that I al­most pearled and got lipped. Some­how I man­aged to get un­der that thing and set up for the bar­rel of my life. My wa­ter filmer Gas­tao was scream­ing, so stoked we both got to share a mo­ment like that in such a ma­jes­tic lo­ca­tion.

The ses­sion was over, we be­gan our jour­ney back thru the wa­ter up the cliff into the clos­est rail­way sta­tion to­wards Dublin. I couldn’t be­lieve our jour­ney was com­ing to an end. It seemed like a dream. So many peo­ple, so many ex­pe­ri­ences so many waves. It wasn’t easy but well worth it…

So much power com­bined, both ocean and rock

The Cliffs, al­ways sketchy, al­ways im­pres­sive

The Cliffs, fickle and hard to get to as they are, de­liver one of the fiercest bar­rels in the world. Add in the cold fac­tor and you'll get why the joint is treated with such re­spect.

Top of the cliffs. The goat path down is sav­age.

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