Raph Bruhwiler Canadian Surf Hero – Raising Kids on Edge of Wilderness

Raph Bruhwiler surfing north of Tofino BC Canada

Excerpt below taken from SURFER magazine. READ FULL ARTICLE

Years ago at Pipeline, a crisp tradewind blowing, Raph Bruhwiler sat shivering in the lineup, the coldest he’d ever felt in the water. It’s a strange way to imagine Canada’s first professional surfer. Every year, hundreds of surfers visit his hometown of Tofino, the quiet Vancouver Island village, and Bruhwiler shares a grit and toughness with the area, earned over a lifetime chasing waves in the inhospitable and maddeningly fickle Pacific Northwest. But he’ll be the first to tell you, the elements that conspire against surfers — whether it’s the North Shore tradewinds or Tofino’s numbing gales — are as inherent to the PNW experience as the waves themselves.

We reached out to Bruhwiler and asked him about the lessons he’s learned from Tofino, the surf culture he helped create, the importance of family, and how the difference between surfing and survival all comes down to preparation. [Interview by Davis Jones]

Raph Bruhwiler

Raph Bruhwiler

What’s your earliest memory of survival out in the wilderness as a kid?
There was this one time when I was 16, a bunch of guys from California came up to visit: Brandy Faber and Evan Slater, with a couple other surfers. My friend had a boat that we used to chase this one wave. We actually ran out of food a couple days in and we had about two or three days left of the trip. We had to go up into the bush to collect berries. We cooked up some fish, oysters, and barnacles on the beach. Up here, you won’t starve. There’s so much you can pick straight from the bush and eat. You can even eat the squirrels if you have to [Laughs].

What’s your earliest memory of survival as a surfer?
There were some moments when I was younger where getting to waves on the boat was scary, because the weather was so violent. But actually being in in the water, I’ve been fortunate to not have many bad experiences surfing, I’ve split my head open about two or three hours out from help, where I’ve needed to drive the boat back to get stitches. Stuff like that. But I’ve honestly never felt like I’ve had to survive out there in the water.

Where’d those instincts come from? Your dad? Older surfers?

I learned everything I know from my dad. He taught me and my siblings everything. We were also pretty aware of our environment, and that’s how my kids are. I teach them everything I know. If the world goes to shit and they have to survive on their own, they know what to do. That’s what my dad taught us.

Camping on the beach near open ocean

When we grew up, there was a pretty big age gap between us and the older surfers. Some of them weren’t very stoked about showing us around, but others were willing to mentor us a bit. But really, it was more a pack of us kids who lived close to one another on the beach, and we fed off each other as we pushed our surfing.

One of my friend’s dads had a board, and one day, he started pushing us into waves. Soon enough, it was probably about a half-dozen of us out there surfing every day. Back then, weeks would go by where we wouldn’t see another surfer in the lineup. It was just a bunch of us groms.

There were maybe a handful of other local guys who surfed. There weren’t many in-between that age gap, between the young and the old, who surfed. There wasn’t a lineup of hot surfers we could observe, either. We basically had each other.

The other way we learned was by watching videos. We watched Momentum probably ten times a day on VHS. We’d stare at all these progressive maneuvers on tape, then we’d go out and try it, come back in, and watch some more.


Excerpt above taken from SURFER magazine. READ FULL ARTICLE


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