Nic Von Rupp has been obsessing over a wave called Cave for much of his life — especially since he discovered Alex Gray and a couple others tackled it last night. Phrases like “terrifying,” “unrideable,” and “fall or die” had been tossed around lately when referencing the wave. Supposedly Mike Gleason, who bagged a few with Alex the night prior, had thrown up in the channel, sick from adrenaline and terror. Last year, the wave had injured John John Florence. Albee Layer was even around, a guy that spends a lot of time with monsters, and he wanted a piece.
Here in Portugal, native Nic Von Rupp has led us to riches in the surf and delicious riches on land. Nic is 22 years old, dashingly handsome and has been called the Portuguese Julian Wilson — probably due to his flawless visage or Hurley sticker, or both. But Julian Wilson doesn’t speak six languages like Nic. And Julian Wilson doesn’t live in a castle like Nic. Nic is pretty much a Portuguese knight. And every knight has a dragon to slay. A wave called Cave is Nic’s dragon.
Even from across the bay at a particularly mental right pointbreak, Nic’s eyes are locked on Cave. Nic, Griffin, Parker and our new passenger Brendon Gibbens binge on the slabby tubes that peel along the jagged rocks or, when the wind turns, on its onshore air-sections. But Nic knows that the infamous wave across the channel is awakening. That with just a slight wind-drop, the swell is big enough to make her roar. Maybe even this evening…
Just a knight’s luck: The stars have aligned and Cave is breathing fire. From the bluff we watch a set unload on the reef. Backless 6- to 8-foot righthanders suck off an exposed slab, the rocks like the back of some mythic beast.
Suiting up, Nic explains how Cave is not Portuguese for “cave,” but translates to basement or cellar, due to the various steps and boils one encounters on his way into the tube.
But Alex, John John, Albee, Nic and a few other locals are out there before Nic’s story is finished. And all make their way in (and out) of the belly of the beast. Nic, like a true knight, gets the largest wave of the session, lunging into the right on both heels, letting go of his rail about 3 feet in front of dry rock, spat out and blown into the channel. A crowd that’s gradually gathered on the bluff roars for their hero.
Nic and the rest of the dragon slayers come in, most of them shaking their heads at the beast’s apparent ferociousness. “That’s a heavy f–king wave,” says Albee.
Famished after a good fight, Nic leads us to what he calls “a proper Portuguese feast.” Which is actually a Brazilian buffet. But along the way we pass a strange antique stone-junkyard. The lighting is gorgeous and the ruins are oddly magnetic so Nic, Griffin, Parker and Brendon wander through the rubble.