Nic Von Rupp, Griffin Colapinto, Parker Coffin and others find fresh perspectives and plenty of waves in ancient Portugal.

Last fall we explored the Portuguese coast with Griffin Colapinto, Parker Coffin and local Nic Von Rupp. Old World, fresh faces. Nic led us to perfect waves and ancient castles. Parker kept us laughing. Griffin peed his pants from laughing so hard. It happens. We documented the trip on yellow notepads and RED cameras, made a magazine feature [as seen in our March 2014 issue] and a three part, multimedia Web story, which you’re about to enjoy. Meet the characters, explore the place, scroll around and don’t be afraid to get lost. Old World, new media.

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…

Before a surf, Nic, Griffin and Parker sample Ericeira’s roadside cuisine. Griffin even tries his very first cup of potent European espresso.
A stranger left a message on the back of Nic’s car that translates, “I wish my wife was this dirty.” And this is exactly why Portuguese people are the coolest.
“There’s more culture in this Portuguese dump than there is in all of California.” –Parker Coffin
Griffin Colapinto, settling in.
Parker Coffin.
Across a deep and unruly channel, just north of Cave, the boys let loose on a long righthander, complete with daily air-wind.
Looks tear-able – we’re out here.
Nic and Griffin point to the point.
Toward the last few days of the trip, South African Brendon Gibbens flew over from France…and then wouldn’t stop flying. Old World ‘Oop at the right.
Nic Von Rupp attacks this righthand point like the wise local he is, but it’s all just prep-work for the main event.
Nic Von Rupp.

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.

They wander the yard and stare at the ruins. At statues frozen in tragic poses. At the pillars and houseless stairways.

“There’s more culture in this Portuguese dump than there is in all of California,” says Parker, climbing onto a stone wheel that looks like it was once attached to a Roman chariot.

Maybe by “culture,” he means questions. Certainly there was a lot of that here. Like: Where did these stairs once lead? Or, where have all the sculptors gone? Or, will the wind be dead again tomorrow morning? And, are there more dragons out there in need of slaying?

Nic gets the largest wave of the session, lunging into the right on both heels, letting go of his rail about three feet in front of dry rock…
A few more fire-breathers.
John John Florence was injured a year ago at this same wave. Today would be his rematch.
With the swell peaking and the wind dying, Nic, John John, Alex Gray and a couple other brave men slip away to battle the dragon called Cave at the bottom of the bluff.

End of
ACT III

Photography by Corey Wilson
Videography by Sean Benik
Additional Footage by Hugo Almeida
Story by Beau Flemister

Special thanks to
Monster Energy
SATA Airlines
Turismo de Lisboa

For even more photos and the full-length Old World New story, pick up SURFING Magazine’s March 2014 issue on newsstands now