The German big-wave charger is a rare breed. Tutored by some of Hawaii’s heaviest legends, totally committed to surfing Europe’s biggest waves and totally unreliant on the surf industry to make that happen. We chat to man whose goals are simple; surfing the biggest waves he can find, every chance he gets.
Tells us how you started surfing?
I’m from Nuremberg Germany, but I had my first surf in Brittany when I went there on vacation. I was really hooked and when I was 14 year old I saw an article in a surf magazine, where a family in Maui would take kids in teach people to windsurf. So I went there and that’s how it started.
And you kept going back to Hawaii.
Yeah for the next ten years every winter. Early on I became a professional windsurfer, qualified for the World Cup, but back then it was all about the jumps and I was more interested in the wave riding aspect, so I got into surfing.
How hard was it to be accepted to as a German in Hawaii?
Well I was lucky I was taken in and learnt to surf with the Armitage Family. Nelson senior was one of the original blackshorts, one of 16 kids and all round big-wave legend. I worked and surfed and was best friends with his son with Nelson Junior. I also learnt to tow with Dane Kealoha and another legend Bobo.
It must have been pretty crazy for a kid from Nuremberg to be hanging and surfing with some of Hawaii and the world’s most respected surfers.
It was a beautiful experience. I didn’t even know who Dane was for the first two years, to me he was just Uncle Dane. I was taught by my parents to respect people and I just tried to listen and learn from those guys. They were towing really early on, so I learnt everything from them. All I ever wanted to do was be in the ocean, and they were the same. It was never about who caught that wave or who was sponsored by who, that was never a part of it at all.
You won the XXL biggest wave award in 2010, how did that affect you?
It’s hard to say, I got famous in Germany. I was the most famous action sports athlete there so that opened opportunities. But I didn’t want the publicity, I wasn’t in it for the sponsorship or the fame, it just happened to me cause I caught a big wave (see video below). So it didn’t get me closer towards my goal of just being in the ocean every day. If anything it probably made it harder, with the added expectations on my performances, so in that respect it was a negative.
Where are you at with your surfing now?
I’m really happy right now with my surfing, because I am getting closer to surfing big waves every day. I sold my security company and got a chuck of money and I’m funding my surfing with corporate speaking gigs in Germany, so I’m just getting closer to being where I want to be.
Where are you based?
We are now based in Nazare and we have skis and cars in Ireland. I’ve teamed up with Tom Butler and also Eric Rebiere, so we also have the Galicia coast covered. Through a contact in Germany who was involved in Formula One, we also are getting some sponsorship from some big logistics companies, so that we can be totally mobile and ready for any of the big swells that hit Europe. We also really committed to paddling Nazare, after seeing what Dorian did, that was a real eye opener, he set the bar and we are now trying to raise it. We are just trying to get out there every chance we can.
It sounds like some type of joke, a French-Brazilian, a German and a Englishman paddle into a Portuguese Bar?
That’s what Garrett is always saying. I will say that Tom especially has got me motivated and back in the water. I was out of surfing and back in Germany for 18 months, but Tom’s commitment and ability to have fun has got me psyched. I saw his incredible potential and with a bit of focus, maturity and support I think we will see some amazing performances from him. I’m just super stoked with our set up and just trying to improve and go surfing every chance I can.