Surf GroveSurf GroveSurf GroveSurf Grove IconSurf GroveArrow DownArrow RightChevron UpDividerDotted UnderlineFacebookInstagramLinkedInTwitterVimeo

Blog |

Surfer Profile – Raph Bruhwiler

By Brandon Manzardo



Born 1974



“My first competition was at Long Beach in 1988. A guy from the surf shop entered me. I show up expecting to be in the novice division—I mean, I was 13 years old—but turns out he signed me up for the pro division. Paddling out for my first heat, everyone was kind of laughing at this kid going up against these older guys. I ended up winning the whole thing.” 

Raph Bruhwiler has been called the godfather of Canadian surfing—the first professional surfer from a country most don’t associate with surfing. Indeed, Raph has been instrumental in putting Tofino on the map as a surf destination. But back when he was getting his start, Tofino wasn’t the surf town it is today, but rather a tiny fishing and logging town. There were a few older surfers around, but being at ‘the end of the road,’ both gear and guidance were difficult to come by. “My first board was homemade; my dad traded some work for it. The wetsuits in those days were terrible. Every half hour or so, we’d have to run and jump in the bathtub to warm up. You had to be a bit hardcore back then. Hardy.” 

There were also no surf schools or YouTube to learn from. “When I was in my teens, a guy came up from California and brought a surf video on VHS. I don’t know how many times I watched that thing. It’s pretty much how I learned to surf.” Evidently, it worked. 

These days, Raph says, it’s easier to get started, thanks to better equipment, new technology and a thriving surf culture. As a result, the level among younger surfers is much higher. That includes his own kids, with whom he loves to surf. “My son is 12, and my daughter is 14. They’re both as good as I was when I was 18. Actually, my daughter is probably better.” 

Now a member of the Coast Guard, his days of competing are mostly behind him, which he says is fine. “After I won that first contest, I knew that was what I wanted to do for as long as I could. I never wanted to be famous. I just wanted to surf and travel, and that’s exactly what I got to do. I still try to surf every day, and plan to for the rest of my life. But if I never got to surf again, I’d be proud of what I’ve accomplished.”