A few hours north of British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria, there lies a tiny little surf town called Tofino. You’ve heard of it, of course, but unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to understand just how amazing it really is. It’s the end of the road, a town full of loggers, fishermen, and surfers. More surfers now than anything else, but the blue-collar roots run deep there. It’s the hub of Canadian surfing, and more than a few really good surfers have come out of it. Pete Devries, Noah Cohen, and the Bruhilers are perhaps the most well-known. The Bruhwilers consist of Sepp and Raph, and they were basically the first Canadian surfers to gain any kind of international attention. They grew up exploring the area, motoring up and down logging roads, searching for another empty point break. They have an interesting story, to say the least. Raph Bruhwiler, in particular, has been called The Godfather of Canadian surfing.
“I was kind of one of the first guys to really do a lot of the things, and then everyone else saw it was possible,” he told me a few years ago. “I’m sure I influenced a lot of people. I hope I helped push the level of surfing to where it is now. You’ve got Sepp [Bruhwiler], you’ve got Pete [Devries], Nico Manos and Noah [Cohen], those guys are doing really well…I’m a bit older than them, so I’m sure they looked to me a bit, but now I’m still trying to keep up with them. But every generation should get better than the next. There’d be something wrong if they didn’t. If you’re surfing with good guys, you’re going to progress a lot faster. The older guys pushed me and so on.”
Years ago, when Raph and Sepp were young, their parents bought property in Tofino by letter. They moved from Quebec, on Canada’s East Coast, all the way to the other side of the country to a town that wasn’t the surf mecca that it is today. That was the start of Raph’s love affair with the ocean and the area in general, and it turned into a life-long passion for a little town called Tofino.