26 November, 2018 26 November, 2018

SA’s Youngest Big Wave Charger, Fabian

It’s Big Wave season, well for half the world, and if the Nazaré Challenge was anything to go by, we’re in for a screamer. Unlike fellow South African hellman Grant Twiggy Baker, surfing somewhat under the radar is young Kommetjie born and bred water fed, Fabian Campagnolo. Back in issue 42.6 ‘Standouts’, we featured the 20-year-old in Fade Out. But, before we go on, just take another look at that cover image, f**ken nuts bru.

Following Twiggy’s win at Nazaré, footage of Fabian dropping into some rather ‘large’ waves out in Portugal surfaced. Naturally, our interest was spiked so we jumped on a flight…. lol, imagine we could just do that… we actually just took a more budget-friendly option and pulled a page from the millennial handbook and fired some questions the way of Fabian over Instagram. What a time to be alive! 

Shot Bru/ Kim Bouchier ©

Zag: Give us a quick background, where you from, how long you been surfing and why big waves?

Fabian: I was privileged enough to grow up in Kommetjie, growing up there would be paradise for anyone…regardless if you surf or not. A tight-knit community that creates a truly unique atmosphere, there really is no place like it. As a grom I naturally grew curious as to what the bigger waves around home could offer, one thing led to another and after showing a bit of persistence (eating shit a lot) at the Outerkom Dougal Patterson took me under his wing and introduced me to waves such as the Crayfish factory, Sunset reef & later Dungeons. I met Dougal when I was 13, I am 20 now. The guy has not once stopped believing in me & my potential as a surfer and for that, I will be forever grateful, not to mention all of his boards & leashes I have snapped, THANKS, UNCLE!

How do you deal with the nerves and associated risk of surfing big waves? 

Being scared or feeling on edge before big sessions are Natural & I feel as if these emotions help keep me calculated in big surf. To ignore these instincts is not a good idea, one has to come to terms with the fact that you WILL find yourself in rather uncomfortable situations at times.

The big wave crew, they’re a close community. When paddling out here at home, where do you fit in amongst the older crew?

The big wave crew in Cape Town is special. Big waves create powerful relationships between the men & women that surf them, the consequences and reality of what can happen out there are scary, so operating as a family/ team/ unit rather than trying to outdo one another is vital.

You were/are in Portugal, we saw you link up with Nic Von Rupp, tell us a little more about your time in Portugal, particularly surfing Nazaré? 

I was about to sign up for a chef school back home, didn’t do it & booked a ticket to Germany. Worked in a winery for 3 months so I could afford to come to surf Nazare. The whole thing was really spontaneous but just felt really good, no one second-guessed my decision which just made it feel even more natural (laughs). I have only had a hand full of sessions at Nazare so far, it’s basically a really big beach break meaning there is no channel & no certainty that you won’t be staring down a big one after pulling off your wave…making it quite a gamble.

I have a lot to learn as the wave is very different from anything we have back home. Have been able to meet & surf with men & women that I have looked up to for years. Nazare & its locals have shown nothing but good vibes in and out of the water. Familiar Atlantic coastlines + loads of fresh fish make it really easy to feel at home here.

You must have suffered your fair share of beatings, any particular one come to mind?

Went down pretty hard before leaving to Europe. Went over with the lip at Sunset Reef & got concussed on impact, the wave sucked me down straight to the reef almost in one motion. The way up felt like it took forever & really put into perspective how deep I had gone down (laughs) happy I made it up to catch a breath before the next wave got to me…unfortunately Dougal’s board wasn’t so fortunate, thanks again, Uncle.

Your 20 years old, where to from here? 

Yoh, no idea where it goes from here, don’t have a return ticket home yet so I’m looking into chasing this winter somewhere else…maybe somewhere warmer.



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