Meet VSSL Voyager Raphael Bruhwiler. If you can find him. This skilled full-throttle adventurer is always in motion. Not only is Raph Canada's first ever professional surfer, he's also a hunter, fisherman and life-saving member of the Canadian Coast Guard. When it comes to outdoor action, there’s nothing Raph can’t do.
Case in point – when VSSL caught up with Raph, he was just back from a bush hunting expedition with his father and six-year-old son. Their haul? A majestic deer and some wild chickens. “We dress them, portion out the meat and get it ready to eat,” he said. “Nothing is wasted. We do everything ourselves.”
It’s always been this way. Growing up in Tofino, a small district on Vancouver Island off Canada's west coast, Raph never knew limits. He grew up with the ocean as his backyard and remembers watching a handful of pioneering surfers challenge the icy water. Raph wanted in. So, he taught himself to surf.
His father, a part-time lumberjack, made Raph’s first board out of wood. “It didn’t quite work,” says Raph, “But then we spotted an old board in a neighbor’s yard. We did some tree work for the neighbor in exchange for the surfboard.” Soon after, armed with knowledge cobbled together from a couple of surfing magazines and some VHS tapes, Raph was riding waves and teaching his siblings to follow suit.
At age 13, he competed in The West Beach Surf Jam and won the men’s category, against guys in their 20s and 30s. Guys who had had training. Guys who had been surfing for years.
The win launched a life of surfing, working summers at fish plants or whale watching tours, and competing the rest of the year. What Raph realized as he traveled the globe is that, no matter where you are, adventure awaits.
He’s since settled back in to his hometown. These days, you may spot him working his job as a Rescue Survivalist with the Canadian Coast Guard and braving rugged waves even he wouldn’t cross if it were not to keep others safe. Or you might catch him hunting, fishing, or camping his way across the wild and beautiful place where he grew up.
For Raph, it’s not a matter of location. Adventure lives inside him. It’s in his blood.
Raph believes the best parts of getting out in nature are the experience, the vastness of it all, the remove from fast-paced life, the solitude from civilization and the practice of living off the land. These are principles his parents instilled in him, and Raph and his wife are imparting the same wisdom to their three children. And teaching them to surf. The two eldest, ages 11 and 9, are already competing.
Whether he’s out on the Coast Guard boat, surfing with his kids or camping in the wild, Raph carries a VSSL First Aid with him. “I use it a lot. I just stick it in my backpack and go,” he says. “The compass is great. If you have your head down mushroom picking and you get lost, you can use it to find your way out.”
“A VSSL could save your life. Just having the light can be a lifesaver – out in the bush, out on the boat.” He loves the design and says his VSSL First Aid has everything he needs to be prepared for anything.
Another favorite of Raph’s? The VSSL flask. He’s not a picky drinker, so if you run into Raph out on the waves or in the bush, feel free to offer him a shot. So long as it’s Canadian whiskey.
Raph's Social Hangouts: www.bruhwilersurf.com; Instagram: @raphbruhwiler; Facebook: @bruhwilersurf
Image credit: Liam McDonald, Jeremy Koreski, Dylan Gordon and Raph Bruhwiler