The Broadcast / You Reap What You Sow

You Reap What You Sow

From working long hours in a German winery, to sleeping in a dockside warehouse at Nazaré for the last five winters - Fabian Campagnolo is a big wave surfer who has put in the graft to be able to chase his dream. But as they say, hard work pays off.

Finding himself in the right place at the right time, Fabian recounts how he arrived home in Cape Town, just in time to score the cleanest Dungeons and Sunset in recent years.


4 min read

Words by Fabian Campagnolo

Photography by Alan Van Gysen

I had been in Europe for almost a full year; working in Germany trying to save up some cash, and then spending the season in Nazaré before meeting up with my sister in Morocco for a couple of months.

I’d worked in the German winery for a few years at this point, doing insane hours. I was sometimes working 110 hrs a week, but only walking away with maybe €2000 to last me through a season. This year, a friend from Nazaré managed to get me a good job in industrial maintenance. I worked that job for two months after Morocco, doing 12hr shifts and even night shifts for a month and a half. I couldn’t get a day off work, because it was just me and one other guy in this team. It was brutal, but for the first time in my life I was actually coining it, making good money. Even then, there were issues with my tax paperwork that took ages to sort out, so I only got paid at the end of the job and couldn’t change my flight to get back home for the winter.

Fabian rests on his board wearing Finisterre 5mm Yulex Wetsuit

I got back to Cape Town around mid-august, thinking I had completely missed the whole season. There hadn’t really been amazing swells, but I also knew there probably wouldn’t be swells coming that late in the winter. Without even checking the forecast, I get home and literally four days later there’s this crazy swell on the charts.

The swell came late. It was supposed to be pumping when we woke up, but we ended up waiting all day for it to arrive. Right at the end of the day, in the last hour or so, we saw sets starting to come through. Small, but super offshore.

We all went out on the jet skis; there were about five skis ready to tow but it was still slow, with about one wave every half hour, so everyone went pretty quickly. I got home and headed to town to have dinner with some friends, and as I got to town I get a call to say, “the buoy readings have just gone up. Tomorrow is probably going to be really good, and huge.”

I woke up to the sound of thunder. My home is really close to the ocean, and if I wake up on a really big day I know exactly what to expect. The longer the sound lingers, the better you know it is. We got up super early and headed straight to Dungeons. We were on the sentinel with the jetski by first light, and we watched Matt Bromley paddle into a huge perfect wave, all the way from the back peak. Seeing that, we all got super psyched.

Surfers readying the jetski for the session
Fabian dropping in to a steep wave
Fabian seen engaging his rail from behind the peak

I was paddling in the morning for about an hour and a half. I got such good waves and everything was ok, but I did have one wipeout that scared me a bit. I hadn’t ridden big waves in a while. In fact, I hadn’t actually surfed at all for four months.

We got out of the water and my girlfriend and I had planned to drive up to J-Bay that same day to see friends. We get home and we’re trying to pack everything and the waves were just so good… so we decided to grab our logs and head down to this super chilled little point break. We get there, and I see the waves, and I’m looking at my girlfriend getting ready, and I’m thinking, damn… Sunset Reef is going to be pumping.

We’re getting ready and this guy comes over who I’d seen in the water in the morning. I’d leant my board to him because his had snapped, and I couldn’t rescue him in time so I felt obliged to give him my board. He just pulls into the car park and gives me back my board, so I grabbed it, took my girlfriend’s car and headed straight to Sunset Reef and scored. It was unreal.

Fabian Campagnolo dropping into a huge backlit wave at Sunset reef
Fabian leaning back to make the drop on another sunset bomb

I usually ride these boards called Missiles from Spider Murphy. They’re my absolute favourite boards in the world, but I didn’t have that board because I’d snapped them all or left them in europe. As I’m getting ready, some guy in the car park looks at the board I’m going to ride and says, “I’ve got a board you can ride instead if you want”. I’m like, ok, what is it bru? It’s a 9’6” Missile. Literally as if it was shaped for me.

I got out there, totally not expecting it, on my dream board, in dream conditions. Everyone was sitting in the right spot but they were super deep all the time, and the sets were coming more west, so they were really wide. For an hour and a bit, I just sat on the inside catching wave after wave. Absolute bombs. It felt crazy to be able to be there, and to get into such a flow after not surfing for so long. It was almost as clean as it ever gets.

When it’s on, it’s on.


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