Nick grew up in land-locked Switzerland, and didn’t set foot on a SUP board until the age of 33 – making his rise as SUP surfing champion all the more compelling. We sat down with Nick Crettenand to chat about his self-made propulsion into the world of professional SUP surfing, and to share his story of finding success and the importance of sharing the stoke.


How did your journey into SUPing start?

As a kid, I dreamt about surfing – but living in the heart of the Swiss Alps there was no chance of finding waves. Back then I was skiing and swimming. Water has always been my vital element and my freedom, spending hours at the swimming pool – challenging my friends to stay longer than me underwater. One day, a girlfriend of mine told me I should try SUPing, saying it was fun to play on the lake. I said “I want to surf waves, not chill on the lake”, but I tried it anyway. She introduced me to a guy who had set up a SUP rental place near Geneva. It was he who showed me a video about Laird Hamilton – where he was having so much fun with his SUP board in some playful waves in Hawaii, set to the Rolling Stones ‘Satisfaction’, in Kauai. After that day I very soon began paddling on SUP Race boards… faster, longer, and stronger.


Nick Crettenand at the Swiss Surfing Championships

Nick Crettenand at the Swiss Surfing Championships


What made you pursue SUP surfing so fiercely?

I believe that certain things are written in your DNA. No matter your education, or the country you’re born into. You may be unaware of it, but it’s there, in your soul and genes. My heart’s been connected to the ocean from the beginning. My father was born in the Swiss Alps, between mountains in the Valais (Switzerland), while my mother was born in the ocean on the Island of Mauritius. Once I understood this, the path to leave the Alps and explore the salty waters was clear. I began planning my first trip to explore my roots, by heading back to Mauritius. My first swim with the wild dolphins of Tamarin Bay was a stunning gift of the ocean’s majesty. My first SUP Surf session at Black Stone and Ti’Reef (Little Reef) was a revelation. It was here my life made sense.


What did your journey to becoming a professional athlete look like?

I started as a free SUP surfer, and practicing SUP surfing in Europe and worldwide 12 years ago when it was a struggle at every surf spot. Traditional surfers were not very open-minded about tolerating SUP surfers and today their acceptance is still difficult. The community of Swiss surfing was very welcoming in accepting the SUP riders to the national competition 8 years ago in 2015.


What keeps Nick Crettenand inspired?

I have the soul of a competitor. I know that I am born to fight…. for my passions, my convictions, and my beliefs. Myself, I learn at every training and every competition. It’s a constant learning attitude you need to have to progress. I participated two years ago in my first SUP Surf World Championship at ISA (International Surf Association) and I learned so much from other riders…and I still do. So sharing my passion with the youngest here in Switzerland makes total sense. Success is not complete unless you can share its heritage with other generations. Soon, the next SUP Surf Swiss Champion will be much younger than me. Malick (Nick Crettenand ‘s son) is making tremendous progress at the age of 12, will probably be the next champion – but he still needs to train harder to beat me one day at the Swiss Champs.


Nick Crettenand competing

A stoked Nick at the SUP Surf Championships


Having waves on your doorstep at Alaia Bay must have been a game-changer…

I work full-time as a member of the board for a huge company (in the wine business), and with 2 kids it’s an everyday challenge to keep fit and progress in surfing. By chance, the wave pool of Alaïa Bay is a 5-minute drive from my home and work in Sion (Valais – Switzerland) making it perfect for me to maximize my time for training and being in the water. Of course, every time I book a surf session, the swell is consistent and the waves are perfectly glassy. There is no better place to test the boards, improve the maneuvers, and get professional advice whilst simply enjoying the feeling of surfing real waves. I’ve made more progress in the last 2 years than I have in the last 10.


Nick shredding in the Swiss Championships

Nick shredding in the Swiss Championships


How do you think Alaia Bay is going to help shape the future of the surfing community in Switzerland?

I think Alaïa’s role and mission is to develop mainly shortboard surf culture, and understandably, it is the essence of surfing. Classic surfing opens up other sports all SUP surfers that I know are also good shortboard or longboard surfers and even wind-/kite-/wing foil- surfers. On the other hand, SUP surfing is a super challenging sport to practice in a wave pool. It took me one full year to be able to manage a perfect take-off and to drive good carving manoeuvres at the bottom and lip. During a SUP Surfing event organized with SUP Suisse we welcomed many riders who practiced SUP in the ocean, and they were very surprised at how difficult it was to stand on the board when the waves started to pump. You can make fast progress in the pool, but it’s a different environment to the ocean. There’s more stress, physical intensity, and balance struggles meaning consistent concentration is key. Today Swiss Surfing and Alaïa Bay have a great connection, holding surf events across the year.

Today Swiss Surfing and Alaïa Bay have a great connection, holding surf events throughout the year. I believe SUP Suisse can offer good exposure for SUP surfing as a demo activity, or even for regional competitions and SUP-only days. It’d be fantastic if more SUP riders experienced the dream I live of “surfing the Alps”.


Thanks to Nick Crettenand for chatting with us.