The Bru Abides
From African Farmland to the Central Florida Swamps
When it comes to life stories, you won’t find many that compare to the story of Dieter Humpsch. At age 30, Dieter has had the experiences of someone far beyond his years. When hearing the saga of his family’s past, battling a dictator and a communist regime, it’s hard to believe that such huge success came out of that turbulence. If just one thing had gone a little differently along the way, Dieter most likely wouldn’t be around our industry to tell us about it. But luckily for us, Dieter Humpsch is a huge part of our sport and is now living the good life outside Orlando, Florida. He is one of the most dynamic wakeskaters out there; he’s versatile, explosive and has one of the best styles in the game. On top of that, Dieter has a contagious passion for aerial videography and portraying the sport in the best way possible. He motivates riders everywhere to get out and ride, film and shape the sport together. Dieter’s life is a testament to working hard toward achieving a goal and sticking to it no matter what. After all, at 30 he hasn’t even come close to peaking. With his new movie, Noisia Vision, coming out this year, Dieter is having one of the busiest years in his already busy life. How many people do you know who have filmed and released a full-length movie and ridden at a top level in the same year? This bru abides. Words: Shawn Perry Photos: Jason Lee
The first thing I’d like to talk about is your father. You have a pretty cool family story starting with him back in Germany, right?
Yeah, my dad has a pretty crazy story. He grew up in East Germany and he was there when the wall was still up. When he was around 20 years old he decided to leave because of the poverty and the whole situation there. He tried to escape the first time — he was a stowaway and jumped aboard someone’s ship. The Germans caught him, put him in jail for a year, and when he got out he tried again. This time he swam across an entire harbor at night, met up with some friends and got into a little dinghy and went out to sea. The Germans caught him then too and they put him in jail for another year.
And while he was in jail the second time he met this other guy who said his buddy could take them on his boat to West Germany. So he did. Third time lucky, right? He ended up staying in West Germany for three years and then emigrated to South Africa.
Unreal. How old was he when he finally made it to South Africa?
He was in his late 20s, I think.
You were born in South Africa, right?
Yeah, and my mom and grandparents are from Zimbabwe. It used to be Rhodesia back in the day. They moved to South Africa and my mom and her brothers were raised in Durban. I was born in Durbs and grew up there. I started skateboarding when I was about 7 and then started surfing around 9. Ever since then I just skated to the beach, surfed till dark and skated home. We had a whole crew that would just live and breathe to surf. Then I ended up moving back up to Zimbabwe with my mom and my new stepdad, Pete, when I was 16. I had a buddy back in Durban, Bobby Cherry, who used to wakeboard tons. So Bobs hooked me up with a Wake Tech Byerly 69 and off I went. I was bummed I wasn’t gonna be surfing anymore but super stoked to get into wakeboarding. That’s when I started wakeboarding pretty much. We had a farm with zebra, giraffe, blesbok, baboons and a bunch of other cool animals. We had small lake and that’s where I started.
Did you have a boat at that lake?
Yeah, Pete had a catamaran fishing-boat type thing that he could pull me behind, but I ended up meeting these guys there who had an outboard ski boat: Rob Harris, Sheldon Dreyer and Rolfe Pike. Rob would come pick me up every Friday and we would ride all weekend. Some of my best memories are from back then. They taught me so much when it came to wakeboarding.
So when you started wakeboarding, you already knew how to ride a board.
Yeah, the other board sports helped for sure.
I heard you ended up losing the farm in Zimbabwe.
As far as the whole Zimbabwe thing goes, you probably have never heard of Robert Mugabe, eh?
Bru, he’s the president of Zimbabwe and has been for years. Very dodgy guy. There’s actually a movie you should watch called Mugabe and the White African. It’s about Mugabe’s promise to all the people in Zimbabwe that he would get all the white people’s land and give it back to them. He was saying that it wasn’t our land or whatever. Meanwhile, our family had been in Zimbabwe for over 100 years. So they started kicking white people off their farms. People would just walk up and kick you off your land. We had lots of family lose their farms, their dogs were shot, it was crazy. It got so out of hand they were beating up people who didn’t leave. We had more family a few hours away who got it worse —their dogs were shot and they even got locked up.
Yeah, it was heavy, man. A lot of people were dying and getting hurt. So they eventually got to our farm. I was overseas in Europe busy riding when it happened. My mom called and told me my family had been kicked off our farm; they didn’t do anything violent but we had to get out. So my family took all their stuff and left. They didn’t get any compensation for the land or anything. They killed all the giraffe and other game for meat and moved into the house.