Everyone in Ubatuba knows Felipe Toledo. His father, Ricardo, is a two-time national champ and his brother, Matheus, is also a sponsored pro. Felipe is the town’s great hope. Older men pat his back when he passes on the sidewalk. Women look back over their shoulders. Lunch is on the house. A free round of beers at the pub (which Felipe doesn’t drink – but you do). Felipe smiles, but says little. Perhaps his English is as poor as your Portuguese. Perhaps he’s just the stoked, easygoing grom he appears to be. He’s only 17.
The waves are decent, so you spend the day splitting peaks at a nearby beachbreak. It’s beautiful here. Rainforests and mountains surround the cove and gorgeous young ladies frolic in the sand. The lineup isn’t aggressive or crowded. People share waves and chatter like old friends during the lulls. You’re not wearing a wetsuit, but you should be. Dolphins swim past. You imagine yourself living here and the vision almost sticks.
“I don’t think you could afford it here,” says Felipe that night at a restaurant.
It’s the first English he’s spoken and you take a little offense, even if he is right. The houses are big and the cars are fancy. Beverly Hills in the jungle. You couldn’t afford it, but traveling alongside Felipe Toledo, you don’t really need to.
“So how do you think your surfing compares to your fellow competitors Gabriel Medina or Miguel Pupo?” you ask. “And why aren’t you on the World Tour yet?”
Felipe just smiles and says he needs to go to rest. He knows you saw his U.S. Open Junior win last year, when he beat Kolohe and John John and every other “next Slater.” He doesn’t need to explain himself. He’ll be touring soon. Felipe excuses himself to go get some sleep, but the restaurant is just warming up. You wave goodbye to the future, and spend the rest of the night laughing and drinking with strangers. —Nathan Myers