Brazil is a country of extreme light and dark; extreme wealth and poverty, clean living and debauchery, joy and hopelessness, verdant rainforests and skyscrapers farther than the eye can see. Even the graffiti on crumbling concrete walls and tin shanties is strikingly romantic. In the last few decades the starkness of this country has begun to soften around the edges, specifically along the coast. The beach is the great equalizer—free for everyone. During any spare moment the Brazilians, whether they live in a favela (a Brazilian slum) or a rich neighborhood, converge on the beach to surf, sunbathe, drink juice and swim. It makes sense Brazilians wholeheartedly embrace Surf in such a zealous way.
Romeu Andreatta Filho, owner and publisher of Alma Surf Magazine, is an apostle and visionary for Surf Culture. Alma Surf is the largest surf magazine in Brazil. Using his magazine as a conduit for his message, he has organized the Alma Surf Festival for the past four years. Filho generously invites surf artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians and surf industry people from all over the globe to his country to pay homage to the sport. Filho explains his idea behind the Festival; "We…bring together the intelligence of the surfing world [to] participate and contribute to the credibility of the event. We want to express the surf [culture] with more nobility, through the art that we produce and inspiring surfing. We want to break the equation that [surf culture is simply] 'fashion/behavior/sport' and for adolescents; for us surfing is a way of life."
The United States has never seen a festival on this scale. This year the Alma Surf Festival took place in several different locations, starting with So Paulo on November 8th and 9th, then on to Rio de Janeiro 13th and finally to Florianpolis on November 16th. Filho selected modern art museums as shrines, beautifully displaying surf art in its diverse media. Sean Davey showed his full color underwater photography. Artists included Jay Alders from the East Coast, Nathan Paul Gibbs from Orange County and Cline Chat from France. Sunny Abberton attended the Festival with his film, Bra Boys and Roberto Vezzone with Carving. Bob Mignogna, Jim Kempton of Billabong and Rick Irons, publisher of Surfer Magazine were film judges. Musicians included Donavon Frankenreiter, Matt Costa, G. Love and A.L.O.
Bob Mignogna says, "Bringing together surfboard builders, surf artists, surf authors, surf filmmakers, surf musicians and surf industry leaders in a live consumer festival was a brilliant idea that fueled appreciation of 'surf culture' throughout the country of Brazil. About the only thing missing was a barbeque on the beach! Romeu Andreatta, who produced the festival and also publishes Brazil's Alma Surf Magazine, truly believes – and lives – the good surfing life, and by producing this festival he shared and celebrated the surfing life with many others."
The artists and guests were treated like a family of gods and given the red carpet treatment by Filho, his staff and the entire country. In that environment, it would be easy to grow fat and complacent, but the energy coming from the crowd each night of the festival was too strong. At the close of each show, the musicians would play for a large crowd of beautiful young faces. It was shocking to see many of them reverently mouthing the lyrics along with the bands, although many of them didn't speak a word of English.
Frankenreiter comments, "I really enjoyed the whole festival vibe. I think the artists and the writers and publishers and movie makers all coming together to show everybody the surfing lifestyle is an amazing thing to do and be apart of. It was such a great vibe on stage as well. All the bands played together and we had such a great time every night. My best moment was going to the [favela] in Rio and playing music for [the people] with G. Love; seeing the look on all the kids' faces for that moment was priceless…."
In the face of such refreshingly nave adoration of Surf Culture, only the most jaded and callous person wouldn't get caught up in the enthusiasm. Brazil is a country where the surfing lifestyle truly isn't about image. It's about escaping from the hopelessness of crime and poverty and celebrating the childlike joy of the beach. All of the guests of Alma Surf Festival had a chance to let down their guards and rejoice with Filho and his country in the Surf Culture. It won't be difficult for him to find guests to make the pilgrimage to next July's Alma Surf Festival 2008. In fact, there might be a stampede.