From a country known more for dribbling beachbreaks than waves of consequence, three big-wave surfers from Brazil— Carlos Burle, Maya Gabeira and Danilo Couto — explain why they and so many of their countrymen excel in large surf

Alex Martins, deep as always at Mavericks. Photo: Doug Acton

Location, Location, F–k That
The surf in Brazil maxes out at about 15 feet, and that happens but once or twice a year. You aren't training for Jaws surfing the beachies or slabs around Rio. Maya Gabeira, who spends most of her time in California and Hawaii, explains why Brazilians aren't typically specialists, and why that might be a good thing:

MAYA: In Brazil there is no space for a specialist like Manoa Drollet or Laird Hamilton because we don't surf at home; we are never the locals. We must be well-rounded in all types of big waves like Teahupo'o, Maverick's and Jaws to better our chances of getting an extraordinary wave. That's not to say guys like Shane Dorian, Mark Healey and many more don't dominate all around the world, but I think for Brazilians, we don't have a local big-wave spot so we need to search all over for big waves.

Big Wave World Champion and the godfather of Brazilian tall-wave surfing, Carlos Burle, offers another reason why Brazos run toward, not from, giant waves: hunger. Hunger built from a lifetime of adversity. Hunger to prove themselves. A hunger that has gotten them this far, and is now being complemented with talent. Carlos explains:

CARLOS: To surf big waves you need to be courageous but also be used to being bitten in different ways. Brazilians are accustomed to obstacles in life, and this makes us very hungry for success. We don't give up even though, in some cases, we don't have much talent. The past generations of Brazilian big-wave riders were more [motivated] than they were talented, but we're getting better and I see a new generation not only with balls but who are also very talented!

If it's not their location or their upbringing, maybe big-wave surfing is in their blood. As XXL Ride of the Year and Milosky Mettle winner Danilo Couto points out, their Portuguese ancestors, like Magellan Ferdinand and Vasco de Gama, were all drawn to tumultuous seas.

DANILO: The Latins were the ones who explored the seas when Europe began exploring the world, so I believe there's some kind of relation there; the Portuguese, the Spanish…but at this point I believe that the generations emerging now are trying to keep the tradition alive. They grow up knowing that Brazilians charge hard, and that influences them to do the same.