"What are you guys doing for your next issue?" asked a friend.
"Brazil," I replied.
He laughed. I stared. He stopped.
"I am serious. We're doing a Brazil Issue."
He wore a bewildered look, like a child who just learned the harsh truth about Santa Claus.
"But…why?" he asked.
Some stereotypes of Brazilian surfers: They're loud. They're abrasive. They're aggressive in the water and their girls have great butts. Caipirinhas. They travel in packs and play soccer but call it football. Açaí. They're one-trick ponies. Samba. They're some arm-flailing, MMA-fighting, wave-claiming, passionate motherf–kers.
Some true. Some exaggerated. Some fading.
When I was growing up I'd hear friends, fresh from the North Shore, whine about the aggressive packs of visiting Brazilian surfers. And those returning from Indo spitting about a ruined session at HTs because a boatload of Brazilians stormed the lineup. Without ever surfing with a Brazilian, I was predisposed to dislike them. I wasn't alone. The American surfer's disdain for Brazilians may not be universally held, but it's widespread.
Over the next 10 years I met many Brazilians. After losing a board at Todos Santos, photographer Flavio Vidigal picked me up on his Ski and took me to retrieve it. Three years later he let me stay with his family when I visited Brazil during Carnival. I met Carlos Burle and Maya Gabeira in Tahiti. To this day Carlos greets me with a hug and writes "My dear friend!!!!!" in emails. Maya would later become my housemate — while not always quiet, she was always clean. I met Danilo Couto, who, as Danny Fuller says, "Is the best thing to happen to Brazil since açaí." I met some shitty Brazilians too, but no more than I met ugly Americans or Aussies.
And I also met Miguel Pupo, who visited the SURFING offices last year with a $30,000 gold spike in his pocket. He'd just won the 2011 Nike Lowers Pro and was on his way to Disneyland. He had a calm demeanor. He smiled easily. A few months later I'd do a one-page article on Miguel entitled "Brazilian 2.0," in which Miguel said, "Sometimes I feel like when you show up to a competition people are like, 'Ahh, he's Brazilian. I don't really like him.' But after they talk to you, those things change."
Maybe it's a Slumdog Millionaire scenario, where every positive interaction I've had with a Brazilian was some mystical preparation to make a Brazil Issue of an American magazine. To give them the credit they deserve. Or maybe it's a Paul Revere moment, where I ride my steed along the shores of Snapper Rocks, the Outer Banks and Trestles, warning the orthodox surfing community, "The Brazilians are coming! The Brazilians are coming!" To force the surfing world to pay attention — because they are serious competition now.
But they already know that the Brazilians are coming. Not quite here yet — Dave Wassel on page one is a perfect example of not quite; we were at a loss for a cover-worthy photo of a Brazilian surfer — but they're coming. And negative connotations are softening, because hatred stems from ignorance and we are getting to know Brazilians. With so many of them speaking English, the language barrier has become the first domino to fall, and it's helping to topple a long row of stereotypes. But hopefully not all of them. The Brazilians' airs still boggle the mind. They still have gorgeous women. And I'm even starting to enjoy the claims they keep throwing, unapologetically, at the end of so many waves. —Taylor Paul
Inside this Issue
081 FALA COMIGO (TALK TO ME)
What do we know about Brazil and its people, apart from açaí, Carnival and fist pumping? There are some burning questions and SURFING's Chas Smith asks them. Ricardo Macario of Brazil's major surf mag, Fluir, answers. A peace talk fit for Camp David.
086 MIGGY SEE, MIGGY DO
Miguel Pupo is Brazil's leading and most articulate nexus between his country and the rest of the world. There are misconceptions about Brazil, some rooted in bigotry, some in plain truth. Miggy navigates between the two and filters the muddy waters.
088 THE GIFT OF GABS
Yes, pro surfers fall. And of course that clip was supposed to be upside down. Actual filmmaker Jack Coleman shows it all and does it all — on reel and in house — all in the name of fun.
096 CLAIMS DISCLAIMER
If feeling good about a wave is wrong, we don't wanna be right. Chas Smith gets to the core of claims and decodes Brazil's true motto in the process.
098 IN THEIR EXPERT OPINIONS
Is the sentiment toward Brazilian surfers as universal as we think it is? Ten pros from across the globe give us their thoughts on Brazil and its people.
101 THE BRAZILIAN SPRING
They're winning events now. A lot of them. When did this start happening? Why? And what took so long? Brazilian Steven Allain, editor of Hardcore, explains the Brazo ascension.
104 ILHA DE DEUS
Heaven is an island in the Atlantic and it's owned by Brazil. Mitch Coleborn, Victor Ribas, Evan Geiselman, Mitch Crews and Kai Barger play in the swimming-pool water and explain their love for Fernando de Noronha. Photos by Tom Carey.