Brazil is confounding, especially for the West-obsessed surf establishment. Culturally it is not Newport Beach or Surfers Paradise or blonde. Culturally it is samba and caipirinha and brunette. Its surfers are a different color, they speak a different language, they dance to a different beat.
But these differences are our collective future. Brazil's children are doing things in the water that drop our jaws and dare us to dream. Its adolescents are winning tour events. Its men are paddling into the biggest of waves. And the ruthless stereotypes slowly melt away. They drip, drip, drip like the honeyed bossa nova voice of Elis Regina. Now, almost every professional surfer looks forward to gracing Rio's delicious beaches at least once a year. Now, non-professional surfers dream of finding their own girl from Ipanema. Now, Brazil is hot.
Brazil has a robust middle class, one of the only growing middle classes in the whole world. It has artists, musicians and actors that have entered the global mainstream. It has Gisele Bundchen and she has Tom Brady and they have a little tot, Benjamin Rein. What a metaphor! The American Patriot and his Brazilian queen and their mixed progeny.
Still, Brazil is a young surfing culture and there is much to be ironed out. The style, in the water, can be a bit weird. The claims a bit too robust. The clothing company designs a bit too loud. But, all things considered, it is our collective future and surfing has always been the ultimate transcendent and unifying pursuit. It melds Polynesian culture with California culture with Australian culture with Japanese, Indonesian, Mexican and French cultures. Surfing is gloriously non-racist and soon we will all be speaking Portuguese. Or at least calling barrels tubassos. All is one. Order and progress, dear friend. Order and progress. — SURFING Magazine
Chas Smith, SURFING's editor at living large, and Ricardo Macario, editor of Brazilian surf mag Fluir, discuss Brazilian culture, its place in the surf world and if it's OK to call them "Brazos"
Chas: Boa tarde. Porra vamos, eu quero dizer falar merda vamos!
Ricardo Macario: [laughs] OK, bro.
Chas: Lots of Americans have very weird opinions about Brazilians. What is the average opinion of Americans in Brazil?
Ricardo: Well, it depends on the person you ask, but I think the average opinion is good. Brazilians tend to look at what's going on in the US, what the current trends are. It has always been this way.
Chas: Americans, and by Americans I mean American surfers, think Brazilians have wacky surfing styles, claim too many waves and surf in wild packs.
Ricardo: Sometimes yes, but this has begun to change. Brazilians are learning to be more polite and to respect the surfing codes, especially the younger guys. They have a lot more experience overseas.
Chas: I completely agree, and have always been confused by American short-sightedness. To me, Brazil is heaven. Waves, women and amazing culture. Are you proud to be a Brazilian?
Ricardo: Yes! I am for sure. And I'm not just proud of those things you pointed out, but for everything that means being a Brazo.
Chas: Is calling someone a "Brazo" racist?
Ricardo: I don't see it as being racist, I think it's OK. It's just like calling you "Yankee" or an Australian an "Aussie."
Chas: Tell me, do Brazilians still follow American trends?
Ricardo: Yeah, I guess so, but now we are also creating some trends of our own. Like maybe our passionate way of claiming waves or even just executing good maneuvers. Today you see a lot of guys claiming waves and scores, not just the Brazilians. Oh yeah, and Brazilians are really good at airs.
Chas: Why is that?
Ricardo: I think that the air game is our wild card since we don't have tubes and perfect waves around here.
Chas: But Brazilians charge like crazy, too. Fearless. Where does that come from?
Ricardo: Well, Brazilians have a lot of courage and are keen to show what we are capable of.
Chas: Who do you think will be the first Brazilian world champ?
Ricardo: Well, the first world champ, in my opinion, will be Adriano [de Souza]. Or maybe Gabe [Medina].
Chas: Adriano…what is the Brazilian opinion of him?
Ricardo: I think everyone likes him in Brazil, but he's so professional that sometimes people maybe think he could be more flexible. But in a good way.
Chas: Ah, kind of like Mick Fanning.
Ricardo: But Adriano doesn't have a Eugene in him like Mick does. [laughs]
Chas: Do Brazilian surfers get angry that the world hasn't really paid attention to them until now?
Ricardo: Yeah, a little bit. But I also think that that's why we are so hungry to get to the top.
Chas: Who are the young, up-and-coming Brazilians who aren't on tour yet but you think will be very good in the future?
Ricardo: There are five guys, between 14 and 17 years old, that the world should watch in the next few years: Felipe Toledo, Victor Bernardo, Deivid Silva, Lucas Silveira and Italo Ferreira.
Chas: Brazil has a growing economy. Are there lots of new Brazilian surf brands starting?
Ricardo: There are some new brands, but not necessarily ones that want to be core. There are a lot of brands that sell to the masses that are just starting to explore the surfing image.
Chas: Do Brazilian surfers have national respect? Are they used in car commercials and things?
Ricardo: Since the '80s we've had TV novels [shows] with stories about surfers and famous people who embrace the surf lifestyle. There are always TV ads using the surf lifestyle here and there. And now surfers are gaining more respect in terms of the professional sportsman that they are, not just because of our lifestyle. Recently, Carlos Burle did a TV commercial for Bridgestone and Gabriel Medina is doing a TV commercial for the Renault Sandero car.
Chas: Do you think Brazil will someday be the heart of the surf industry?
Ricardo: Maybe not the heart, but we could become the lungs. [laughs] California has been the heart for a long time and we are still a young surfing culture.
Chas: When did surfing start happening in Brazil?
Ricardo: Well it really started in the '60s, but it wasn't until the '80s that the professional scene started. It's been growing slowly and has become stronger in the last decade.
Chas: So the future belongs to Brazil. I think this is true…I think this might even be the educated American's opinion.
Ricardo: Yeah, it could be… but Americans are looking for the next Kelly, and he might be around.
Chas: Yeah. His name is Gabriel Medina.
Ricardo: I think in the next five to 10 years we will see a world champ and have some solid guys in the top 5 fighting for the title.
Chas: What do Brazilian surfers think of Hawaii?
Ricardo: Hawaii is a sacred place with a lot of energy, history and culture to be absorbed.
Chas: And MMA fights to be fought.
Ricardo: I think the Brazilians' skills to fight have created some mixed feelings in Hawaii.
Chas: [laughs] Neco? But all Hawaiians worship Royce Gracie.
Ricardo: No, I mean some jiu-jitsu fighters have gained the respect of the Hawaiians, but the Brazilians taught them how to fight, and this was sometimes used against us.
Chas: Those f–king Hawaiians. In the article I will write that you hate Hawaiians and think they are weak.
Ricardo: [laughs] OK, just let me know before so I don't buy my ticket this year.
Chas: You got it! What is the coolest Brazilian surf brand?
Ricardo: From here we have Hang Loose and Mormaii, and there are some in the northeast too, like Maresia and Greenish.
Chas: OK. What would you tell the visiting American surfer to do their first time in Brazil?
Ricardo: Well, Brazil is very big…but definitely go to Rio. Also check out Florianópolis for the chicks, lifestyle and waves; and Fernando de Noronha for the beautiful scenery and waves.
Chas: What about going to a good favela for some drugs?
Ricardo: That's risky…not recommended.
Chas: Ricardo, this is all perfect. Thank you so much. How do you say, "You are a legend" in Portuguese?
Ricardo: "Você é foda!"
Chas: Ricardo, "Você é foda!"