Where in the Brazil Are We? Part 2

“This is the best place in the world,” Adriano half-says, half-breathes, just a tiny bit of irony in the tone.

Adriano de Souza is sitting on a stone wall overlooking the rip bowl beachbreak at the main beach in Guaruja, Sao Paulo, Brazil – the place where he learned to surf, the place where right now, some local grom is busy savaging a little right re-form. Bang! bang! bang! goes the grom, and the re-form finally sorta gives up the ghost, whimpering into the mouth of the rip, and the grom is already sprinting back out for another one. It’s about his 50th wave of the past half hour.

Ubatuba was clean and green, with rainforest beaches and hardly anyone out. Guaruja, four hour’s drive south, is something else. It’s the closest surf zone to the city of Sao Paulo, 50 minutes away by car, and the developers have had a big shot at re-inventing {{{Rio}}}’s Ipanema Beach.

What they’ve ended up with is gritty, grimy, shiny in some places and crumbling in others. The water’s dark and silty with fine gray granitic sand and the brownish wash-through from Santos, the big port town just to the south. A hundred huge apartment blocks line the arc of beach.

Above us looms the Gavea Hotel, horribly legendary among the tour’s wild boys of the late 1980s, when Brazil was briefly a center of the world tour universe – three WCTs back-to-back, a month of way too high living in the land of free-thinking girls and naughty powdered substances. But now the Gavea is peeling paint off its window-frames, and there’s not a lot of paying guests.

Behind us, further up the stone wall, are lurking a few suspect-looking blokes – maybe part of Guaruja’s unemployment-triggered crime problem, created a few years ago when all the tourism development briefly hit a financial wall.

But there’s the grom in the right rip bowl, smashing away again, just like it’s Huntington Beach or somewhere.

Adriano points to the different surf zones on his home beach: the rip bowl, the right sandbar at the far end tucked into a small rocky headland, a left and right visible on the next stretch of beach.

It’s quiet now – but it won’t be in a few months, when summer comes, and the whole mighty human wave of Sao Paulo comes pouring down the freeway and into Guaruja. “F-king crazy!” Adriano calls it. He really is a city boy – he loves his gritty tourist-town home. “Thirty-seven million people are all gonna be watching to see the best surfer come out of here.”

Read PART ONE here.