Surfing capital blooms in the shadow of Brazil’s rainforest

By Mauricio Savarese and Christian Prendergast | Related press

SAO SEBASTIAO, Brazil – While most Brazilians watched to watch two local clubs compete for the continental championship last month, 14-year-old Luana Reis was not allowed to watch television.

She was surfing the clear blue waves against a soaring rainforest backdrop, competing with dozens of other teenagers in the annual city-level tournament at one of the country’s top surf beaches, Maresias .

She deployed snaps, cutbacks and aerials to win the women’s under-18 title and then emerged from the water sitting atop the shoulders of four friends, mimicking her idol, world champion Gabriel Medina. was raised in Maresias, who helped Brazil’s surfers to be admired as soccer stars around the world.

Next year, Reis said, she aims to compete for the under-18 women’s national championship.

“Everybody here dreams of being the next great surfer from Brazil,” Reis told The Associated Press. “There is a lot of competition, especially in Maresias. It’s hard to work here.”

The beach in the town of Sao Sebastiao is perfect for surfing in the country that caused the world’s “Hurricane Storm” – a generation of professional surfers who have won five of seven world championships. former male gender.

Many people come to live along the 200-kilometer (120-mile) coastline in the state of Sao Paulo. Reis’s parents moved here largely so she could practice every day.

Medina, 28, led that crusade, winning three world championships – a feat only four others have achieved since modern surfing began in 1983.

For a moment in the heat of this year’s championships in San Clemente, California, Medina grabbed a small, clean top and turned his chessboard to the left as he stood up. He patiently watched as the wall of waves rose, then completed a few turns while casually throwing in a few wind islands along the way.

He “turns a wave of mediocrity into something substantial,” says TV commentator Mick Fanning, a three-time champion. “That first atmosphere was incredible.”

When the whistle blew, marking Medina’s victory, runner-up Filipe Toledo rushed over to give a congratulatory hug. The two grew up surfing together, with Toledo’s home right by the sea, in Ubatuba. Third place went to a Brazilian, 2019 world champion and gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, Italo Ferreira.

Sao Paulo state’s North Shore beach chain was relatively unknown before Medina put Maresias on the professional surfing map with his first world title in 2014, and he lifted the trophy again in 2018.

Speaking to the AP by phone, Medina said the Maresias’ simple lifestyle is an asset to surfers.

“We don’t have any tall buildings here. It’s just the houses, the beach and a lot of nature,” said Medina. “I travel all over the world, but I still value where I live, where I come from. I feel fulfilled here. This place gives me peace and comfort to do everything that I can.”

Surf towns dot the interior of Serra do Mar park, said by the state to be Brazil’s largest continuous reserve of the Atlantic Forest. It acts as a barrier to the urban sprawl of Sao Paulo. Thick forests cover rugged mountains and valleys, where waterfalls flow in meandering streams through the mangroves before emptying into the emerald-green sea.

The area’s waves were mostly unimpeded until the construction of a coastal highway in the 1970s, where surfers watched to explore.

“Back in the 1980s, there were only a few of us; Adriano Garcia, 58, a Sao Sebastiao-born fisherman who has been surfing for four decades, said. “Champions begin, surfers from here dominate and – boom!”

When Frank Constâncio started organizing competitions in 1985, he had to take on many roles on his own – from security guard to referee to commentator.

“Years ago, only açai and surfwear brands sponsored events here. There are now real estate developers and banks, said Constâncio, president of the Sao Sebastiao Surfers Association. carriers, dental service providers, and car manufacturers.

“Medina is just one of the surfers from this (city) league,” said Constâncio, surveying his underwater competitors. “The next Medina could be here today.”

Henrique Tricca, a surf photographer based in Ubatuba, competed along the North Shore in the 1990s and 2000s and went on to win competitions in Europe. He said Sao Paulo’s surf associations have helped develop local professionals. They were the first in Brazil to hold competitions with live electronic scoring and running watches that surfers could see from the water.

Waves are another factor.

“They’re far from perfect,” Tricca said as she turned her head away from the camera and grinned, pointing at a man who was trying to get into the barrel of a wave but was instead swallowed in a crash. white water explosion.

“Most of the beach is broken, the waves break faster and roll in here. It’s hard to know which waves to choose and where to paddle into them. The bumps come from the south, southeast, east and sometimes all three directions at once. Best of all, the tides change and the sands move, so every day and even hour, it’s like surfing on a completely different wave.”

Such anomalies, combined with constant bouts of swelling during the high season, from May to November, make the coast a sacred training ground.

Although most waves are only 1 to 3 meters (up to 10 feet) high, they do all the work. So the world-class waves of international competitions – often more perfect, predictable reefs and breakpoints – are easier to read and easier for natives of Sao Sebastiao and the neighboring town.

Medina says his early days at the city championship were key to his success.

“The truth is I had more failures than victories in my childhood,” says Medina. “Initially, I was just having fun surfing. Then I fell in love with the sport, and only then did I start competing. Every time I lose here, I get very upset. In the beginning, you dream of winning, becoming a pro, becoming a world champion. But things didn’t turn out that way.”

Several other North Coast towns were represented in the Brazilian storm, from Adriano de Souza and Caio Ibele of Guaruja to Toledo of Ubatuba and Wiggolly Dantas.

Eduardo Tanimoto, 52, is one of the originals. A native of Sao Paulo’s countryside, he started surfing in Sao Sebastiao when the sport revolved around lifestyle rather than competition. His daughter, Rayana Tanimoto, caught the surf bug from him.

Together they opened a small hotel on Maresias beach so she could raise her 5-year-old twin daughters, earn a living, and get in the water as often as possible.

“There are other places where you see surfers and the Atlantic Forest merge, but here it is special,” she said. Surfing capital blooms in the shadow of Brazil’s rainforest

Curtis Crabtree

Curtis Crabtree is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Curtis Crabtree joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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