Last year, two Brazilians won four out of 11 World Tour events. To put that into perspective, there have been a total of 12 Brazilian wins in the last 20 years of World Tour competition. Brazil’s Hardcore surf magazine editor Steven Allain has been on the forefront of charting his home country’s competitive uprising. Here’s how he sees it. —Nathan Myers
STEVEN ALLAIN: What we’re seeing today is the result of a revolution that started about a decade ago. After Fabio Gouveia and Flavio Padaratz broke through and made it into the ASP elite in the late ’80s, we had a generation that was steadily gaining momentum. But the generation after that (Raoni Monteiro, Leo Neves, Paulo Moura, etc.) didn’t keep the momentum moving forward.
Brazil’s lack of competitive success in the late ’90s fired up an entire young generation. The industry and athletes realized that only with professionalism and investment would we be able to fight for a World Title. Adriano de Souza was the first to prove that the professional approach yielded results.
The ASP has a history of prejudice against Brazilian surfers. Like when Makua slapped Paulo Moura at the Pipe Masters a few years ago; or when Sunny attacked Neco; or when Barca kicked Adriano in the leg at Teahupo’o. Nothing happened in these three instances, but if the tables had been turned, I bet you there would have been harsh consequences for the aggressors.
Language has also been an issue the ASP has only addressed recently. Not long ago the ASP didn’t bother to translate scores, letters and basic communications to the Brazilian surfers – if they did not know English, it seemed, that was their problem.
Most of the Brazilians you’ll meet on the road are middle or upper class. Lower-class Brazilians can hardly pay for a surfboard, let alone a trip to the Mentawais. The pros, on the other hand, are a mix: Some come from well-off families, others come from the slums (like Adriano or Jadson). To those, surfing is a way out of the ghettos.
Being a pro surfer in Brazil used to be a full-on party lifestyle. You surfed hard. You partied harder. But these days it’s all about trainers, managers and exercise balls. They’ve all copied the Mick Fanning program, and it’s working. But some of these guys seem to only perform when they’re wearing a jersey. It’s great for the sport professionally; I just hope they don’t lose sight of why we really go surfing.