Monthly Archives: August 2012

Launching off boulders into white water!!


One of the Floripa’s claims to fame is that the waves are always breaking nicely SOMEWHERE on the island.  It’s got 42 beaches with different exposures, land features, and bathymetry (that means underwater topography), which make for different wave outcomes depending on the swell and wind direction.  The locals have a great sense of this.  I’ve heard tidbits: Joaqina works with most everything and that’s where the waves are biggest.  Barra da Lagoa has small but perfectly shaped waves and is the place to go when the southern wind messes up the swell elsewhere.   Praia Mole works really nicely with a Northwestern wind.  And so on…

I am still piecing it all together – but the other day, while I was waiting for the bus to Joaquina, my friend (and former body-boarding champ) Clara happened to walk by on her way to the supermarket and told me that the waves at Praia Mole were particularly good that day.  So instead of jumping on the bus for Joaca, I took a quick jaunt over a different hillside road to land at Praia Mole.

Praia Mole seems a bit more wild than Joaquina, or maybe that’s just because I don’t know too many people there, or because the line up is far from all the seaside cafes, along the rocky headland at the North end.  But Clara’s tip was right on, Praia Mole was serving up some sweet waves that day.

I huffed and puffed as I made my way through the deep soft sand towards the

Looking out from the life guard station towards the break at Praia Mole

northern end of the beach (Mole means soft in Portuguese), marveling at the dudes in wetsuits who chose to run through this pudding-like medium.  They streamed by me, in an impatient swarm towards the paddle-in spot.  I was watching them very carefully at this point, because it seemed that the ONLY place from which people were paddling in today was off the rocky headland at the North.  They ran across a big  jungle-gym style pile of rocks, out to a point where, as far as I could tell, waves were breaking rather roughly.  Then they waited for just the right moment, and took a leap off the rocks into the water onto their surfboards, steering past the lone boulder ahead before the next big wave broke.

Call me boring, but in my life thus far I have generally tried to avoid jumping into water off rocky headlands where waves are crashing.  I prefer launching my watercrafts off flat sand beaches, where, if the waves are going to sweep you backwards, you will not be smashed against a big, hard, barnacle-covered object like a boulder.  So I was hoping that MAYBE there was another place to paddle in.   I was taking my cues from the locals here.  If I saw just a few people paddle in from the beach, I would have gone for it.  But no one did.  The waves were coming in one after the other, and there was a strong southward current which meant that by the time you got far enough out from the beach, you would have been swept away from the  break at the North end.  It seemed that today, there was only one way in to the waves at Praia Mole, and that was by launching yourself off the headlands.

So after I suited up, I followed the procession onto, up, and across the boulders to the slippery patch of rocks at the end which was the designated take off point.  I lurked right next to that spot a long time, inviting many surfers to go before me so I could get a sense of how the waves were breaking here, and so I could observe exactly how they did it.  A couple guys gave me some advice in Portuguese, which I fear I only half gathered –something about watching out for the slippery portions of the rock and gripping on the mussel shells – but that was useful.  It was all in the timing, making sure that a big set was not coming in to cheese-grate you across the barnacles.  Then you just hopped off and paddled quickly to clear the other boulders that surrounded you.   “If all these people can do it, I can do it,” I told myself.  And when I felt ready, I hopped in.  I’m not gonna lie, I paddled like hell to clear those boulders, and judging by the amused smiles that greeted me when I reached the line-up, I may have had a look of terror on my face.  The southward current quickly helped me get out of the way of the hardcore shredders, and I caught some pretty glorious waves that Mole that day.  And when I rode a really nice left, all the way into the beach, I did what I saw everyone else do, and I got out and ran through the sand back to the headlands.  A great introductory day into the world of launching off rocky headlands on my board.  Many firsts here in Brazil!

It is NOT a tambourine, it’s a Pandeiro!


So I have been following my ears a lot in Brazil —   When I hear music in the air, I track it down, and this has led to some great discoveries.  On my 3rd day in Brazil, I heard the sound of a Maracatu ensemble, a giant drum ensemble, with roots in religious ritual, that plays rousing syncopated music in processional style.  If you heard it on the street, you’d want to run and catch up to it so you could dance.  And that’s what I did, and in the process discovered that there was Maracatu ensemble that practiced on the University campus 5 minutes from my house.  At my first Maracatu practice, I met a guy from the U.S.  He was going incognito, speaking very good Portuguese and blazing through his drum part like a pro.  But through some keen detective work, I figured out his secret North-American-ness.  I was keen to know someone who could tell me what was going on, amd I did my best to make him my friend.  Thankfully, he was amenable to this plan, and it turned out that he is also a SICKLY talented percussionist and is hooked into all sorts of percussion and music scenes here in Floripa.  So Dan (my new friend’s name) has been giving me the inside scoop on all sorts of amazing musical opportunities of which I had been dismally unaware, INCLUDING, a free pandeiro class that takes place in the University woods even CLOSER to my house.

“What is a pandeiro?” you may ask.  It is a frame drum with metal jingles around the rim, called platinelas.  You may see it and think, it is a tambourine.  It IS NOT A TAMBOURINE.  No diss to the tambo, but it holds in its humble frame a Quantam world of rhythmic complexities that dwarf the Newtonian universe of the Tambourine.  It’s a key part of a Samba ensemble (as well as many other styles), and with its pats, slaps, thumps, and clean crisp pattering of platinelas, carries a lot of the swing of this ever-so-Brazilian form of music. Our class is taught by a super cool dude named Osvaldo, or “Vavá” (He must be super cool if he is giving a free pandeiro class in a forest once a week to whoever choses to stop by!).  As far as I can tell, Vavá is to the pandeiro what Jimi Hendrix was to the electric guitar.   He would argue that he is only a disciple of greater Pandeiro Hendrixes of Brazil, but the point is, that this guy can get sounds out of the instrument that I didn’t know it could hold.  Here is a quick video (editing capabilities are still limited due to lack of computer), to give a flavor of the fun that is pandeiro class, and the sick skills of Vavá.  I am stoked to incorporate some pandeiro into surfer grrrl hip hop instrumentals!


Joaquina, my new favorite beach


Looking out at the North end of Joaquina

Early on in my travels in Brazil, I stumbled my way by bus to Joaquina, which is probably the most famous surfing beach on the island.  It is beautiful, with  a rocky headland of big smooth tawny boulders to the north (where you can spectate the surfing show below), and a beach that stretches for miles to the South, made of crystal white sand, so fine that it squeaks when you walk on it.  The waves tend to be the tallest on the island, and it hosts a lot of local and national

The dunes on the way to Joaquina. You can rent a “sandboard” at the tent.

championships.  If you come at the right time, you can see some CRAZY good surfers shredding it on the outside set.  Behind the beach is a trippy landscape of sand dune mountains and coastal forest.  On the narrow road that winds through the hills and dunes to Joaquina, you can see crowds of people “sand boarding” – which is basically snow boarding down the dunes.  I’ve heard that this sport was invented on the dunes of Floripa, which does not surprise me, given the overall love for sports and the outdoors that I have encountered here.

College Surf School, meeting point for grommets and seasoned surfers alike, all under the auspices of jedi master, Fabricio Machado.

On my first trip here, after a bus odyssey that seemed to circumnavigate the entire Island, I arrived at the beach at 5 pm.  This was just when the only surf school open that day (or during the whole winter season for that matter) was about to close.  The owner, Fabric, a local surf legend, took pity on me  and hung around an extra 45 minutes so I could rent a board and catch a few waves.  That evening, I hitched a ride home with another surfer and discovered that the beach was only 20 minutes from my house, rather than 2 hours, as my bus ride suggested.  Cool.

Ever since then, I’ve been going back a lot.  As a solo surf adventurer and

Typical saturday at Joaqina. Lots of families come to spend the day.

videographer with no car and a house far from the beach, I have a lot of logisitical hurdles to overcome on a daily basis – like dragging my board on and off crowded buses, dragging a wetsuit and a bunch of video equipment to the beach every day, finding a place to stash it while i am surfing, and taking it all home (soaked wetsuit and videocamera in the same bag).   The nice folks of the Joaquina surf community have helped me solve a lot of these little challenges.

When I am in the water, I stash my stuff in front of the surf school where all the local grommets keep there skateboards and backpacks after trekking here after school each day. While the bus journey is still pretty painful, I can usually hitch a ride back with one of the surfers in the parking lot, and this has been a fun way to meet new people (a

The sunset session

personal trainer, a local graffiti artist, a surf photographer/capoeirista, a guy named after the Greek philosopher Themistocles).  And recently, in a major breakthrough in life options, a kindly old-timer surf shop owner down the road has let me store my board at his place so I don’t have to haul it on the bus every day, prompting the ire of my fellow passengers who get bumped, tripped, displaced, or boxed in by the 6 foot 9 inch fiberglass behemoth I force upon them.

Marcia and Fatima – devotees of Joaca. Marcia is a mom and Fatima a personal trainer, and both of them are out in the water just about every day.

I’ve had lots of firsts so far in just a short time at Joaquina.  I caught by far the longest wave of my life last week.  I got it right on the shoulder, and just kept going for ever and ever.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was so excited, I forgot to do any of the other things I’ve been trying to work on (like turns!) and just froze like a dummy with a big fat grin on my face, literally squealing as I rode the wave into sunset.  I think I was still smiling when I went to sleep. Next step: learning how to carve.  But oh it is a long road.  Hopefully the good juju of Joaquina will stay with me as I learn.

And while I am still living in a world with no video or music editing capabilities, here’s a quick clip of my friend Clara catching a wave on her body board.  We met when I was eating dinner at a restaurant where she works.  She is a mom and a former body board champ who lives by Joaquina and surfs every day!


Surfer Girl Festival


Recently I went on a very exciting surf adventure with two of my new friends, Aloha Maciel and Marina Rezende who are AMAZING surfers!  (Aloha, got her very cool surfing name from her Dad, who it turns out wasn’t thinking at all about surfing when she was born, but rather about the Elvis movie Blue Hawaii!)

Aloha and Marina were competing in the first ever all girls surf competition in Brazil, just north of Florianopolis in the state of Parana, and they invited me to go along.

I took some fun videos of the journey, but can’t yet edit them since my computer is still in the hands of Applecare Brazil.  (Unfortunately, after waiting 2 weeks for a new harddrive to be mailed from the U.S., I have just been informed that it actually needs a new logic board! Argggh.)  In the meantime, here are some pics from the journey.

Setting off in the early morning

A flat tire slows us down, but Aloha is on it!

Waiting for the ferry boat to take us to Guaratuba

The awesome woman who ran the “borracharia” where we got our tire fixed

The announcement booth for the contest. Pink is not my favorite color, but it was cool to see dudes running around in pink Surfer Girl Festival T-shirts all day.

On the day of the contest, the beach belonged to the girls

Competitors warming up before the start of the contest

Aloha gets her board ready for her first heat

Aloha in action! The waves were pretty small but the girls managed to get some good moves in.

The winners! (Thanks for the pic Tanapraia. My camera battery died). Marina (far right) came in first and Aloha came in third! I rode back starstruck in the car of champions…

Through the jungle, over the mountain, to the beach


Its winter here in Floripa, so not every day is beautiful.  We had a long stretch of cold rainy days, which finally came to an end last week.  To celebrate, I went on a little surf adventure which soon became epic!

Here’s the story:

School started yesterday so the buses are full of cute Brazilian sprouts,

This map shows Barra da Lagoa (A) and Praia da Galheta (B). The big body of water to the west is actually a lake, Lagoa Conceicao.

(bonitinhos) clomping on and off with their cartoon backpacks and their school uniforms, which, like many things in Brazil, are pretty relaxed  – and take the form of a cotton shirt or hoody with the school name.   I take the bus to a new beach where I have not yet been, Barra da Lagoa, not sure what I will find.  Each beach on this island is surrounded by its own little village with its own special feel.  Today I take the bus over the mountain to Lagoa Conceicao, and then over another mountain, along a coastal route that winds in and out of clutttered little villages along the shore until I finally reach Barra da Lagoa.

Barra da Lagoa beach

This is a wide open wonderland of sweeping crescent shaped beach,  with a vibrant sprawling town of small buildings backing into it  — very different than any place I have visited thus far.  The big beach looks out on its own collection of little islands, and is lined by open faced restaurants and shops.   Brightly colored houses seem to tumble down the forested headlands on the south end of the beach in bougainvilla clad glory.  Everything is perfect today except for one thing:  my surfing set up is all wrong.  The waves are very very tiny.  Perfect for a chill day with a big longboard, but not so good for my shorter board.  Still its a beach, and the sun is shining, so I am ready to have fun with what I’ve got.

As I wander down the beach looking for the best spot to put in, a run into a

The pretty bridge on the way to the trail up the headland

crew of Brazilian and Argentinian twenty-somethings who are making a documentary about the magic of Florianopolis and they ask if they can interview me.  After offering some valuable soundbites in English about the loveliness of Floripa’s coast, I ask one of the local Brazilians if he’s got any advice for the best waves today.  He suggests I check out one of the two beaches south of here Praia Galheta and Praia Mole.  That seems like a pain, since I am already here, but I am eyeing the waves and thinking I probably won’t catch very much.  For Praia Mole I can take the bus,

This, my friends, is a PENGUIN!

he says.  For Praia Galheta, I’d need to walk, but there’s a path over the mountainous headlands.  My ears perk up!  I’d been eyeing those headlands, with their big boulders perched among giant yucca plants way up on the slopes, and had a hankering to explore them.  I inquired further.  This very relaxed seeming guy told me that the hike would take around 30 minutes, but he couldn’t guarantee the condition of the path due to the recent rain.  He gave me further directions in Portuguese and I nodded my head happily though I barely understood.  It was a beautiful day, and I’d been cooped up inside for the last few.  I was ready for an adevnture, surfboard, unwieldy backpack and all.  Before leaving the beach, my friendly direction giver pointed out to me that the birds I saw floating on the water were penguins.  PENGUINS!!!! I am in the land of penguins.  And the water is quite cold.  But not, I should note nearly as cold as in San Francisco.

The start of the trail…

Thankfully, as I crossed the bridge, with my huge backpack and surfboard, about to head into the jungle with directions I only partially understood, a Brazilian guy who spoke English asked if I needed help and clarified some of the finer details of the route, warning me against a tempting but potentially disastrous wrong turn I could take that would lead to a treacherous rock path along exposed cliffs.  Sounded fun, but not so fun with a surfboard in tow.

And off I went.   Read the rest of this entry


Check out the recent publicity for Surfer Grrrls Brazil!

Thanks Balanced Edutainment and Brown Girl Surf for the love!

Balanced Edutainment – an emerging thought-leadership platform for edutainment and transformational entertainment for youth featured Surfer Grrrls Brazil on their blog.

Fellow Surfer Grrrl Farhana Huq follows the adventures of Surfer Grrrls Brazil (and many others) on her super cool website,


Surfer Grrrls Brazil in the spotlight

Urban Alligator!!!

Urban Alligator!!!

While riding my bike along the canal next to the major shopping mall in Florianopolis, I noticed a guy sitting on the banks staring at something below.  I slowed down to see what it was, and HOLD THE LINE!!!  It was an alligator!!!  15 feet away from the mid-day traffic jam.  It seemed unbothered, lying perfectly still on the edge of the canal in reptilian midday torpor.  Only the occasional blinking of its eyes indicated to us that it was still alive   Apparently alligators are not uncommon here, on this island that is mostly ecological preserves, even in the capital city, even right next to the biggest mall.   Jacaré is the word for alligator in Portuguese.  Bom Dia Jacaré!

Buying my Brazilian Surfboard


Pretty soon after arriving in Brazil, I realized I was going to have to buy myself a surfboard.  It worked out for a while to rent one, but the problem is that it’s  winter here, so a lot of the surf shops are closed for the season.  Only College Surf School at Joaqina beach, owned and operated by local surf legend Fabricio Machado, stays open during these chilly days, but even then its somewhat unpredictable.  If the weather is extra lousy, or Fabricio has other business in town, the shop stays closed and I am grounded on land, with no chariot on which to ride the lovely waves.

So… commence Operation Purchase Surfboard.

Self portrait of me on the bus on the first leg of my journey to buy my very own Brazilian surf board!

It just so happened that on my very first day in Brazil, while blindly navigating the bus system (blindly because I had no idea where I was going and my Portuguese comprehension at that point was pretty much nada), I landed in the beautiful seaside fishing town of Acores, so named for the Portuguese islands from which many of its residents immigrated.  To my dismay, all the local surf schools were closed for the season, but I tracked down a small shop which sold surfboards made by a local shaper.  The kindly owner, Marina, after suffering through my abysmal Portuguese, informed me that her shop did not rent boards, but she would be willing to rent me her own personal board so I could go surfing that afternoon.   What hospitality!   The waves in Acores were unusually good that day and after an absolutely perfect first day surfing in Brazil I hung out with Maria, and her cute baby and across the street neighbor.

The bus terminal, where I spend a lot of time transferring buses on my long journeys to the island’s many beaches

Maria had some used boards at her shop, including a locally made 6′ 9 board, in great shape, perfect for me as I transition towards shorter more nimble boards.  After doing some comparison shopping, and deciding I wanted to support Maria’s business, I gave her a call and told her I was coming back down to Acores to buy the board.  Here’s the long  journey that follows (it involves 3 buses!), mostly recorded through photos.

View from the bus as we drive by Morro das Pedras, another cool surfing spot that I’d like to check out some time.

The Lonelines surf shop where I bought my board. The beach is a block away.

Me and my new surfboard. So excited!

Solo shot of my new board, with Acores beach in the background.

And these are the waves I am about to surf! I christened my new board with a very very long left — I think perhaps the longest wave I’ve ever ridden. Many firsts here in Brazil!