Check out our very first Surfer Grrrls Brazil original music video, Ela Era Assim – with lyrics in both Portuguese and English, by super skater philosopher poet teacher Dani Antunes (Portuguese), and yours truly, me (English), with Ca’roll on drums and Alice on poesia! Starring many of my new surfer grrrl friends in Brazil from Florianopolis, Parana, and Sao Sebastão. Special thanks especially to Aloha Maciel, Marina Rezende, Manuella Brasil, Janaina Rezende, Luanna Ribeiro, and Maria Liza Monteleone — who have made many of my first surfing adventures in Brazil much more fun! Big thanks also to Mike Deni, Zazo Alves, and Alice Besnard – without whom I would have no video documentation of my own surfing/skating/musical adventures.
Another amazing moment. So today I decided to head to Praia Mole, because it is just so pretty in the late afternoon. I am on a 2 week program of “taking it easy” after an episode of doing too many pull-ups. I probably should have kept walking to the next beach over, which had smaller waves, more appropriate for taking it easy. But the waves on Mole looked so fun! I made a promise to myself and my tired shoulders that I would take it slow, even if it meant not catching much (which is exactly what it meant!). Sometimes, just being out there is a gift in itself, and today was one of those days.
But I had an extra treat in store. As I was floating around amidst the other surfers, another woman paddled up to join the line-up. And it was none other than Jacqueline Silva — who, for those who don’t know, is a super amazing pro surfer who is on the ASP WORLD TOUR!! (you have to be one of the best 18 surfers IN THE WORLD to be on this tour). That’s a picture of her on the left! You can also check out her website here.
She paddled right next to me, and was so nice and friendly when I nervously and excitedly introduced myself. Then she proceeded to SHRED like crazy just about every wave that came her way. It was completely amazing and inspiring to see her in action, and also really cool to encounter someone who is SO damn good at what she does and still totally open and kind, and willing to talk to a random American stuttering in Portuguese in the water next to her. Maybe I can get her to be in one of my music videos?!
Yesterday I hung out with my friend Dani, who is a super radical and inspirational skater, surfer, high school teacher, mom, poet, and rapper. (You can check out her poetry blog by clicking here.) Dani is getting her masters degree in philosophy, studying the relationships between human knowledge and the natural world. She also regularly blows open the minds of her high school students at the “demonstration” public school where she teaches philosophy (how cool that Brazilian high school students are learning philosophy as part of their curriculum!). I met her at a potluck dinner where, after some fun conversations about my project and Dani’s previous life adventures rapping in Sao Paulo, we decided to write some raps. When we finally met up to do some writing one afternoon on the shady lawn of the University, I felt that wonderful feeling you get when you know you’ve found a kindred spirit.
Yesterday I went to her lovely house in a small town in the southern part of the island. Her husband, Zazo (also a surfer), grew up on the street where they currently live, although he told me that when he was little there was no street and the whole thing was a forest. They have two kids, Caio and Elis, who are wondrous. Elis (age 4) likes to spend her time scaling the wall of the living room, standing atop the window sill, and launching herself onto a mattress below. She already calls herself a surfer and when the family goes on walks, she rides a skateboard, pulled along with the help of her dad. Caio, (age 10) has got the 100 mile an hour brain of a video game designer and/or backyard inventor, likes to talk like darth vader, generously shares everything he has (including chocolate, which to me is extraordinary for a 10 year old), and cares for his little sister like a second dad.
After a yummy spaghetti lunch, we hiked to the top of a forested mountain from which we could see much of the southern island, including the vast sand dune ecosystem of Joaquina. And after the kids went to sleep, Dani, Zazo, and I took out skateboards and went “street surfing” down one of the best skating streets on the island Rua Pau de Canela, perfectly smooth, very long, and downhill all the way.
Dani who is an ex-competitive skater had some sick moves. I was just stoked to be on a board after many years of not being on a board. I scared and thrilled the bejeezus out of myself just by shooting the not so steep hill. Here’s some very dark footage of us having much fun, taken by Zazo. Thanks Dani, Zazo, Caio, and Elis for a perfect day!
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
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!
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
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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,
(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.
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.