Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Surfing capital blooms in the shade of Brazil’s rainforest

Surfing capital blooms in the shade of Brazil's rainforest

Mauricio Savarese and Christian Prendergast | Associated Press

SAO SEBASTIAO, Brazil. Last month, most Brazilians watched two local clubs battle for the continental soccer championship, and 14-year-old Luana Reis was away from TV.

She rode the blue-green waves against the backdrop of a floating rainforest, competing with dozens of other teenagers in the annual municipal tournament on one of the country’s best surfing beaches, Maresias.

She used snapshots, cuts and aerial jumps to win the U18 title and then emerged from the water sitting on the shoulders of four friends, imitating her idol Gabriel Medina, the world champion raised in Maresias, who helped make Brazilian surfers admire. like his world football stars.

Next year, according to Reis, she intends to compete for the national championship among girls under 18 years old.

“Everyone here dreams of being the next great surfer from Brazil,” Reis told The Associated Press. “There are many competitions here, especially here in Maresias. It is difficult to do this here. “

The beach in San Sebastian is the perfect surfing spot in the country that caused the “Brazilian storm” in the world – the generation of professional surfers who have won five of the last seven men’s world championships.

Many have come to their senses on the 200-kilometer (120-mile) stretch of coastline in the state of São Paulo. Reis’s parents moved here mainly so she could train every day.

Medina, 28, spearheaded this crusade, winning three world championships, a feat accomplished by just four others since the modern surf league was founded in 1983.

At one point in this year’s championship in San Clemente, California, Medina caught a small clean top and turned the board to the left as he jumped to his feet. He patiently watched as the wave immured itself, then made several turns, casually making several aerial turns along the way.

It “turns a mediocre wave into something substantial,” said TV commentator Mick Fanning, himself a three-time champion. “That first broadcast was incredible.”

When the buzzer rang to mark Medina’s victory, runner-up Filipe Toledo ran to the ball to congratulate him. They grew up surfing the same waves at Toledo’s home on the coast in Ubatuba. Third place went to another Brazilian, 2019 world champion and gold medalist of the Tokyo Olympics, Italo Ferreira.

A number of beaches on the North Coast of São Paulo state were relatively unknown until Medina brought Maresias to the professional surfing map with his first world title in 2014, and in 2018 he won the trophy again.

Speaking to Associated Press on the phone, Medina said Maresias’s simple lifestyle is an advantage for surfers.

“We don’t have high-rise buildings here. It’s just houses, beaches and a lot of nature, ”said Medina. “I travel the world, but I still appreciate the place where I live, where I came from. I feel finished here. This place gives me peace and ease to do my best. ”

The surf towns dotted along the coastline are within the Serra do Mar Park, which the state claims is the largest contiguous protected area of ​​the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. It acts as a barrier to the growth of the São Paulo metropolis. Dense forest canopy covers mountains and valleys, where pools of waterfalls drain into streams that wind through the mangroves before flowing into the emerald sea.

The waves in the area were largely unvisited until the coastal highway was built in the 1970s, which the surfing pioneers followed.

“In the 80s there were only a few of us; it was an isolated coastal area, ”said Adriano Garcia, 58, a San Sebastian-born fisherman who has been surfing for four decades. “The championship has begun, surfers from here began to dominate and – boom!”

When Frank Constansio began organizing competitions in 1985, he had to fill many roles – from security guard to judge and commentator.

“Years ago, only acai and surf clothing brands sponsored events here. “Now there are developers and banks,” said Constancio, president of the San Sebastian Surfers Association. Today, hotels and restaurants are adorned with images of local legends, especially Medina, which is also featured on billboards advertising the TV manufacturer, telephone. carrier, dental provider and car manufacturer.

“Medina is just one of the surfers who came from this (municipal) tournament,” Constantiu said, looking at the competitors in the water. “The next Medina might be here today.”

Enrique Trica, a surf photographer from Ubatuba, competed on the North Shore in the 1990s and 2000s and won competitions in Europe. He said the Sao Paulo surfing associations have helped develop local professionals. They were the first in Brazil to organize a competition with real-time electronic scoring and running watches that surfers could see from the water.

Waves were another factor.

“They are far from perfect,” Tricka stated, throwing his head away from the camera and grinning at a man who tried to enter the barrel of the wave, but was instead consumed by an explosion of white water.

“Since this is mainly a beach, the waves hit faster and deeper here. It is difficult to know which waves to choose and where to enter them. Waves come from the south, southeast, east, and sometimes from all three directions at the same time. On top of that, the ebb and flow of the tide moves, so every day and even every hour is like surfing a completely different wave. ”

This unevenness, combined with the constant waves during the high season, from May to November, makes the coast a sacred training ground.

Although most waves break to heights of 1 to 3 meters (up to about 10 feet), they are suitable for a wide variety of conditions. So the waves of world-class international competition – usually more refined, predictable reef and pinpoint breaks – are easier to read and ride for natives of San Sebastiano and surrounding cities.

Medina said his early days at the municipal championship were the key to his success.

“In truth, as a child, I had more defeats than victories,” said Medina. “At first I just liked surfing. Then I fell in love with sports and only then started to compete. Every time I lost here, I got very upset. At the beginning, you dream of winning, becoming a professional, world champion. But it didn’t just happen. ”

Several other North Coast cities have representatives in the Brazilian Storm, from Adriano de Sousa in Guaruja and Cayo Ibele to Toledo Ubatuba and Wiggolly Dantas.

Eduardo Tanimoto, 52, is one of the pioneers. A native of the São Paulo countryside, he started surfing in São Sebastian when the sport revolved around a lifestyle rather than a competition. His daughter, Ryana Tanimoto, picked up surfing from him.

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

“There are other places where you can see the confluence of surfers and the Atlantic Forest, but here everything is special,” she said.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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