It’s funny how often you here the words “Brazilians are…” followed by some sweeping generalization about a culture so vast, varied, and multitudinous it makes your head spin.
Just like America’s wildly different regions, states, and regions, Brazil ain’t one homogenous culture. It’s the largest country in South America for Christ‘s sake: it comprises more than 26 states, 17 with surf, and all with their own unique flavors, rhythms, sounds, accents, attitudes, and atmospheres.
This episode we’re tapping into the beating heart of Brazilian surfing, the southern state of Santa Catarina, and its magic island capital of Florianopolis. Traveling with the island’s youngest prodigious international export, Mateus Herdy, we’ll cover 600 kilometers and meet dozens of local heads in ten days.
We’ll get a proper tour of Florianopolis, ⅓ the size of Oahu, 1/9 the size of Bali, with a little over a half-million full-time residents, and over a hundred surf spots that take any variety of swell direction, wind, and tide.
It’s also home to one of the gnarliest crews in skate and surf, and all in one neighborhood: RTMF
River. Tavares. Mother. fuckers.
And at the center of RTMF’s ridiculously sick scene is Andre Barros and his son, Olympian, X-Games Gold winner, and one of the most stylish and powerful skateboarders on earth, Pedro Barros. Andre helped pioneer the skate and surf scenes here, building the first skateparks on the island and fostering a truly radical DIY scene, which has blossomed into what it is today.
A few years back, Pedro, Andre and friends launched LayBack, a beer and lifestyle brand which has helped fun the construction of more than 16 LayBack Parks all over Brazil—skateparks that are as many community spaces and open air markets as they are integral parts. of each area’s local skate scene. They’ve also stepped up to the plate sponsoring World Qualifying Series events around Brazil, giving national up and coming pros international opportunities in their backyards.
Brazil has thriving art scenes spread all over the country. Murals, graffiti, and public art are everywhere, and the south is no exception. Drive around Floripa and you’ll encounter instantly recognizable faces: the work of the island’s most celebrated contemporary painter, Nandjino. Mateus brought us to meet the man himself, and to spice up his newest Quiksilver suit.
We’ll hang with Tomas Hermes and Ana Romanio, one of surfing’s most beloved power couples and the only couple I can think of that both won Vans Triple Crown. Mateus takes the crew to the far south, Garopaba, to meet Marco Giorgi and Yuri Goncalves, who grew up there together as kids.
Few major details for travelers heading to Brazil:
Taxes on imports into Brazil are insane. A 60% flat tariff on all goods being brought into the country makes international brands’ products very, very expensive. A $750 international board built abroad will run you an extra four or five hundred dollars more than a licensed international board brand built by one of Brazil’s incredibly well respected factories.
The south is cold in the winter. Bring a wetsuit, or buy a local brand when you land. why? That same import tax goes for wetsuits, leashes and hard goods. This is partially why Brazil has such a thriving industry of national brands, up there with Japan and Bali when it comes to surf communities with thriving national manufacturing.
One of the best examples of a Brazilian premium brand is Truzz Wetsuits, manufacturers of top shelf neoprene here in Santa Catarina. Mateus brought us to meet Ricardo Bongani, who has been manufacturing wetsuits and premium neoprene in Garopaba and South Brazil for two decades.
Fishing here is huge, the seafood is amazing, and while the two cultures coexist peacefully most of the year, on May 15th, with the start of Tainha season, when surfing is communally forbidden at many of the most popular surf spots in Santa Catarina, and the fishermen are known to wait for surfers to get out of the water to beat them with bamboo sticks.