Adriano De Souza Brazilian Surfer Champion

Adriano De Souza has been one of Brazil's most successful surfers. Criticisms have certainly accompanied that success. Photo: ASP/Kirstin


The Inertia

Of the many hoary clichés that the surfing world zealously cultivates, (from “selling out” to “soul surfing” to “unspoiled natives”) one stands out above the rest as being particularly ugly – the Brazilian stereotype. It is rare that the subject of surfing’s third nation comes up either in conversation or print without someone mentioning supposedly Brazilian traits like lack of etiquette, poor style, loud demeanors, “passion” (whatever the hell that means), and/or a propensity towards violence. As Australian Surfing Life once put it, (way back in 1994, no less) A Brazilian in the water is “The bastard surfer…a dark-haired, rude-as-fuck, uncivilized prick, ripping off [waves] like a pirate stealing gold.”

“Prejudice is a reality in surfing but people don’t talk about it,” says Brazilian pro surfer Junior Faria. “It has been shamefully hidden behind words like “stereotype” and “joke.” I’ve heard and read things that are really heavy and the worst part is that people actually think it’s okay to make those statements. They think that we won’t understand or that everyone thinks those statements are funny, too.”

I got in touch with Faria and the Executive Editor of Brazil’s version of The Surfer’s Journal, Jair Bortoleto, to ask them about prejudice, if some of it is well founded, and what they make of it. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Portuguese, so although they were able to give me insight, they had to do it in their second languages, which, as Faria pointed out, is another issue that Brazilians have in trying to explain themselves to English speakers. “Some ignorant people think that we aren’t as intelligent because of the accent we have when speaking English.”

“The main stereotype I hear about Brazilians is that we are loud and aggressive,” says Bortoleto. “I say it’s true in some cases, and it’s not true in others. People can get angry everywhere. In Australia, for example I’ve seen some nasty stuff from the surfers. So I think you have to see both sides of the coin.” He also points out that what is sometimes construed as aggression is instead a certain cultural demonstrativeness. “Passionate is not aggressive. There are passionate Brazilians, that surf for the love, and there are aggressive guys that mostly travel together and are loud.”

“People who assume this (that Brazilians, as a whole are loud and aggressive) don’t have a problem with Brazilians only, they have problems with anyone who comes from different backgrounds or cultures,” says Faria. “I know that some guys have no respect and sometimes act like dick heads, but there are assholes everywhere: Australia, America, Mexico, Tahiti, every single country in the world has their share. Most ‘international’ surfers think every single Brazilian is loud, aggressive, blah, blah, blah, but that’s a huge mistake. I think 90% of the surfers that have that prejudice against us have never met us.”

By this point, some of you, dear readers, are perhaps disagreeing with the gentlemen I’ve quoted. Maybe you’ve had a first hand incident while traveling somewhere that proves that yours isn’t a prejudice, but an unconditional truth. I know: your home break gets invaded by large groups of Brazilians and they take your waves without showing due respect. I know: Adriano De Souza gets over-scored in Brazil, unforgivable. Unfortunately, if you think any of this adds up to substantial evidence supporting a generally negative view of Brazilians, you have miscalculated. The prevailing negative view of Brazilians in the surf world is a product of underlying prejudice within American and Australian society, and I’m going to explain why.

To get to the heart of the Brazilian stereotype, we need to reach back into the country’s history. Brazil’s surfing boom and subsequent integration into the world surfing economy occurred during the late seventies and early eighties, a time period that coincided with the dying throws of their military dictatorship (which didn’t officially end until 1985). The legacy of the dictatorship, along with various external economic factors like heavy IMF debt coupled with Structural Adjustment Programs, left behind an extremely divided society in which the rule of law was weak, violent crime rates were off the charts, the divide between the rich and the poor was among the highest in the world, corruption was prevalent, and drugs and prostitution rampant. Although the last decade has seen a dramatic drop in both violent crime and poverty rates, many of these issues continue to haunt the country as it still has one of the largest income gaps between the rich and the poor in the world.

Although it would be easy to point to these phenomena as formative factors in an aggressive and unfriendly Brazilian national psyche, that would be misguided. Brazil is a multi-ethnic country of nearly 195 million people who inhabit a landmass bigger than the continental US. Some are far wealthier and better educated than most in the first world while some live on less than a dollar a day. Saying that they act a certain way because they are from a place with a high crime rate or a lot of inequality is like saying all Americans are gun-toting crazies because the US has comparatively high incidences of gun crime. Not the case.

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  • Clark Fantis

    I am TOTALLY OUTRAGED by this OpEd! 

    J/K.  TheInteria has all the edge of tennis ball.  

  • Felipe Luchi

    Great, very clever and precise. Yes, I’ve have seen brazilians behaving like idiots at the line up, but also peruvians, americans and aussies. Idiots – just like nice and talented surfers – are everywhere.

    • Kazandgreg

      i’ve travelled to many foreign countries and experienced, appreciated and enjoyed many different cultures. People are people the world over yet it is the existence of culture that separates us . Different views ,values and beliefs around the world are what makes each place so interesting and unique, what makes travel and exposure to new places so appealing.
        Unfortunately, not all foreign values and behaviour are concurrent with our own and as a consequence we can find them displeasing and objectionable. This brings me to the issue of brazillian travelling surfers. Rather than make assumptions and accusations based on hearsay and conjecture i choose to make them on personal experience. So here are a few  examples  ;
        1 North west desert , western australia- one of the most orderly and respectful lineups i have ever experienced with a vast majority of  aussie surfers. Two vans full of brazillian surfers arrive and immediately commence to paddle inside , snake , hassle and drop in on the previously chilled line up.  
       2 Same surfers, after a prolonged flat spell, in an attempt to bridge the gulf of hatred directed at the brazillians after their utterly disrespectful attitudes towards fellow surfers shared a large catch of fish with the brazillians. The brazillians were appreciative and grateful of the fish and the gesture. As soon as the swell arose again the brazillians recommenced behaving like a pack of rabid animals with total disdain and lack of concern or courtesy towards fellow surfers, taking pride of the fact that through weight of numbers and consistent drop ins and snaking of others that actual fist fights resulted.  Brazillians in question were not newcomers to good waves so the old “too passionate upon seeing quality surf after years of bad waves” call did not wash ,just pigs.
       3 Same area , different brazillians. Again displaying zero courtesy towards fellow surfers, when one of their mass, was addressed , regarding his paddling staight past an ordered queue of patient surfers stated that we could surf ‘when he was finished’ . another peaceful line up shattered , another fist fight.
       4 Walking along the promenade of an east coast break and watching locals being pushed aside by groups of aggressive  brazillians in an attempt to dominate the footpath ! As ridiculous as it sounds though in reality very offensive to any other walkers.
       5 A friend of a friend who happened to be brazillian being a great guy [ though a non surfer] and being taken care of by myself and mates just on his character reference from our mutual friend.
       6 Oney anwars brother being dropped in on and getting his board dinged by a brazillian at his home break of Lakey Peak, whereby the brazillian started to get extremely aggressive towards the little indo ripper before realising the consequences of his stupidity.
        Actually have lots more stories like this but could not be arsed writing them down, fact is , you want to see someone acting like a tool towards his hosts in a foreign country get yourself  a  brazillian.
       Of course there are some nice brazillian surfers, it’s just that i , nor any one i know has found any they enjoy surfing with.
       Excuses are rife of course, either so poor that they are used to fighting for every thing  or they are the rich spoilt sons of brazil that are used to getting their own way all the time that they know no better. Whatever, excuses are just that, excuses.
       I am also sure that other nations have possessed this reputation before but never to such a degree or for such a prolonged period.
       BTW – Adriano being disliked cause he is from an emerging economy that is new to the world stage ? What about  Tiago or Bourez or anyone else for that matter? Fact is , most people find his surfing style and personality unattractive. Get over it and learn to be a pleasent race to share some waves with and you will find that accusations of brazillian disgacefullness will disappear.
       P.S. Also ,except for boat trips, no other nationality travels in large packs that immediately crowd any line up and typically prevent any interaction between themselves and other surfers especially locals.
        

      • ConstableCare

         All of these stories resonate and I have story after story of my own. The prejudice doesn’t just exist in Australia and the States. Ive lived in South America for the last 10 years and they are loathed by most countries here as well. There are some breaks where large groups of them will be told in no uncertain terms to paddle in by locals who have just had enough. I’m sure it happens at other places around the world as well, I remember a few years back where they were pretty much persona non grata on the north shore.

        I do feel for the cooler ones and there are plenty, I mean alot of the time you wouldn’t even know you were surfing next to one unless they started talking to you. But unfortunately they are tarred with the same brush due to the idiotic actions of some of their brethren.

      • Eduardo

         I have witnessed the same exact situations you pointed out in the above post but this time the subject was Australian. In fact, in my opinion Australians can be the most disrespectful people, what they do in Bali is completely outrageous.  Talking about loud you are kidding me, aussies get pissed and put their bintang tops and behave like idiots shouting and disrespecting the local culture.

        Since these guys (not all Australian people of course) do not have the mental capacity to understand the Balinese culture I will explain it to them. I never witnessed a country where people respect each other so much, they are just good people and seeing these idiots rape the innocence of their culture with their horrible manners in every turn is just sad, I am sure many Anglo Saxons who’s been to Bali can relate to what I am saying here.

        I am Brazilian, I come from Rio de Janeiro and am from Italian and Portuguese descent. Fortunately enough I come from a privileged background. I never had any problems for being Brazilian number one because I am a very laid back person in and outside the water and number two because I speak English nearly without an accent I did my degree and masters degree in Australia so Aussies cant tell where my accent is from since is nearly nonexistent, most think I am from Europe

        To be honest I guarantee to you that generally speaking Brazilians are more polite than Aussies, in Australia its very normal to see someone behaving like a jerk in a public place like in the movie theatre. This is completely unacceptable in Brazilian society, you would cause embarrassment for yourself not to mention that you have to face someone standing up and shutting your mouth

        I could state a claim here and say that every  Aussies is rude but I know that prejudices and stereotypes are ridiculous. My wife is Australian, and I can see in her dad and step dad the two examples of it. Her dad is a very polite educated Aussie and her step dad is the loud racist fat bogan bastard. Now if I was to generalise I could say that the fact that her dad is a lawyer with a master degree and her step dad a tradie with a TAFE diploma is the reason to this disparity. (By the way a lot of surfers in Sydney are tradies) But I know this has to do with the way you are brought up, with what your dad teaches you, and if he is a jerk its likely that you are going to be one unless your character is strong enough to defy this paradigm.

        When I hear people complaining about Brazilians and sounds to me that they encountered either pro or aspiring to be pro surfers. These guys are truly rude and are rude in every culture and that includes women as well. When I see beginners and girls I normally dont even paddle in their waves and encourage them to go, I remember how hard was for me to catch a wave when I was learning. But I have encountered women who were competitor surfers who didn’t respect surfing courtesy.

        Racism is a horrible thing and is present in most of us, I think it requires a constant exercise to rid if off of ourselves Like you did when you offered the Brazilian surfers the catch of the day which I thought was a cool thing to do. Next time tell them its not cool to have a million waves when the neighbor had none I think its realisations like this  that make things better, maybe next time this guy will be more respectful

  • Paul Anderson

    ‘….There is no doubt that De Souza can and does beat better surfers based on the strength of his competitive drive and savvy.  This can be frustrating to watch, but it’s not why people hate him.  No, I think many in the English-speaking surfing world dislikes De Souza because, on a deeper level, it offends our sense of superiority to see a little Brazilian beating our surfing heroes….’
    On the broader front again I think the deepest underlying scenario is that the Third World – and Brazil is a Third World Country, is knocking at the door of Western First World Privilege – Northern western Europe, North America and Australia.

    While we’re at it – my favourite Australian funny true story: When the English Cricket Team arrived in Australia one year they were stopped at Immigration. The Captain was asked if he had a criminal record and he replied, ‘Why? Do you still need one to get in?’

    Anyway, Australia has got into the First World – pressing through and to some extent overcoming the prejudice. And now non-English speaking Third World Countries are pushing through too. There’s an awful lot that’s rich and beautiful about the Brazilian culture and people [and lots of internal prejudice as well sadly - it's usually people with darker skin out early in the morning cleaning the streets, and those with whiter skin sitting around the swimming pools later in the day]. 

    By the way, I’m Welsh. A small nation, like Scotland we were invaded by the English 1000 years ago and not much longer than 100 years ago Welsh School Children had to have a knotted string tied around their necks in School to stop their throats being able to pronounce Welsh words, to kill the Welsh language etc. ‘Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief’ was a standard saying among the English about the Welsh [The river Taff runs through our Capital City of Cardiff].

    If the gist of this article is to say, ‘Stop typecasting!’ I agree.

  • Seppo1

    Hard to find many surfers that surf smoother than Fabio Gouveia!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIMh-XpULls

  • ras

    I really appreciate how you tackle some of the tougher issues of modern culture. Racism, and I choose that word carefully, is one that permeates surf culture.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Medina upper crust Brazilian -whereas De Souza is from a favela? Class differences in post colonial Latin America and the Caribbean are often not only economic but melanin based. John Updike’s ‘Brazil’ was built on the principles of class based on colour. In the US if you have any African American blood you are considered ‘black.’ The opposite is true for the Caribbean and South America where the lighter your skin tone the ‘whiter’ you are – and subsequently the better your social status likely be. And while DeSouza and Medina may have similar skin tones, one is definitely promoted as being more ‘white’ than the other. And that is no accident.

    I myself am mixed with Latino blood and US anglo blood. My skin is fair and I have blue eyes though my name, Ricardo Antonio S., betrays the whiteness. I can’t tell you how many times surf buddies have poked fun at me for defending Brazilian surfers in the ASP. You’re article lists many of the things people routinely say – followed by a just kidding. And if I don’t back down things get more dirty.

    The point is that surfing is a great microcosm of globalized culture as a whole. The US, Australia and Western Europe enjoy high standards of living because those societies are willing to take resources from others, at whatever cost, to maintain a high standard of living. Being ignorant of this fact is not an excuse. The World Bank and the IMF have routinely crippled the developing world by loaning money with stipulations that restrict those countries from ever getting out of debt or becoming self reliant. And there is plenty of evidence to support this.

    If we dislike De Souza it’s not simply because he claims, has a stiff style, is aggressive or whatever. That’s bullshit. It’s simply because we are racist. I guess in some ways it’s a form of self preservation – survival of the fittest. Although apparently white births in the US are no longer the majority so things are bound to change.

  • Guest

    Depends who you ask, I am a born and raised San Diegan, who is half portuguese. Brazilians speak Poruguese and I would say it’s safe to say half of Brazilians are of Portuguese decent anyhow.

    I love Brazilians, I love Portuguese. They are really nice people. It’s the white boys and Americans who are ass backwards and rude!

    That’s just my opinion and I’m a white ass American who looks like a Brazilian, what does a Brazilan look like, a “Portuguese Man”…Hahhahaha

  • Fart

    That photo is odd.  At first I thought it was a Brazilian fan holding up a De Souza mask.  

  • wildrnes

    I never knew that this was a hot bed issue. I thought that the Brazilians were just like everybody else.

  • Ferraz84

    spot on Endo. couldn’t agree more.

  • barrelkilla

    don´t forget that all the countries have sstupid people, as well as good people too…….and don´t forget that we are all black belts! riodejaneirobrasil!!!!

  • Pcunni61

    I am a yank.  I admit that I have some anti-Brazilian bias, but I resist it, knowing it is baseless and wrong.  I will say that I have a stronger prejudice about ANY loud group of surfers in the lineup.  There are countless boatloads of loud obnoxious anglo dudes, and I’ve had peaceful but thrilling surfs with all walks. 

  • Ctlucaslp

    Great article mate!!!! Proud of it!

  • Gold Coaster Brazzo

    Man you’re a great writer and a very open minded and intelligent person. Good on ya buddy!

  • wildrnes

    Next issue: Smashing the Boogie Boarder Stereotype. Get to it before Fox does.

  • Rafaelabassili

    That was amazing. 

  • Felipe

    i feel sorry for you mate, really sorry..
    luckily there are many aussies that are not like you.. by the way, first time i went to a night club on the gold coast (aussie was my first country out of brazil)  i felt like i was in a whorehouse.. seriously

    • Bernardo

      Felipe don’t be an IDIOT.

  • Ricardo

    I agree with you. I am brazilian, and I know what you are talking about. here in Brazil, surfers do it all the time. Unfortunately It is really sad. I started surfing at 1999 in Natal (Jadson Andre birthplace), surf there was cool, but little competitive. 2001 I traveled to surf in a surf town called Itacaré where surf is very consistent, it was like a surf contest every day at the main surf spot. 2009 when I moved to Rio de Janeiro sometimes it was like a war in the water, to surf at Prainha, Arpoador, Diabo, etc. if you dont know people in the water, it becomes very hard to catch a wave without having to call for preference. All the time.
    The fact is, Brazil is a Big country with a big surfers population, and in crowded surf spots the only way you can catch a wave is being imposed, and agressive if necessary, and sometimes will have to fight for it, verbal or phisically. Secret spots are almost unattainable when locals are in the line up. and this is very sad, because you end up infected with that kind of attitude too.
    I share your idea and I hope that surf attitude here as well as culture in general, be more respectful and less competitive.
    Peace

    (*translated using google)

  • Ricardo

    I agree with you. I am brazilian, and I know what you are talking about. here in Brazil, surfers do it all the time. Unfortunately It is really sad. I started surfing at 1999 in Natal (Jadson Andre birthplace), surf there was cool, but little competitive. 2001 I traveled to surf in a surf town called Itacaré where surf is very consistent, it was like a surf contest every day at the main surf spot. 2009 when I moved to Rio de Janeiro sometimes it was like a war in the water, to surf at Prainha, Arpoador, Diabo, etc. if you dont know people in the water, it becomes very hard to catch a wave without having to call for preference. All the time.
    The fact is, Brazil is a Big country with a big surfers population, and in crowded surf spots the only way you can catch a wave is being imposed, and agressive if necessary, and sometimes will have to fight for it, verbal or phisically. Secret spots are almost unattainable when locals are in the line up. and this is very sad, because you end up infected with that kind of attitude too.
    I share your idea and I hope that surf attitude here as well as culture in general, be more respectful and less competitive.
    Peace

    (*translated using google)

  • hugh

    i think much of the anti brazillian bias in australia comes from cultural misunderstanding. i’ve personally never had problems with brazillians in the water (except once at desert point in indo). i work and surf with many and we get on well. in fact i generally really like brazillians. i can understand how surfers on the gold coast and in manly might feel overrun though. i can definitely see similarities between how australian surfers were percieved in america and hawaii in the 1970′s, and how brazillians are percieved today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/felipediniz.santos Felipe Diniz Alvim Santos

    And you know what is funnier? Brazilian don’t mind what US, Aussie, etc think about them. Brazil is a huge country with awesome beach to surf as Australia (Australia has more but there are the sharks) and US do. We are mixed with black, white, red, etc etc making our body and beauty stronger than many pure white Aussie and American. So we don’t feel underneath the others and maybe because this many think we are violent. But we are not. We hate war as we hate guns. We have never had in truly fight or war with other countries. The violence in the country comes from social class gap that we are fixing. So the idea of Brazilian violence is because we don’t feel smaller than others so we hassle if necessary to show our quality therefore bringing (more for Aussie than US) a treat to the Aussie and US’s surfing reign. Oh we don’t have style but we keep doing airs we love it. We don’t have style so look our soccer players, MMA and surfers. Are we monkey? Ok but monkeys with the most beautiful monkey girls in the world. And I am telling this not because I think but it is what I have been reading in English magazines. We are uncivilized Ok Ok but uncivilized that speaks your language and any other that does necessary. Different of you that only speak English and thinking it is enough. Because that you prejudice the world and it hates you. Tell you are a Brazilian in any part of the world and you are going to see the difference in the well treatment if you tell that you are an american. And yes we are loud and sorry if we get nice tan under sun instead of red.

    A huge hug.

  • Bernardo

    Brett, I think your comments are right. However, there is a lot of brazilians that don’t act that way. Let’s just know people before judge them. I went to Australia few years ago and at most of the places I had no problem but there were some people that were given me a bad look even before I go surf (in land…), that’s no good. still agree with your words.

  • Anthony Clifton

    “To get to the heart of the Brazilian stereotype, we need to reach back into the country’s history. “

    Endo. This just doesn’t stand up to the argument you say it counters. People directly experiencing Brazilians dropping in on them has nothing to do with history. They don’t dislike it because some old news story about cocaine busts distorted their view. They don’t like it because it ruins a wave.

    It seems like you have taken a look at the issue and decided by choice to eliminate a possible explanation, regardless of merit or evidence. It’s possible that people on average surf more aggressively in Brazil. It’s not necessary to go into reasons and explanations. It simply is possible, for whatever reason. And if that possibility is a reality, it is perfectly valid (and not racist) for other people not to like it.