I have been on the beach for slightly more than a few surfing events. The vast majority of the time, the celebration on the beach is underwhelming. Awkward, even. Amid a feeble dripping of half-hearted, obligatory cheers, the winner is chaired up the beach in a custom that takes way too long. Polite hoots and whistles often cease before the chairing is done, and the poor souls using their bodies as chariots as they stumble through the sand are winded and hunched by the time they get to the stage. Have you seen the stairs at Bell’s? They’re a stairway to heaven—or hell, if you’re carrying a human being on your shoulders. The poor soul sitting on top of them is forced to hang on for dear life, trying very hard to continue cheering for themselves because they need to look excited for the cameras that are pointed at them, even though they left the brunt of the cheers back at the water’s edge. It is painful sometimes. Surf fans are too cool to show they care. And then there are the Brazilian fans.
Oh, the thunder! It is a beautiful thing to behold. The term “passion” is used far too much to describe the nation of Brazil, but it is perfect. They are ardent fans. Fervent fans. Frenzied fans. They scream and fall to their knees, pulling at their hair in ecstasy. It makes all other nations look like prim British tea-sippers, their pinkies in the air, scoffing silently at anyone who dares speak above a whisper. Brazilian surf fans show their athlete he is their savior. They show him they believe in him. They show him he is the best. To have the belief of a nation behind you is surely a confidence-booster.
When Gabriel Medina won his second world title, the thunder on the sand rivaled the thunder from Pipeline. It rolled across the water, thick in the air, running into the sound of the most famous wave on earth and drowning it out. Brazil as a nation loves its heroes more than any other—and that’s why, I’ll bet, Brazilians will dominate surfing more than anyone else in the coming years.