Phil Rajzmanʼs bond with the ocean started when he was just three. His father, Bernard Rajzman ( Silver medalist for the Brazilian volleyball team in the Los Angeles ʼ94 Olympic games), put him on his back during a body surfing session and that was the beginning. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Phil would venture to the beach every day, where he would try different types of wave riding styles like bodyboards, surfboards, and kayaks.
He joined the Rico de Souzaʼs surf school when he was eight and Phil got to know big wave riders and brothers Marcos Brassa and Marcelo Csettkey. They taught him about ocean currents, swell directions and forecasts, giving him the confidence that one day he’d start big wave surfing. By the age 14, Phil was competing on all types of boards and at 17 he spent his first winter in Hawaii at the Longboard World Championship.
“I got to see the Hawaiians laying down some powerful tricks in big waves that I thought wouldnʼt be possible,” Phil says. “That inspired me and gave me certainty this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
The following year, Phil came back to Hawaii and was invited to join the first Brazilian tow team along with legends Carlos Burle, Silvio Mancusi and Eraldo Gueiros. He was now riding foils and kiteboards as well as towing, broadening his knowledge of different types of equipment as well as inching him toward bigger and bigger surf.
In 2003, Rajzman won his first world tour event in 8-10 feet waves in Sao Paulo, giving him a boost of confidence. A year later, during the Oxbow Soul Style at Puerto Escondido, he managed a win over Joel Tudor in the final. “The Oxbow victory brought me recognition amongst the Hawaiian and International surf communityʼʼ
“The Oxbow victory brought me recognition amongst the Hawaiian and International surf community. Independent of the equipment, I just like to be in the water. I have this waterman thing on me.ʼʼ So today, Rajzman has a very impressive resume of career accomplishments: Pan American and Brazilian titles, ASP (WSL) World title in 2007, WSL World Tour runner-up in 2014, and WSL 2016 World Champion.
Before winning the title last year, Rajzman was contemplating going to the Hawaii. Invited by Eddie Rothman to join the Backdoor Shootout, Rajzman surfed 10-15 foot Backdoor/Pipeline, lighting that fire again to find bigger surf.
When cinematographer Paulo Barcelos mentioned an upcoming swell and the possibility of getting a session at Jaws with other Brazilian surfers, Phil couldn’t get the idea out of his head.
“I was super scared at first,” he says. “It’s really scary when you see that wave breaking up close, but with guys like Burle and Barcellos in the water, I started to feel more and more relaxed. Itʼs important to know that you have all that support behind you.”
After taking a few smaller waves, Burle picked Rajzman up on the jet ski and dropped him right in the thick of the lineup.
“Thatʼs When I got a huge set on my head – something like 18 feet. That kind of boosted my confidence because I had survived so that literally let me loosen up. I dropped into wave after wave after that.”
“I canʼt described how I felt after surfing Jaws,” he says. “It’s a wave that demands a lot of respect, support and strength. If wasnʼt for the support that I had, maybe I would have been sitting on the cliff and just watching the whole session.”