I have always wanted to surf in Brazil but my biggest hesitation in going there has been the perception that its lineups are full of aggression and lacking in etiquette. I have many Brazilian friends and I’ve come to love their culture, but to be completely honest, I’ve always preferred my time on land with these same friends over actually surfing with them. Nonetheless, my curiosity about the place hadn’t disappeared so my wife and I added a visit to Brazil to the end of our South American itinerary, which took us through Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.
Brazil is a massive country so we decided we’d focus on the state of Santa Catarina as we bussed into Brazil from Uruguay. One of my best friends at home, who is Brazilian, helped me construct an itinerary that would combine our wave search with entertainment for our three little kids. Her suggestions turned out to be the perfect recommendations for our trip. Once again, as we’ve learned through much of our world travels, local knowledge came through for us.
We started in Garopaba, which is an idyllic and charming beach town. There are incredible waves all around so we made our base at the Pousada Kalua Praia, which was a centralized location to the waves. Our experience was among the best we have had anywhere in the world. Everyone was friendly, smiling and very warm. The climate was tropical, white sand beaches abounded and the food was absolutely amazing. Within a short drive from our accommodation, we surfed at Ferrugem, Silveira, Praia Do Rosa, and Guarda Do Embaú. We then spent the second week in Florianopolis where we surfed Praia Joaquina every day. The water was warm and the surf was pumping the whole time. The standard of surfing talent is very high in Brazil and despite that, my real test was whether or not I was going to get waves, given the aforementioned perception about lineup culture. I came with a respectful but the aggressive mentality, ready to defend myself and stand my ground should I get burned or heckled.
I was astonished that in two weeks of surfing all over Southern Brazil I didn’t get burned one time. The locals were friendly and respectful. They demanded respect, which I, as a visitor, am accustomed to giving, and after waiting on the shoulder for a set or two I paddled to the peak, got in position, and scored some really good set waves while the locals cheered me on. Unfortunately, I have had a few bad personal experiences that had previously shaped a perspective of Brazilian surfers. I realized during this trip that I have probably only actually surfed with a hundred or so Brazilian surfers in my life — a very small sample size of the 211 million people that call this beautiful country home. I learned to admire their culture and even more, their way of life, and I even picked up a little Portuguese on the way. I gained a new respect for Brazil, her people, her culture, her food, her exquisite beauty, and her history. Ironically, some of the most caring, gentle and loving people I have ever met were Brazilian, which thoroughly extirpated my preconceived notions about them as surfers in general.
Brazil might be the most underrated country I’ve been to. Like everywhere else on our South American journey, the locals invited me out at night and took care of me. We ate good food, discussed our respective cultures, and laughed all night despite the language barrier. It wasn’t uncommon for me to arrive at our pousada at 4 am after being asked multiple times why I wanted to leave so early and cut the night short. After two weeks of nonstop surfing and no sleep, I crashed hard on the plane as we made our way back to the United States.
Editor’s Note: Follow the Denning family’s travels on Instagram.