NYT Explains Brazilian Surf Dominance - Stab Mag

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A long road of evolving politics, economics, and a decades-long plan led to this. Photo by Thiago Diz/WSL

NYT Explains Brazilian Surf Dominance

“We understand the formula now.” — Filipe Toledo

elsewhere // Jul 12, 2022
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: 2 minutes

All signs point to a certain Brazilian winning the world title in 2022. You know it, I know it, and the New York Times knows it. 

On Monday, the NYT published a profile on the rise and reign of Brazilians on the men’s World Championship Tour. Or, as writer Anna Dimond puts it, it’s a look “Inside Brazil’s 40-Year Rise to Global Surfing Dominance.”

While mainstream press examining the inner workings of surfing competition isn’t new, Dimond puts Brazil’s success on the world stage into an interesting context. You can read the full piece here, but here’s a brief synopsis: Dimond points out that the success wasn’t far from random happenstance. It was a complex “political transformation, economic policy and a decades-long plan to produce not only the first Brazilian world champion on this tour, but also a reservoir of talent to back it up. The plan worked.”

This “plan” dates back to the 1960s, while many Americans and Australians were traveling the world and cutting their teeth in Hawaii and beyond, Brazil was under a dictatorship with a closed-off economy and high cost of travel and leisure. That era came to an end in 1985, but the country was hit with rapid inflation. The country’s economy finally stabilized in the 1990s, right around the time many of today’s top pros were born.  

You know, like Yago Dora. Photo: WSL

The talent was there, it just needed the right conditions to thrive. And two Brazilian men, Cuan Petersen, then a marketing director for Oakley, and Luiz Campos, a sports agent, largely made it happen. Starting in the early 2000s, their Mar Azul surf program recruited and provided many resources affluent athletes in the western world take for granted, including physical trainers, coaches, a psychologist, a doctor, English lessons, and media training. Mar Azul alums are now the who’s who of Brazil’s upper echelon: Filipe, Adriano de Souza, Italo Ferreira, Caio Ibelli, Miguel Pupo and Jadson Andre. Gabriel Medina often competed with and against the Mar Azul crew, according to Dimond. 

Talk about a return on investment. In the last seven years, a Brazilian man has won the title five times. And Gabe accounts for three of them (!) If Toledo has his way with Lowers, Brazil could have its sixth men’s world champion in eight years. Can you say dominance?

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