Stab Magazine | Are you ready for the 2016 Brazilian Surf League?
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Are you ready for the 2016 Brazilian Surf League?

Words by Craig Jarvis There’s still a huge element that’d rather not admit it. Since 1978, or thereabouts, the Brazilian influence has always been there, but it has always been Australia and the United States who have battled it out for professional surfing supremacy as a nation and as an identity for the sport. This […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Words by Craig Jarvis

There’s still a huge element that’d rather not admit it. Since 1978, or thereabouts, the Brazilian influence has always been there, but it has always been Australia and the United States who have battled it out for professional surfing supremacy as a nation and as an identity for the sport.

This is no longer true, because Brazil is now the dominant surfing nation on the planet. By far.

How did it happen? How did they sneak up on the world? How did they take over?

Well, let’s be fair and succinct.

In the first event of 2014, Gabriel Medina snatched the Quiksilver Pro, Gold Coast from Joel Parkinson, and inexplicably, many people, some of them very informed on pro surfing and pro judging, called foul. That Joel was ripped off, that there was a Brazilian push (err, remember the Parko Push?), and that Brazilian money was coming on strong and influencing decisions.

It was as if people did not want to accept the start of a possible change of guard.

Well, dear Gabs went on to take the first Brazilian world title in great form that year, with big wins in great events, and screaming fans wherever he went.

Gabriel and the sort of thing that won him the Quiksilver Pro, France in 2015. Photo: WSL/Kirstin

Gabriel and the sort of thing that won him the Quiksilver Pro, France in 2015. Photo: WSL/Kirstin

The impetus carried over to 2015, where the (cliché alert!) Brazilian Storm took over. Well and truly. At the end of the Hawaiian season, the scoreboards looked like this:

2015 Men’s Championship Tour = Brazil
(Adriano de Souza)

2015 Pipe Master = Brazil
(Adriano de Souza)

2015 Triple Crown = Brazil
(Gabriel Medina)

2015 Rookie of The Year = Brazil
(Italo Ferreira)

2015 CT Winner = Out of 10 events, Brazil wins six, Australia wins three, France wins one

2015 Men’s Qualifying Series = Brazil
(Caio Ibelli)

That is a convincing score sheet, a clean sweep and a decisive national triumph.

Italo is a fabulous little diamond! Here he hurls the biggest backside air seen on tour all year. A very deserving rookie of the year. Photo: WSL/Poullenot/Aquashot

Italo is a fabulous little diamond! Here he hurls the biggest backside air seen on tour all year. A very deserving rookie of the year. Photo: WSL/Poullenot/Aquashot

Everyone in the media, from surf to mainstream, still likes to talk about the Brazilian hunger, and about the kids growing up in the favelas. And, of the incredible need to win in order to buy food, to pay for basic necessities like shelter for families, while the rest of the tour are more worried about buying beers, haircuts and their dental work, resulting in a boring, dogmatic rictus of work ethic from the Brazilian contingent. And yes, that is wildly exaggerated.

Dave Prodan, VP of communications for the World Surf League, believes that there is a lot more at play.

“We must remember that Brazil has been a player on the international stage since the sport’s inception in 1976,” Mr Prodan tells Stab. “While the country has produced a number of world-class surfers throughout the years, it is Brazil’s commitment to their development programs (specifically the Junior and QS tiers) over the past two decades that has certainly contributed to the current crop of their countrymen on tour today.”

This is combined with the unrivalled fan base that will always push athletes to perform better. “The fan base has always been significant in Brazil,” agrees Dave. “The barrier-breaking performances of Gabriel Medina, Adriano de Souza, Filipe Toledo and others in recent years has only served to further excite and expand this group.”

Filipe, en route to Gold Coast victory. The kid is of a nation that, when it comes to sport, can't stop, and won't stop.

Filipe, en route to Gold Coast victory. The kid is of a nation that, when it comes to sport, can’t stop, and won’t stop.

So it’s all about their development programs and a solid fan base? Those are both factors that can be applied to any surf nation around the world. Maybe Brazil is just doing it better?

Still, with Brazil dominating the sport to such an extent right now, what could it all mean? Is Brazil going to take over the World Surf League, and is the WSL intent on advancing as much into this territory as possible? What are the financial implications of possible Brazilian investment paying a large portion of the broadcast and media bills? Will we slowly start seeing a Brazilian slant to everything emanating from the WSL?

In 2015 we had the Oi Rio Pro. Oi, in case you’re unaware, was at one stage the largest telecommunications company in Brazil in terms of subscribers and revenue. Being the biggest doesn’t mean the best, however. According to Bloomberg data published in November 2015, Oi reported a net loss of $265m for the third quarter of 2015 and according to the WSL site they’re no longer listed as an even sponsor in 2016.

How can you not applaud determination in such a pure form? Photo: WSL/Cestari

How can you not applaud determination in such a pure form? Photo: WSL/Cestari

On the other hand we have Globosat, a multichannel cable and satellite TV service in Brazil. With 29 channels (including six adult channels) and over 1000 employees, it’s a very healthy partner for the WSL. According to a press release the deal will bring a surfing feed to 50 million Brazilian viewers.

“We don’t discuss the details of these partnerships,” said Prodan of the Brazilian deals.

On paper it looks like Brazil is set to charge forth and conquer the open spaces left by the defeat of the Australian and American stranglehold on the sport of pro surfing. One has to ask, does the WSL feel any threat that the Brazilian contingent could disillusion the Australia/USA Pro Surfing business hierarchy?

Prodan believes the contrary.

“No. If anything, I think the rise of Brazil as the dominant surfing nation on the planet should only serve to motivate surfers from Australia and America into working towards reclaiming their place atop the surfing stage. This should also motivate surfers in South Africa, Japan, Europe, etc. into believing that anything is possible.”

How true. Anything is possible! Just ask Adriano.

Fact: 99 percent of those who look at this photo will never experience the sheer ecstasy and satisfaction felt by the subject in the image. Photo: WSL/Kirstin

Fact: 99 percent of those who look at this photo will never experience the sheer ecstasy and satisfaction felt by the subject in the image. Photo: WSL/Kirstin

Writing this article got me thinking that maybe it’s time to apply for a job at the incredible World Surf League. They are obviously a great company, doing a tremendous job of turning the sport around, and Mr. Prodan, for one, is always beaming about what an amazing bunch of people they are and what great things they do. It’s sounds like a wonderful place to work.

So, I decided to look for a job that might be suitable for an immature surf writer with a minimalistic background in formal education, like maybe something in Social Media.

I came across this job for a Social Media Coordinator for the World Surf League.

It looked great. I had the necessary skills!

Actually, I had all the necessary skills, except for one.

‘Must be fluent in Portuguese.’

And there you have it.

Welcome to our stunning new reality! Rio, 2015. Photo: WSL/Salem

Welcome to our stunning new reality! Rio, 2015. Photo: WSL/Salem

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