Italo Ferreira is your new favourite rookie! Come meet!
Words by Elliot Struck | Photos by Aires Nicolay His trip to Coolangatta in February, rolling into March, was the second time Italo Ferreira had been to Australia’s Gold Coast. And he was there to compete at the highest possible level of professional surfing! Even more excellent than that, his first time on the Gold […]
Words by Elliot Struck | Photos by Aires Nicolay
His trip to Coolangatta in February, rolling into March, was the second time Italo Ferreira had been to Australia’s Gold Coast. And he was there to compete at the highest possible level of professional surfing! Even more excellent than that, his first time on the Gold Coast was spent studying English, because to be Brazilian and to speak Portuguese is not enough in such an English-speaking sport as surfing in 2015. You must be proficient enough to get through those post-heat interviews in a newly-learned language. But a little part of me hopes that Italo doesn’t get too good at English, too quick. Because right now, his innocent charm and friendliness suits his inability to easily communicate with mildly overweight, English speaking persons who sometimes do journalism and have never bothered to learn a second language, least of all Portuguese. Sue me!
Italo’s been speaking English for one year. And extra dialects are a slow burn. But I believe his strategy is full-proof: “I’ve been watching movies to train my English,” he says. “I watch in English, but with Portuguese subtitles. I’ve been watching Ninja Turtles! That’s my movie!”
And what a movie to learn from. The mutated, anthropomorphic turtles who jam on martial arts and get their kicks skateboarding. Italo kinda skates, too – but he does it in the water. Watching him throw down in the expression session at the Quiksilver Pro, despite the waves being one foot, was wildly impressive. Shuvs, inverted finners, air-reverses, speed over the flattest sections… Italo knows how to jib. But there’s a reason why he’s so handy on running right sand-bottom points. It’s because the wave he grew up surfing, in the city of Baía Formosa (a little 8k-pop cluster in the north-eastern state of Rio Grande do Norte), is Brazil’s version of Snapper.
“I love the right, Snapper, it’s just so similar to my homebreak,” says Italo. “It’s like a sandy point, with a perfect running right that feels identical to Snapper. That’s why this is one of the contests I was most looking forward to on the world tour. I prefer surfing on my backhand for that reason too. I’m feeling really good on my backhand. I like the manoeuvres I have on my backhand.”
Yeah, it’s a little wave, but having something so tech, so dialled, is correct.
While Italo worked his way onto the WCT rather subtly, he’s already made a lot of noise. At the Quik Pro he made it to round five, taking down Kelly Slater on the way. This is the part where you say things about the swell size, but… ask anyone on tour and they’ll tell you a win is a win. And a win against most surfers on tour is nothing to laugh at. “The most exciting thing about being the world tour, for me, is the surfers on it,” says Italo. “Even more than the waves, it’s the guys I get to compete against. Mick is the best. I love fast surfing more than anything else, and Mick is the fastest.”
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of fast-paced surfing going on at Snapper for the majority of the Quik Pro waiting period. “My first World Tour event and there’s no waves!” laughed Italo at the time. And when there’s no waves… “On my lay days I’ve just been training on the beach, surfing the Internet, eating at Sushi Train…”
Though, there’s more to keeping sane in the slumps than sushi. Italo trains at a sports institute in Brazil, where he practices not only physical training, but the psychological gear, too. “Everything you need to keep your mind and body in tune,” he enlightens. “A big part of the psychological training is about focusing the mind, and finding a balance between intensely focussing and then being able to relax a little.” Which, really, is crucial during waiting periods.
So where can you expect Italo to shine this year? “Lowers is another spot I can’t wait for,” he says. “And also Fiji. And Pipe! That is a dream. Do I like big waves? So-so. I definitely need to put more focus on surfing bigger waves. I’m not really nervous or scared about any of the events, just really excited.”
And, well-channeled excitement? We all know how sharp a weapon that can be.
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