Brad Flora Is Killing Himself To Live
Meet the grimey young Maryland marauder hiding out in Portugal!
The cobblestone streets of Ericeira are bustling, the afternoon warm, clear blue skies and crisp offshores blowing stiffly, as US East Coaster Brad Flora is fielding reports from all over the area, texts coming in from the little network of locals here who’ve adopted the crusty young punker as their own.
Jawbreaker’s “Accident Prone” blasts from the ancient hatchback’s tinny speakers as we make our way through the narrow one-ways, the chorus describing perfectly Flora’s knack for breaking himself skating bowls or sending it at ledge-y, hollow rock slabs nearby. Two years ago, he broke his ankle, then six months later the fucking kid broke both arms.
I’ll just go fast into this night on broken legs…
I keep a room at the hospital
I scratch my accidents into the wall.
After a three-hour session at a pumping rock point nearby, Brad’s dragged us into Ericeira’s maze of one-way streets in search of Prego’s—the closest Portuguese take on the US Mid-Atlantic’s cheesesteak—and some cold Sagres, before we strike out for an afternoon session at another sneaky little high tide reef nearby.
Kid’s got his priorities straight.
Flairing out in Oceanside.
Over the last few years, Brad’s worked odd jobs: manual labor, surf lessons, etc. He’s done more plumbing than he cares to admit. Be he’s saved his shekels and lit out every chance he’s had, for long-term locales where he can post up and surf as much as possible. I ask if he worries he’s missing out on college, career, etc., how his parents feel about him just making ends meet to stay on the travel program.
“I honestly never really wanted to go to college,” Brad tells me. “I love my parents—Tracey and Gary—to death! Neither of them surf but they have always been surf-stoked. My dad was an OG tight-end on his high school football team—all of his homies still call him “Hands” [laughs]—and my mom was quite the heartbreaker from what I understand. My parents have always been supportive, loved hanging on the beach especially when I was younger doing the local comps and shit.”
“I started losing friends really young, to just stupid shit, drunk driving. So when I turned 18, I knew, I just had to get out of here. I finished high school online, did a 4-star comp in Puerto Rico, and then just bailed.” Flora, enjoying some distance from home, in Oceanside.
The last few years, Flora’s found himself staying longer and longer here, in his European second home.
After graduating high school and bouncing between California and Maryland, Brad looked around and realized if he didn’t get out, he’d find himself in the same rut so many small towners get stuck in.
“When I go home, it’s just the same kids, doing the same shit,” Flora tells me over his second prego. We’re joined by photographer and fellow East Coast transplant Seth De Roulet, who has been on a long-term family road trip from Northern France through Southern Portugal, as well as Portuguese filmer Nuno Miguel, who links up with Brad as often as he can.
“Just the same kids I grew up with, a lot of them are troublemakers, and they’re bored to death. I started losing friends really young, to just stupid shit, drunk driving. So when I turned 18, I knew, I just had to get out of here. I finished high school online, did a 4-star comp in Puerto Rico, and then just bailed.”
Slotted at Supertubos.
I ask him the question any anxious young expat on a budget dreads: what would it mean for you to have to move home for good, pack it in, Grow Up, etc.
“I moved back for a while and did some manual labor,” Brad tells me. “It was summertime, it was flat, and I was tripping, being back in Maryland.
I bailed again for California, was working at the Rip Curl shop, just living in Cardiff. And that sucked. So I worked as a plumber at home when I needed to, saving up to just keep doing the damn thing. I love surfing and traveling, and cinematography/photography, so for me it’s really amazing to be able to look back on the times I’ve had, the places I’ve visited, and all that good stuff. It’d be sick to be able to keep traveling and mixing it up with the top guys, and having fun doing it because that’s what it’s all about.
But I never really felt like I missed out on anything, honestly, because I’ve always just wanted to surf, and surfing has always given me so much, and helped me grow. When I started surfing alone, in the winter at home, when it was big and really cold and not a person around for miles, that was when I became more confident in my own Self. Not just surfing, but in life. Like, if I got fucked up or in a tight spot traveling, or something I can handle it.”
His most recent incident requiring Self Reliance occurred during the Rip Curl Pro Portugal, not at Supertubos in a singlet, but an hour south, at Cave. Brad was no stranger to the mutant rock shelf that’s taken more than its fair share of scalps since Tiago Pires pioneered it a decade or so ago, but he’d never seen it that big and perfect. With Albee Layer, Torrey Meister, and Nic Von Rupp amping for the session, Brad paddled out, happy for the opportunity to punch above his weight. While Cave sent Flora packing, hyperextending his knee on his third wave of the session, he left an impression on everyone in the water with him.
“It doesn’t matter if it means sleeping on the floor for a month traveling or showing up at a maxing slab, undergunned, feeling like a complete idiot, and getting smoked while trying to get in the mix with some of the best guys in the world—that’s what gets me stoked,” Brad says, as we finish our beers and contemplate espressos, a few thousand miles from home.
“That’s when I feel the most normal.”
Cave ain’t no Maryland crab cake. Flora gunning it at Portugal’s premiere scalp-taker, perhaps the most dangerous wave in the Atlantic.
Seth De Roulet
“It doesn’t matter if it means sleeping on the floor for a month traveling or showing up at a maxing slab, undergunned, feeling like a complete idiot, and getting smoked while trying to get in the mix with some of the best guys in the world. That’s what gets me stoked. That’s when I feel the most normal.”
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