How One Man Grew To Dislike The Most Likable Surfer On Tour
“A relentless and effective Snapper Enemy has been known to drive a man to madness, occasionally permanent.”
I can’t be the only person that can’t stand Italo Ferreira, right?
Maybe it’s his stance that irks you; could be the claims.
His propensity for going to the sky, preferring instead a Mick Lowe approach to backside surfing?
Perhaps you’re a rabid nationalist refusing to acknowledge the plucky Brazilian’s obvious prowess in almost all conditions, apparent humility, and the excitement that he brings to a WSL season suffering so far from slack-John-itis, no-Cloudbreak-arrhea, and the particular dementia associated with not knowing whether we froth on, or a bored by, wavepool events.
Whatever it is, if you don’t like him, you’re in the minority.
Italo Ferreira is the goddamn Golden Child, bringing together the tribes like almost nobody before him.
I’ve witnessed blokes in Mick Fanning bottle-top dog-poo smear thongs and Bintang singlets sing Italo’s praises, albeit grudgingly; I’m sure that even “America first”, Trump sucking flag fuckers would acknowledge that, Yes, he does surf well, if only for a Brazilian.
But fuck it, I don’t like him, and it all stems from my first ever encounter with the most thoroughly mustachioed world number one surfing’s had in living memory.
The year was 2015. I was down at Snapper Rocks to cover the inaugural event of the season. That morning, I was feeling sprightlier than usual and instead of rolling into the media room halfway through the first round, I was there with a couple hours to spare.
I remembered some advice I’d received and ignored from Nick Carroll, that real surf journalists prowled the lineup before the event, seeing who was in form, out of sorts and appraising the conditions. But I’d never done it before. Due to hangovers or… yeah, hangovers. But on this particular day, I paddled out.
If you’ve ever surfed Snapper, you know about the Snapper Enemy – the accursed stranger who always finds themself on your inside whenever you think a wave is coming your way, a magical bastard who can seemingly teleport from the last wave they pilfered from you, immediately back on your inside for the next one.
Sure, your Snapper Enemy means you no harm—they just want every single goddamn wave that comes through (as do you). It’s just that whether through luck, synchronization, or superior positioning, the Snapper Enemy is, frustratingly, way better at the game. A relentless and effective Snapper Enemy has been known to drive a man to madness, occasionally permanent.
I figured a Snapper Enemy wouldn’t be an issue this particular morning. I wasn’t vying for sets, just kind of cruising the inside, eavesdropping, waiting for the top predators to kick out so that I might ravash the carrion.
All the pros—and spunky locals who could be bothered hustling around with them—were sitting behind the rock. There was a sort of deep, flat spot, which was where I was with a few others, and further down the line the SUPers, goat boaters, Malibu dads and the rest of the Barney Brigade.
From where I was, I could see the rides I needed to see, admire surfers’ haunches as they paddled back past me, and maybe snag a few for myself.
A pretty damn admirable morning in the office, I thought.
Or it would have been, but this particular morning it became apparent that it wasn’t just me scooping up scraps, as I was joined by a live-wire stocky little surfer I’d never seen before, paddling around me like a lunatic every time he’d get a sniff of a wave.
I had no idea who he was. The Oakley sticker on his beak didn’t give him away and he wasn’t talking to anybody, so I couldn’t racially profile him (but I had my theories, lol).
The little sparkplug was just Always. Fucken. There. Smiling on my inside whenever a wave passed by the outside pack, flying down the line before I could even consider burning him. Over the course of an hour he hustled and swooped on innumerable waves that had my name on them, effectively giving me a Toledo at Teahupoo wave tally.
I went in dejected, the little man’s grinning visage burnt into the very large part of my brain reserved for grudges.
I know you know where this is going. But let me clarify something here. I’m of the opinion that before an event, surfers should be given space to sound-out the bank, feel their feet in the wax, lubricate the leg-rope string – whatever platitude we want to throw at it. Let the bastards practice.
If it was M. Fanning, G. Medina, S. Fitz or C. Ho snaking me, I’d be ok verging on content with it, but this guy with his Oakley sticker, who was he? Obviously blinded by nationalism I hadn’t done my due diligence in researching in researching 2015’s non-Australian rookies, otherwise the young man’s more than passing resemblance to everybody’s favourite pixelated plumber would have put a name to the wave hogging and I’d have been OK with his understandable froth.
As it was though, I had no idea who this surfer was. As he walked down the stairs for his first heat, I realised that my Snapper Enemy was none other than 2015 rookie Italo Ferreira.
But my stewing dismay for the man had reached the point of no cutback. When he paddled out for that first heat, I made wagers around the media room that this Italian car-sounding upstart would Basnett his maiden season and not make it out of a heat.
Mark my words, I proclaimed—with unreasonable venom only attributable to a man who’s had many, many Snapper insiders snatched from his clutches—this Italo punk is nothing more than second-round fodder, and will be out of sight, mind, and pre-contest lineups before we knew it.
Of course, like usual, I was monumentally incorrect.
Italo went on to place ninth in that event and 7th overall that year, snagging himself 2015 Rookie of the Year honours.
I inquired around contests, but found no corroboration that he’s was a snake.
All reports returned that he was a happy and friendly guy who may fall victim to a little bit of over froth, both in heats, and I guess, pre-contest warmups.
He’s tight friends with many surfers on tour and seems to compete in a cocky, yet respectful manner.
He’s one of my favourite surfers to watch, his unpredictability and surefootedness offering a delicious antidote to a tour marred by allegations of safe surfing.
He would make for a heroic World Title winner, given his meteoric rise from relative obscurity outside of Brazil.
But I still don’t like him.
I can’t shake the mental scars from that day, can’t shake the image of Italo Ferreira sleight of handing his way into every damn wave I wanted.
It’s an irrational grudge, but it’s one I hold, branded into whatever part of my lizard brain refuses to forgive minor transgressions.
I wish him all the best, I hope that he continues his streak of success. I wholly and honestly enjoy watching his heats, but the mothersucker stole what was kind-of rightfully mine. Repeatedly. And before I knew that he kind-of had the right to do so.
He’s the surfer I love and hate. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to let the latter go, but I don’t know if it’ll be any day soon.
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