Stab Magazine | The Stab (Surfer of the Year) Interview: Italo Ferreira
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The Stab (Surfer of the Year) Interview: Italo Ferreira

“…even on a shitty day I’ll go out and do some big airs. To me, it’s all about having fun. I love surfing more than anything, even in bad conditions.” 

style // Jan 26, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 7 minutes

According to the WSL, Italo Ferreira was fourth best surfer in the world in 2018. 

According to 50 of the most prominent figures in the sport, Italo Ferreira was the most impactful surfer of 2018. 

That’s what winning the Stab Surfer of the Year means – you’ve captured the attention of the world’s best surfers. For Italo Ferreira, the 24 year old goofy-foot from Baia Formosa, Brazil, that would have been a pipe dream no more than five years ago. 

While media darlings John John Florence, Julian Wilson, and Kolohe Andino grew up in surfing’s Ameripodean limelight, and even Brazilian phenoms Gabe Medina and Filipe Toledo saw a glimmer of attention from the mainstream public, Italo Ferreira was hacking away at a righthand point in Brazil’s far north, never seeing a second of media attention nor recognizing his true potential to compete against the world’s best. 

But with support from surfers like Jadson Andre, who helped get Italo sponsored and mentored him on the QS, the Italian Ferrari blitzed the lower circuit and entered the CT at the ripe age of 21, hardly anybody in the surfing world having heard his name. 

Italo Ferreira won Rookie of the year in 2015, surprising not only the wider surfing public but also, perhaps, himself.

After a minor sophomore slump and an injury-ridden third year on Tour, Italo came into the 2018 season ready for blood. 

He won the second event of the season and then two more after it, putting on the kind of performances that allowed viewers to see the future of the sport: fast, powerful, and extremely progressive surfing.

Perhaps explosive would best describe Italo’s approach on a wave. 

Those performances at Bells, Keramas, and Portugal, on top of the absurd surfing clips that landed on IG in the interim, propelled Italo to the top of his peers’ mental rolodexes when it came to naming the most impactful surfer of the year. 

That’s why we had Steve Allain, longtime friend of Stab and founder of Moist in Brazil, interview the 2018 Stab Surfer of The Year in his native Portuguese and then translate it to English.

Scroll though to hear Italo’s unsullied thoughts on surfing in 2018 and beyond. 

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Photography

The champ! Photo: WSL

What was it like, reading people’s thoughts about your surfing this year as the Stab Surfer of the Year voting came in? 

I was surprised, even though I had some good results last year. I’d been following the votes the previous week and I was in fifth up until the final stretch.

For me, the coolest thing about this was to read the comments of the other surfers. I was so stoked to read their opinions, it was much more of a reward for me then winning the poll, actually.

 

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Here’s JOB on your approach: “There’s only a select few people in the world, and they can do it in any conditions. If Pipeline’s two-foot, he’s doing 10-foot full rotations. If it’s 10-foot he’s getting blown out of barrels, then doing full rotations. It’s just like fuck.” Who inspired you to take that approach? Where does that wreckless abandon and commitment come from?

Jamie‘s comment was, to me, by far the best one. I admire him so much, especially in serious waves. He’s one of the best at Pipe, no doubt. I’m always watching where he sits and where he positions himself. When I read what he said, I was so stoked that I sent the link to all my friends: “check out what Jamie-O said about me!”

That approach is something that has always been part of my surfing. I’m always trying to improve and to impress people with my surfing. My best results last year happened when I was able to translate that approach, almost like a freesurfing approach, to competition. Reading all the comments and feedback only motivates me to keep going in that direction.

How competitive are you, Gabby, and Filipe with each other? The three of you seem to be the tip of the spear as far as Brazil’s next ten years of domination. How much of that is the three of you pushing each other?

Competing against Filipe and Gabby is great. We’re always pushing each other, not only in competition, but in everyday life too. We’re always connected. At least on my part, I’m always checking what they’re doing on social media, if they are training or surfing or whatever. And that obviously motivates me to train more and surf better.

I mean, these guys are my friends but also my idols, you know? But, in competition, gloves are off. Naturally sparks are going to fly when we compete, ‘cause we all want to do our best.

I feel very comfortable going against them, and I like competing against them. I know I have to bring my A Game and they’re always pushing me to do so. I know they’re going to bring it against me, and that’s great for surfing—it only elevates the level of performance. As an athlete, I’m honored to compete against those guys and have them as inspiration.

 

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You seem to win a lot of fans in Hawaii. We’re always getting texts when you paddle out at Off the Wall and turn that place into a skatepark. What’s it like spending that time there, just sending it all winter out front of your house? 

These last few seasons in Hawaii have been great for me.

Staying right in front of OTW is the best, because I’m always checking conditions. Sometimes there’s no one out and it’s windy and wobbly, but I’ll still paddle out. I grew up in conditions like that, I’m used to it. And I have so much fun doing big airs in shitty waves.

Sometimes I’ll paddle out when there’s no one in the water and 10 minutes later people start showing up. And they’re like “I can’t believe what you’re doing in these conditions, you’re making it look easy, but the waves are shit”. I think photographers love me, because even on a shitty day I’ll go out and do some big airs. To me, it’s all about having fun. I love surfing more than anything, even in bad conditions.

 

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You’re a fierce as fuck competitor, but you’re also nearly universally well-liked by your tour mates. Hell, you won over people while beating Mick at fuckin Bells. Why do you think people have a different opinion of you than some of your fellow cutthroat Brazilians?

 One of the great things about our sport is that you can surf against someone in their home country and people will still cheer for you and follow you on social media and try to get to know you better. I think that’s wonderful and pretty unique to surfing. I try to carry this positive energy into competition and everything I do.

 I like to see people stoked on my surfing, I like when I hear people saying “that kid is focused and he rips.” I feed off this energy from the fans, it’s something that makes me incredibly happy.

 Against Mick, in particular, that’s kind of what happened. I look up to him so much and I knew it was his last event as full-time competitor. But on the other hand, I really, really wanted to win. I think the crowd saw that and they were stoked for me, even though Mick didn’t win.

 You got a good woman? Family, etc.? What does your domestic life look like when you’re home?

Yes, I have a girlfriend. But I’m not thinking about marriage at the moment. I have a long career ahead of me and I’m still pretty young. I think you have to live life a little and I believe marriage can be a bit restrictive (laughs). Nothing against married people, I wish them all the happiness in the world (laughs). But right now, I’m very happy where I’m at. I have a great girlfriend and the life I’ve always strived for.

I worked really hard to get here, but I’m very thankful for everything I have. And this is just the beginning, I know I have so much ahead of me.

At home, I like to keep myself busy, doing lots of things all the time: surfing, fishing, training, hanging out with my friends and producing material for social media.

How have you been spending the off-season? Filming trips? Staying low key and enjoying being home in Brazil?

Surfing 2 to 3 times a day or hitting the gym 2 to 3 times a day. I have a clear objective and I believe the off-season is the time to prepare, to get my body healthy and in shape and prepare mentally for the year ahead. So I love being here in Baía Formosa, training, surfing and getting re-energized. Last year I did the exact same thing and it worked out well for me.

Who’s going to be the guy to beat this year, if you’re going to get that World Title we all know you’ve got it in ya? 

Good question. There are so many good guys on Tour right now. To me, momentum has a lot to do with good results. The truth is that everyone on Tour rips, it’s the small details that make a champion.

To me, any of the Top 10 guys are a threat. It’s hard to point out one or two. Ask me the same question in six months time and I’ll have an easier time telling you who the favorite is (laughs). But Filipe, Jordy and Julian always start strong.

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You’ve got some serious momentum, number 4 in the world in 2018, winning Surfer of the Year, what’s next for Ítalo? 

What comes next? I don’t even know. What I know is that I’m working hard every single day, thinking nonstop on my main objective, which is the World Title. I hope God has good plans for me. But regardless, I’m making the best of what I have and that’s making me a better person.

I’m surrounded by great people who want to see me do good. I hope one day I can reach my goals. I know I got to do my part and just go for it as hard as I can, the rest is in God’s hands.

 

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