When I was 11 years old, at school, my teacher asked the students to choose a subject for a presentation. It should be something that inspired us. Anything at all. My choice was clear: I chose ''Brésil". In this presentation, as a football fan, I of course talked about the "auriverde". But I also talked about Brasilia and its airplane shaped city, the corcovado, the Amazonia and the land's vast coffee production. If I had to do it again,I would choose the exact same subject. However, today, I would mention a thing or two about the Brazilian beach breaks and its people.
It's the 11th of October and I am landing in Sao Paulo. My eyes cannot believe how big the largest city in Brasil is. It seems like an infinite desert of construction. As soon as the airplane wheels kissed the tarmac, I received a text message from Alexandre with very specific instructions about the driver who would be picking me up. I should be looking for a woman named Valeria who would be wearing a bright yellow dress holding a sign saying: Tom Le Mong. He always gets my name wrong.
I exit the arrival area of Sao Paulo International Airport not only with my own bag but also with three other bags and a baby stroller from a single mother whom I had just met and was in need of help. Here I am, looking for Valeria, pushing a baby and these huge bags and the first person I see in the crowd is Alexandre who decided to surprise me.
I say YES, but he seems confused and I can see he is thinking about running away as he sees me pushing a baby around the airport. It had been seven years since we had seen each other. Last time was in Denmark, where we used to work together. I was teaching surfing and he was making coffee at our friend's coffee-surf shop.
The 2 hour drive from Sao Paulo city to the north coast of the state went by quickly as we had so much to catch up about. So many things had happened but nothing had changed, really. Soon enough we arrived at Maresias where I finally met Fabi and Coffee-boy (Alex's loves).
So 4:30 AM comes around and I'm doing my first surf check with the help of the jetlag. Okay, it only took me a 30 sec walk between my bed and the ocean gate. That's my personal record. Maresias is a small town with a 5km long beach, famous for its good beach break waves, surrounded by cute mountains. This would be my residence for the next 3 weeks.
Even though at this time of the year there are still plenty of south swells reaching that coast, at the end I didn't get the pumping barrels Maresias is known for. Nonetheless we got to surf very fun waves almost everyday around the neighboring beaches.
At some point of the trip Alex introduced me to his childhood friend Fransisco, a.k.a "Titcho". We immediately connected and within 5 minutes this guy was already one of my best friends. During the game night that followed, after a few gin-tonics, Alex and Titcho decided that with the arrival of the east winds it was time to adventure out of Maresias to a secret surf spot in one of the nearby islands.
Getting there was a mission in itself. After an hour's drive we jumped into a fast boat piloted by a young local guy called Michael. Michel is a maniac. He didn't care about the rising swell and strong winds. He just thrusted that little boat to its full potential, reaching speeds of above 25 knots against the changing weather.
At some point we finally arrived at a little bay that hugs a beautiful beach, which name I will keep for us. This place has no supermarkets, no shops, no phone signal and the only other way to get there is a 5 hour hike adventure through the rain forest. Luckly, Titchos' family owns a small and cozy old fisherman's house on the beach with everything you need: a bed, a fridge and a coffee machine.
Right after we settled in, the boys took me to a waterfall to shake off the intense ride and we got to enjoy some true unspoiled nature, just the way I like it. On the way back, I realized that I was being followed by mosquitos. The situation was abnormal. I was almost being carried back home by the hungry little fuckers. The guys had only then told me about that small mosquito detail. And that explains why the local people are all wearing pants and socks at the beach. Thanks guys! I was there barefoot and wearing only my boardshort. After dutifully providing some of my french blood to the local fauna we went surfing. The waves weren't that good on that fist session, but it was a great opportunity to escape the mosquitos and get the hang of that wave.
The day after we woke up early with the swell starting to properly fill in. The winds soon turned offshore and we got this place as good as it gets. Now I understood what they had been talking about. What makes this wave great is the fact that the swell hits a deep wall and, as it reverberates off the wall, it meets the next swell creating a beautiful wedge situation. We surfed the whole day trading green triangular shaped waves with a few guys out. I felt right at home and decided to stay a few more days until the mosquitos won the battle and sent me back to Maresias. By that time I had gotten so many bites that my body got sick, I cried and had to go see a doctor.
FERNANDO DE NORONHA
Two months before landing in Brazil Alex said: “if there is a swell at the beginning of November we might go to Noronha.” So one week before I was supposed to go back to France he told me: ''Tom, it's happening. Change your tickets”. Okay, I admit my brain was so ready for baguettes and croissants but I knew the reputation this place has and I knew I might not ever have another chance to go there. One life, let's go. Two days later Alex, Titcho and I were heading to the airport with a backpack each and a few boards.
Fernando De Noronha is a small chain of islands located about 200 miles off the Northeast coast of Brazil. It's basically a small piece of land in the middle of the 2nd largest Ocean of the world. The airport landtrack is sick! From the airplane you can see the rocks “Pedra dos Dois Irmãos” contrasting with the yellow sand beach of Cacimba do Padre and the deep blue ocean behind it. What a view!
As soon as we left the airport, Alex had another surprise for us. To get around the island he made a reservation for a buggy - a local flintstones-esk type of car people drive around over there. The surprise was not the car, which is pretty cool in itself, but its bright pink color. THIS? I looove!
Alex is a partner of a restaurant at the island called Benedita and he has two hometown friends - Vinicius and Alan - who now live in Noronha and work at the restaurant. Every morning, as we left the main village and headed to the beach we picked up Vini and Alan in our pink buggy to go surf with us. They were pretty stoked on that because normally they have to hitch-hike. Even though the promised swell didn't arrive as expected we surfed all day, every day. On the few times we opted not to surf, Vini and Alan were kind enough to show us around all the good spots to dive and rock climb.
The crazy part of that wave is that at this time of the year there are sharks swimming in the white water. I saw one swimming under my feet and was like: "well okay". I also remember when I was sitting on my board waiting for waves and Alex was ready to go for a swim when a shark made a big splash between us. The normal reaction would be to freak out and head up to the threes, but no not here. The locals don't care about the sharks, they are like honey badgers. "They don't bite'' said this 12 year old local kid to Alex. At the end we got used to the sharks as well and I ended up surfing so much that late one night I cried on my bed once again because of the big rashes I got from the boardshorts.
After 5 days in that paradise it was time to go back to reality. We all had to go back to work and honestly I missed my wetsuit.
Until next time, Brésil!
Thanks for reading.
- Tom Le Moing.