Over 150 miles of coastline run through Brazil’s second largest city — Rio de Janeiro radiates culture, footy, samba and a talented line-up.
The City of Gods splits into four zones: Zona Sul, home to Rocinha, Vidigal, and tens of other favelas that hold hands with the fanciest square meters in Rio. White-sand beaches, morros, high-end hotels and daylight homelessness living in the background of iconic postcards of the Redeemer, Ipanema and Arpoador. Up north, Zona Norte portrays a slightly different scene: an area of high population density and economic deprivation, but home to many flourishing, culture-rich, diverse and resilient communities. After paying my sightseeing dues at the historic Centro do Rio and living the trance of Carnival, I acknowledged my urge to slow down and follow en route to Zona Oeste.
It was mid-Summer January, 40 degrees and light off-shore winds — the surf report would remain waist-high for weeks enticing divergence amongst the locals. December to mid-March are times of gliding galore: endlessly running peelers, bath-warm sea temperature and light off-shores. The line-up is packed by half-six in the morning, Brazilian backwash is real, and there is never a quiet one; locals take pride in a good in-between-sets chat, and they can sometimes be louder than you’d want. The crowd in Macumba is rather eclectic, from shore break devotees, allured big wave riders, performance longboarders, loggers, skimboarders, and the rare sight of a mid-single-fin guy. Amongst the dominant shortboard culture, there has been a prominent rise in hotdogging over the last few years. Many performance longboard competitors have surrendered to the enchants of logging, and some shapers have gone back to the meticulous craft of hand-shaping logs and other surf oddnesses. Two of those fine names are Caio Teixeira Surfboards and Jaum Surfboards, who have thrived in the surfboard industry in Rio and Brazil for their beautifully refined surf crafts.
After a few morning surfs and a continuous exchange of bom dias, I was granted a temporary spot in the line-up, which with time became a rather homely place to be. The community is welcoming and warm, and amid the crowd, I was lucky to meet a couple of talented characters who have been in the spotlight of Brazilian longboard surfing for years. One of those names is Ayllar Cinti, a 26-year-old born and bred Recreio local, professional surfer with a loving personality. Ayllar stumbled upon surfing when she was 10 years old and began competing at 15. Since then, she gained the support of many Brazilian sponsors and has also established her own longboard-focused surf experiences in the northeast of Brazil — Saikesurf. Ayllar’s surf is vivid, loud and ever-pushing boundaries,- it is graceful yet aggressive.
Some other high-class local personalities that constantly levitate over the waters of Macumba and brighten the line-up are Jasmim Avelino, Caio Teixeira, WSL Champ Chloe Calmon, João Medina, Evelin Neves, Yam Wisman, Franco Bota, the junior Henry Ciamaroni, Rayane Amaral, and Duarte Emmanuel amidst many other faces I was fortunate to contemplate such showcases of effortlessness and grace on those many days of Summer. Praia da Macumba will host this year’s Vans Duct Tape, the first ever in Brazil. It is a rather green flag of acknowledgement of the abundance of talent at the local, and will certainly put the international spotlight of sponsorship and interest in the pipeline. Unfortunately, the latter is a shared reality between many Brazilian surf athletes who lack sponsorship opportunities and struggle to afford their continuous participation in key events.
My time in Cidade Maravilhosa came to an end after three beautiful months of pristine surf, many pounds of açaí consumed and a proud Brazilian tan to come home with. Quiver-wise, I brought my BOS Midnight Express 9’3’’ which served me exceptionally well, although it would have been wise to add a shorter board to the mix had I stayed to enjoy the Winter swells soon due. During these months, I lodged at Longboard Paradise Hostel which offers some excellent facilities with prime access to one the best peaks in Macumba, surfboard storage available to guests, affordable room rates and an overall incredible atmosphere. Small Riders was stage for many well-spent nights, delicious Brazilian food, boogies and surf shorties premieres — they also feature a showroom of logs by local shaper Jaum Surfboards, yoga classes and a contemporary co-working space.
Rio embraced me like home — they know how to do so rather well — and I shall soon return.