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Beach Grit

Candid: All my friends are racist!

Ali Klinkenberg

by Ali Klinkenberg

A world champ from Brazil? Say it ain't so, scream white devils!

Just like the annual anti-climax of Xmas and New Years, Gabby’s triumph has come and gone. Our brother from the land of the rumba showed composure most men three times his age will never manage to muster. My heart soared!

But the alarming majority of my acquaintances grumbled. This ain’t no redneck country town either. This is Bondi Beach, world famous. Metropolitan, cosmopolitan. Or maybe we’re just as dang prejudiced as the rest. As the streamers settle on Gabriel’s carnival we have to ask ourselves: Why is the majority of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (W.A.S.P!) surfing community so reluctant to accept our delightful chocolate-skinned world champ?

“He’s got a bad style.”

Style is the numero uno criticism that gets rained upon the Brazilians. Sure Gabs doesn’t surf like Parko. But no one surfs like Parko! How long can our racism hide behind this falsity? There’s nothing wrong with Gabby’s technique, not one bit. Adriano, sure there’s an issue. Gabby’s no “Giraffe on rollerskates.” Lumping all the Brazilians in together and say they surf without style is a dumb generalisation. The new breed: Gabs, Miggy, Felipe, have all got unique and aesthetically pleasing elements to their surfing.

“Brazilian’s hassle.”

Give the boys a break; they’ve been fighting for every meal since day one! Who can blame them? The majority of them grow up in crowded metropolises and have to scrounge for waves, that’s just how it is. Moreover, my experience suggests that the pro’s from Latin America’s largest country are some of the most courteous in the biz.

Story time:

I was surfing fun three-foot Sanur, an east coast righthander in Bali. The lineup consisted of a Swiss Family Robinson-style Aussie mob of six, myself (British), and two Brazilian pro’s. The younger of the two was hanging on the inside, catching scraps and doing punts. The elder was sitting way out, sensei style, waiting for the five-foot bomb that’d come through every 20 minutes.

When the bomb arrived he’d stroke in and set off a procession of the most technically sound backhand hooks you could hope to see. All was going swimmingly until three of the local indo hoodlums sauntered out (at the same time, of course.) They were that strange breed of sponsored local Indos who have a hugely inflated opinion of their meagre ability.

Sensei Santos was burnt on three waves in a row straight off the bat. Every time he paddled to the peak without a word, despite being the best surfer in the water by a nautical mile. The fourth time it happened he threw his hands up in the air in frustration,


That was all the rabid threesome needed. They swarmed him, one grabbing him from behind in a headlock, and the other two landing blows on his face and chest.

“I’ve been coming here for 20 years,” he pleaded.

He completely submitted to the punches. Presumably his experience had taught him that handing out beatings to the local bully boys in Indo isn’t the smartest move. They punched his fins out and told him to “Fuck off back to Brazil.”

It was an ugly scene, but one thing was clear. His nationality made him a target.

The South American contingent first crept onto the World Tour in the early nineties with trailblazers Gouevia and Padvaratz (Flavio, Neco and Teco!). They had their moments of success, but failed to really challenge for the big prize. This was in the first coming of King Kelly after all, and he smote all in his path. What the boys did bring to the tour was cultural diversity, character and South American passion. And by God it was needed.

In general the World Tour is a painfully middle-class affair. White Aussies, Americans and a sprinkling of Saffas from well-to-do homes dominate the line up, so to speak. Even the Hawaiian’s are white. The Brazilian contingent brings some much-needed diversity to the tour. What’s not to love? As Brazil’s economy continues to boom (which it’s totally doing now) the South American contingent on the WSL will continue to flourish. And I for one like it.

In embracing the Brazilian contingent, surf opens the doors to another world. Medina has the #friendship and support of global superstars Neymar and Robinho. Neymar alone has 30 mil Instagram followers! That’s more influence than anyone from Australian sport can fathom. Competitive surfing is well and truly on it’s way to becoming a world-wide marketing powerhouse, for better or worse. Big bucks mean big advancements.

Those that have fear for the soul of our precious pastime need not. It’s in good hands. The soul game and Gabby’s jazz are two completely separate entities. And that’s a good thing. The tour is surfing’s equivalent of Wall Street, the high rollers risking it all and taking it to the bank.

If surf culture’s going to split then it may as well split in the most spectacular of fashions. Competitive professional surfing ain’t cool in the slightest. But who cares. There’s other surfers to carry the banner for all things cool and groovy. It’s improbable to look cool in a brightly coloured rashvest covered in multinational companies logo’s, but I’m more than happy for Gabby to be leading the charge to the right while the left heads off down it’s own path.

I’ve never been to Brazil, but I’ve experienced its fruits. I once dated a Brazilian garota linda (beautiful gal) who looked like Penelope Cruz (no shit), and my good amigo Gui used to be addicted to condensed milk (four cans a day!).

These two and glorious Gabs have two things in common: tthey’re Brazilian, and they’re awesome.

It’s a New Year and a new start. Open your pasty hearts to the Brazilian storm. It’s coming to add colour to your meager lives whether you like it or not…