Like nothing you've seen before!
Have you heard of Puerto Rico’s Hector Santamaria?
I mentioned him not three days ago and isn’t it crazy how the world works? I sent Hector’s name into the universe and two days later POW! We get this clip.
Now, there are many talented wave-riders in this world, but very few surfing savants. Before we go any further, I want to clarify what I mean by that.
There is a gray area, at least in my mind, when it comes to defining a “savant”. According to Merriam-Webster, the undisputed power-couple of English vernacular, a savant is:
1: a person of learning; especially : one with detailed knowledge in some specialized field (as of science or literature)
2: a person affected with a mental disability (such as autism or mental retardation) who exhibits exceptional skill or brilliance in some limited field (such as mathematics or music);
In my world, savant is more often used to describe definition number two. Definition one is just a nerd.
That said, not all the people I’d determine as a surfing savant have a mental illness. They were just born with incredible natural talent and an unmatched understanding of the ocean. That characterization relates to neither definition one or two but it’s enough, in my mind, to justify giving them a special label.
So maybe savant isn’t the technically correct word, but it’s the word I’m gonna use to describe a person who demonstrates an unfathomable connection with their surfboard and the sea. A person who was well and truly born to surf.
So, who’ve we got?
Clay Marzo, Kelly Slater, John Florence, Stephanie Gilmore, Tommy Wit and now, in waves that slap just above the pecker, Hector Santamaria! The world’s superior small wave surfer!
Please watch the following video for evidence. Specifically, pay attention to the elasticity of his forehand whip, the cutty-to-air-rev on a legit one-footer (0:50), and the stoopid loops at the end.
Now take a moment to soak it all in. Rewatch if necessary, and really try absorb what you just saw. Hector’s surfing is unmatched.
In a wonderful twist of fate, the above filmmaker included snippets of mortal surfers for reference. Notice how much less connected to their boards, and to the waves themselves, that these poor blokes appear to be. They’re not even bad surfers, but the contrast between their forced completions and Hector’s artistry is striking.
Dare I say that no one, and I will look Filipe Toledo square in the eye when I say this, is more dexterous and innovative in waist-high surf. Hector is a small wave savant and a chi-infused alien.
Kelly Slater, when visiting for the Rip Curl Search event in 2011, allegedly described Hector as, “one of the best surfer’s I’ve ever seen.”
Savant recognize savant.