By opening the past, winning will become a necessity for Californian…
Kolohe. Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. He was Brother, plain Brother at three in the morning, standing 5 foot 11 in Nike socks. He was Kloe in slacks. But in my Fantasy team he was always Kolohe, top-tier pick, first Californian to hold the #1 since Shane Beschen.
Let me say this. Kolohe Andino really gets my orange juiced.
It’s an unpopular position for an Australian. Unless you’re OG West Coast CA he’s a hard sell. A sweep the leg Californian villain. The golden child with the silver spoon. The temper tantrums. The speed dealer sunglasses. The MAGA Trumpito rumours (which I think I’ve started but would make some sense). He’s a flat-track alpha.
I dig his post-heat presence. Overconfident yet underplayed. It’s swagger. Big dick energy.
“Yeah. I smoked the guy. So what?”
He’s the jock that flicks you behind the ear in the school yard every recess and still drives you crazy.
It’s been a wild year for Brother, and it’s made loving him that much harder.
That nonchalant, deadpan stare into the camera when Kauli Vaast spun under priority into a heat winner in the round of 32 at Teahupoo couldn’t sum it up better.
Kolohe had the lead. Was surfing with confidence and looking as comfortable as any of the contenders in the heavy water.
He went off his game for just a split second. He should have been sitting on Kuali, but he let him go.
Vaast swooped. Brother was cooked. The yellow jersey was gone.
It’s the second time he’s done that this year. The first robbed him of a maiden CT win.
Kolohe’s not being frustrated by lack of talent, or effort. It’s just that final execution. The one percent plays.
Yeah, the weight of the crown hangs heavy.
Medina wears it with ease. Loves it. Julian knows how, but just can’t get it home. Jordy’s dropped it so many times he shouldn’t be allowed near the cabinet.
Ike ‘n Filipe? Works in progress.
But Kolohe ain’t done yet either.
This year he’s taken the zen approach. Preparation with contemplation. Balance. Boards dialled in. Emotional IQ to go with it. By trying through not trying, the total performances have come to him. Almost.
His surfing has added an extra dimension.
The variety of repertoire, as Pottz would call it, has always been there. Hucks, swoops, spins. He’d always been dynamic, but formulaic too.
Now he’s an auteur. The forehand high wrap is his signature (with a big nod to MF). I fucken love it.
And he’s still only 25.
So what’s the missing ingredient?
That fire, lit by our sport’s working-class heroes and carried today by the Latinos, who don’t just win because they want to. They win because they need to. It can’t be taught to privileged whites in foam pits at the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre or through a thousand NSSA titles.
It needs to be lived. Through loss. Through trauma. Through failure. Through a scorecard that only reads Ls since 2012.
Here’s Hynd on four-time runner-up to the world title, Cheyne Horan, from the 1990 Power Rankings:
…he continues to wail on the bag, all the time focussing on the primary goals. “Fitness… power. Fitness… power. Fitness… power… power!” In a pool of sweat by the fourth round, he lets the anger surge, opens the past like a masochist, and talks to himself through clenched teeth. “Hawaii… results… 16 fields… mind… courage.” Then, blurting out “failure” he slams the bag with a painful right uppercut and moves to the wall mirror; raging, bulging, almost crying in anger. He feints, feints, weaves and moves in on himself with such a prolonged flurry that mist blots his reflection. Then explodes in a ball of self-deprecating hatred and hoarsely pants, “Give up, give up ya bastard. You’re no good!” The entire room is at a dead stop. Watching. Horan’s still flailing to his limit, when the blurred image in the mirror digs way down, and screams back, “Never! Never! Never give up!”
Kolohe’s got eight years of disappointment to drive him.
The punched boards, the priority blunders, the third-round exits. By harnessing the shame of repeated failure, by opening the past like a masochist, winning will become a necessity for him.
The only option.
A still mind that runs deep.
I’ll call it. Kolohe for Lemoore. Gabby for another title, this year, but Kolohe for Lemoore. He’ll then get a good run into Hawaii. Be in the mix come showdown. And once he’s got that taste, lock one in for the next few years.
A return to Cali glory.
Listen: “Yago Dora was a brave boy unfairly beaten with the shame stick!”
Podcasting is a high-wire act. There you are one moment riffing, jiving, chewing the fat about all manner of surf and surf lifestyle, there you are the next moment, saying something blatantly, patently untrue, besmirching the good name of a brave, young boy.
And that is exactly what David Lee and I did last week when we demanded that Yago Dora should, nay must, be shamed for being a coward at Teahupoo. For not paddling for a wave for 35 minutes in front of us all as we sat in front of our computers/phones and raged.
“How dare he!”
“How dare he!”
Well, David Lee and I let him have it last week but it’s a good thing that we’ve gone to a weekly format so we could apologize this week for being wrong and egregiously so. For those in Teahupoo’s channel, those who ride Teahupoo’s meaty folds, let David Lee know that Yago had been charging the entire two weeks and only miscalculated and mismanaged his heat. Willian “Panda” Cardosa deserved his piping hot bowlful of shame, they also said, but not Yago.
What utter assholes David Lee and I are. What complete jerks.
Anyhow, yesterday Derek Rielly joined us all the way from Bondi, Australia where spring has only just sprung. It is such a great pleasure when I get to see him. We laugh and laugh and surf and laugh and, yesterday, drove to the Surf Heritage and Culture Center where we shamed many other people, ideas and things on the air.
We talk about surf helmets, the ESPN body issue and the desire to see professional male surfers fully nude, possibly with their “shame sticks.” Did you know that a “shame stick” is an erection?
Memories: “I saw the Great White breaching out of the water with (my pal) in its mouth!”
"He was in the fish’s mouth and there was this fucking impact in the water and then there was nothing there, gone…"
Lewis Samuels is what you’d call a soul surfer if that term hadn’t been so corrupted. Lew surfs lonely big waves in the sharkiest of northern Californian waters and he ain’t afraid of either.
Lew has five pals who’ve been attacked by great white sharks. One, Royce Fraley, has been attacked… twice.
Lew was there for one of ’em.
“Let me be fucking honest. My first fucking response was to paddle away. But I thought about it, he was my friend, and whether or not he comes up he needs my help. And so I paddled back over, got there and he popped up out of the water and he pretty much paddled up onto my back.” Lew Samuels
“We were really far out to sea, literally, about a kilometre out to sea. It took 45 minutes to paddle out,” says Lew. “Out of the corner of my eye there was this explosion. And as I turned around, I saw the shark breeching out of the water with him in its mouth. Then they fell down in an explosion of whitewater, like when a whale breaches. Fifteen feet is as big as a car and they’re a lot fatter in person than you’d think they would be. And he was in the fish’s mouth and there was this fucking impact in the water and then there was nothing there, gone, like a fucking whirlpool of displaced whitewater where he’d been. There was no one else near him, just another friend way up the line, and so when the attack happened, what are you fucking going to do? You’re not going to leave your friend out there.”
But, says, Lew, “Let me be fucking honest. My first fucking response was to paddle away. But I thought about it, he was my friend, and whether or not he comes up he needs my help. And so I paddled back over, got there and he popped up out of the water and he pretty much paddled up onto my back, literally, trying to get out of the water. I said, ‘It’s alright, man! Hold on! I’ll paddle you in, man!”
What does a shark attack victim look like? “I didn’t want to look. We were 45 minutes out to sea and I figured he’d have a leg missing. I had this 200 pound guy on my back but… he fucking seemed okay. We started paddling next to each other. A friend, Britt, a lifeguard, saw what happened from a distance and started paddling with us, checking him, and he goes, ‘Where’s he fucking hurt?’ It didn’t make sense. Finally, we got in, I ran to a pay phone a mile away ’cause there’s no cell phone service and when I got back down there he was with an ambulance.”
The injuries, says Lew, were “like little scratches. The whole attack was a like a cartoon, like a toothpick in a dog. The board had gotten stuck in the mouth of the shark and it didn’t clamp on him. He was holding onto the board as the shark took him under and he got the scratches when he bounced off the shark.”
Lew says he finds comfort in the fact that great whites in northern California are different to the more energetic South African and Australian breed. In that, they have a different hunting pattern. They might bite but they’ll let go after the initial bleed and wait for you to bleed out instead of taking you down straight away.
“That gives you time to get medical help,” says Lew.
How did the attack affect Lew? Did he surf the spot again?
“What are you going to do? I was out there the next day. The waves were good.”
(Editor’s note: this story first appeared two, maybe three, years ago. But ain’t she a peach!)
It is September already and it’s hard to imagine where the time has gone. There we were, back on the Gold Coast, so young, innocent, and hopeful. Since then, we have seen many waves, both great and not so great, and we’ve even had our very own helmet debate. Who knew that we could enjoy such a wonderful journey together. Now, there is Lemoore. We are not so innocent any longer.
Last year here at the ‘Grit we helpfully provided you with a training program to prepare for your arduous days as a spectator at the wave poo— basin. Have you started training yet? If not, I’m not sure we can help you now. I’m pretty sure you’re fucked, actually. It’s entirely too late.
Prepared or not, if you’re going to Lemoore, we can help you survive the experience. As hardened veterans, we know what it takes to get through at least an hour at the basin. Oh yes, the sizzling sun, the 700-meter saunters from end to end, the desperate search for water, preferably cold — we know all about these things. And a few more. Here we are, ready to share all our secrets.
Here is the official BeachGrit Guide: How to survive Lemoore.
From SoCal, get on The Five. Drive north. When the Grapevine looms up before you, panic. You are not stupid. You know where the Grapevine leads. To snow, yes, but not in September. There is no snow in September. In September, the Grapevine leads to the bad place.
Look! Over there! Another road. It leads west. Get on the road that leads west until you see the ocean. Drive until you see waves. Park your car. Pull your board out of the back — you do have a board in the car, right? If not, borrow one from the car parked next to you. I’m sure they won’t mind. Go surfing. Lemoore, what? You have surfing to do. Get on top of your priorities.
From NorCal, head to the coast. Pet some sharks. I hear they’re friendly. Sharks are way better than Lemoore. After you pet the sharks, go surfing.
If you insist on continuing your journey to Lemoore without petting the sharks and without surfing, you will experience heat like nothing you’ve experienced before. It has mass, this heat, like a big furry animal that lays down on top of you with all its animal stench, and just stays right there. You can’t get rid of it. The heat will crush your will to live. That’s a promise, not a threat.
Your best hope of survival is the VIP area which is equipped with mist-making machines. Yes, your humble Beachgrit investigated the VIP area, just for you! And we are here to tell you, that you’ll need a VIP pass to survive. It’s essential. Security is tight and I had to beg to keep my peanut butter sandwich, so you can give up on sneaking past them into the VIP zone without actually having a VIP credential. No chance.
Sorry, we don’t have any money to help you buy your way into the misty coolness of the VIP zone. But your best friend totally does. Borrow your best friend’s credit card. Buy a VIP pass to the wave pool party. If you’re feeling generous, buy a ticket for him, too. It is his credit card, so you might as well. It’ll be like a surprise present! For both of you! A weekend of fabulous bro bonding under the mist in the VIP zone at the wave pool. You can feel so good about this plan.
If you do not have a best friend with a credit card, or you have moral qualms about borrowing credit cards, which is admirable! Moral qualms are totally good! Skip the basin and head directly to the Tachi Palace. Go to the bar — it’s conveniently located on the first floor, just off the lobby — and order a drink or several. Get them to go. Head to the pool. The Tachi Palace pool, that is, not the dumb, hot wave-making thing.
Jump in and feel that refreshing cool water. Sip your drinks. You are in the pool, drinking a cold cocktail, and your life is good. This is much better than standing in the sun next to the basin trying to distinguish one turn from another. You can watch the contest replay later. Or not! You can just hang out in the pool and drink and forget all about the contest. There’s always next year.
Going the distance
Though we have warned you, you remain determined. You are going to the basin, dammit! You are going to watch the surfing live and in person and nothing we say will change your mind.
Running shoes. They’re not cute and they’re not sexy. You can’t show off your fabulous pedicure or your ungroomed toe hairs in running shoes. But they are your only hope now. The wave pool runs 700 meters from end to end and you’re going to walk that multiple times in an effort to see your favorite surfers go left and right and left again.
You used to make fun of the jocks in high school with their training plans and their hours in the weight room and their after-school practices, while you fucked off and went surfing. Now you’re going to dress just like them. You’re going to slip into those Nike Pegasus Airs or a sleek pair of New Balance 860v9’s — I always trust a running shoe more if it has numbers in the name — and you’re going to like it. Also, don’t forget socks. Nobody likes running shoe foot stench.
Now you’re ready. You’ve laced up your new running shoes that you bought with your best friend’s credit card and you haven’t forgotten your socks. Stance, of course. You shake an electrolyte tablet out of its tube and pop it directly into your mouth. You are far too badass to dissolve your electrolyte tablets in water. Off you go to prance up and down the length of the wave pool like the track star you were meant to be. Suck it, jocks.
You need a nap
Your feet are tired. Despite your shiny new Asics Gel-Kayano 25’s that you bought with your best friend’s credit card, your feet hurt. You’ve seen your favorite surfers go left and right and left again. You’re down to your last electrolyte tablet and you’re wondering if it might taste better if you just gave up and dissolved it in water like the instructions suggest.
The heat must be getting to you, because you’re pretty sure you just saw two Chas Smith’s walking toward you, as though one were not enough. When you looked again, they were both gone. It must be the heat.
You remain determined. You are at the wave pool and you are watching surfing and you aren’t ready to give up yet. What you really need is a nap. And here, Beachgrit can help. We thoroughly investigated the napping possibilities of the basin during our sojourn there last year, because we did not want to let you down in your time of need.
If you succeeded in achieving VIP status, your nap option is super easy. Pull off your new Adidas Ultraboost 19’s, and stretch out under the mist. There is always the possibility that someone may step on you lying on the ground like that, but you are brave and bold and you give zero fucks.
If your morals prevented you from stealing your best friend’s credit card and buying a VIP pass, head for the control tower at the middle of the basin. There is a large patch of beautiful shade. If you’re lucky, no one else will have discovered this perfect nap spot. Stretch out, close your eyes, dream of petting sharks.
If the shade of the control tower is already crowded with nappers, just find the nearest tree and stretch out under it. It’s fine. No one will judge. They will be jealous of your ability to nap right there under a random tree like it’s no big thing. Dream of perfect blue barrels on a tropical island and ice-cold drinks with paper umbrellas perched on top. Wonder what the fuck you are doing in Lemoore instead.
You can go home again
Wave a fond farewell to the basin and drive out of Lemoore like twenty or thirty boars are chasing you. When you get to Kettleman City, the boars will have run out of steam, presumably. Or at least lost interest in your skinny surfer ass.
Stop for ice cream in Kettleman City. Ice cream understands. Ice cream will fix your tired feet and your overheated brain that swears it saw two Chas Smith’s and remind you that you’re headed back to the coast. There’s waves there! You are going home to the coast where you belong.
The Profile: Italo Ferreira and the Vengeance of the Leopard!
Of all the world title contenders, a category Italo firmly belongs in, three contest wins last year and a last-minute 540 on a two-foot wave to win the Quiksilver Pro this year and that is still being discussed in the Margaret River carpark one month later, he’s the only one that carries the perpetual ecstasy of the looter.
It’s an old and hackneyed story, but in Italo’s case it’s true: the key to the pro surfing kingdom wasn’t presented to him on an upholstered velvet cushion via a dad that surfed, a benevolent sponsor and a training program where men stand on the beach under an umbrella filming the children for later review of technique.
Italo grew up in a fishing town in north-east Brazil, population eight thousand, called Baia Formosa; a joint where the only paved roads are the ones that lead into the village.
Italo’s pops would wander the beach and buy the catch of local fisherman and make his profit, a slender one but enough to feed his family, selling fish to restaurants.
His skinny son wanted to surf so Pops gave him the foam lid from the box he kept his fish in.
Eight-year-old Italo was so small it just worked on Baia’s little righthander.
Then, and in short order, an older friend who saw the boy’s love of surfing gifted him a fibreglass surfboard, he won the first contest he entered, moved onto regional events and then national, trying to win “cars, motorbikes and tickets to fly overseas.”
The rest, the elevation to stardom, came quickly
In 2014, when Italo would finish seventh on the WQS, Dino Andino, whose own son would miss his first tour victory four years later because of Italo’s preternatural ability, came up to Timmy Patterson, Italo’s shaper since he was fifteen, and said, “Who is that Italian guy? He’s doing floaters on eight-foot closeouts on grinding beachbreaks and making ‘em. He’s going to be on tour next year. That guy’s a freak.”
The following year, Italo was the in-form rookie on tour, third in Rio, fifth in Fiji, fifth in Tahiti and second in Portugal, finishing seventh in the world and rookie of the year.
Patterson had been turned onto Italo’s talent in 2008 when Italo’s manager, Luiz “Pinga” Henrique, told ’em they should get in on the ground floor with this kid. Patterson, who builds the boards via Silver Surf Surfboards in Brazil and until 2011 with Oakley picking up the tab for the raw materials, made him a five-four that was barely fifteen inches wide from a modified version of Adriano de Souza’s CAD file.
“I think Pinga sent us the wrong dimensions,” says Patterson. “The boards looked kind of weird but he managed to make them work.”
When he first met Italo, Patterson describes the skinny little kid with the big hair him as looking like a “match”.
And then he saw him surf, for real.
“That was when we all saw his potential,” he say.
When you interview Italo, who along with another Brazilian, Yago Dora, is redrawing the lines a goofyfooter can make, it’s not the usual exchange over a table or on the beach, a telephone doubling as a voice recorder.
When you come to interview Italo, you live with Italo.
You eat, you surf, you train, you sing.
Italo travels with his girlfriend, the Disney Brazil host and singer from Rio, Mari Azevedo, whom he met last September on a shoot; she, host, he, talent.
Mari, the big city girl, Italo, the archetypal country mouse.
The difference in lifestyle between Rio and Baia Formosa is stark.
Heels versus bare feet; flashy city money versus men buying fish on the beach to feed their families; jewels v shells.
When I ask ‘em if Mari’s on the tour full-time, Italo barks a definitive and relationship confirming, “Yes!” over Mari’s shy “Ahhhh.”
Later, after a surf where Italo scoops up the inside cream at Main Break, he makes the interviewer a Brazilian-Style lunch of beans, chicken and sliced banana, a concoction that tastes better than it sounds, the tender fruit collapsing through the meal of flesh and legumes.
“Butterflies that were never there come with your scent”
“The heart of stone you melted”
“You took care of me in ways that I could never imagine.”
You’ll note the cover of two lovers’ hands entwined, one forearm dressed in tattoos that will be immediately familiar to surf fans. The pair shot the photo on their iPhone, using the timer feature, and Mari designed the cover on her computer.
Mari’s English is a little better than Italo’s and he’ll defer to her mid-sentence to make sure his intended meaning is conveyed.
The language barrier does mean no great truths will be discovered although this isn’t any different to those English-speaking pro surfers for whom education was removed from their lives like a troublesome cyst some time around their twelfth year.
At one point, and at my request, Italo’ll show me the Instagram post which he’d examined prior to their first meeting and that made him fall in love with her.
Mari sits astride a chair in white bikini bottoms. Her yellow hair waterfalls over brown skin and a red brassiere. Both eyes are closed and Mari’s tongue laps at an imaginary milk bowl in the sky.
Italo looks at me. One man to another.
I get it.
The ankle. Look at the right ankle. It’s perpetually swollen to hell because, as anyone who can spin 540 degrees using the Cote/Richards method (“The full rotation is a 540, it’s obvious,” says Italo), you land on the front foot. In Bali, while training for the Keramas event, Italo’s foot was pushed backwards on a bottom turn.
Two year earlier, same thing. Blew it out at D-Bah. Missed three events.
This year, he sent for his physio from Brazil who worked on him for ten days straight.
Italo is serious about winning.
And Italo is, like Filipe and Gabriel, among the only surfers on tour who can huck 540 on a two-foot wave, something Kolohe learned to his eternal chagrin at D-Bah.
To demonstrate how the front foot gets worked on 540s, Italo will perform the 540 motion, leaping off the carpeted floor, comparing it to a 360 where the back foot jams the car back into gear.
The ruined front leg means Italo has had to become an animal on the leg machine at whatever gymnasium he’s hitting.
It also means he’ll freesurf four times or so a day, but call it at ten waves, one hour max.
“Save my body,” he says.
Or, in the case of Western Australia he won’t surf for four days because there’s nobody around and the last time he was here Whites hit two surfers in two days and the contest was cancelled, partly at his and Gabriel’s behest.
If you could see Italo now when you start talking hits by Great Whites, the panic in his eyes, the stutter in his voice, you’d know the fear isn’t a confection.
For four days, Italo and Mari, who doubles as filmer and shark-spotter, got up as that gorgeous citrus sun rose over the vineyards in the east, the grapes dressed in a hiss of fog, put on their signature all-back outfits which contrast perfectly to hair on both heads bleached white, and drove to the beach.
But, there wasn’t a soul around.
For four days.
For Italo this meant no surfing.
“We watched a lot of movies,” says Italo, who jokes that if he wins Margaret River he’ll have a shark inked on his back.
(He doesn’t, of course. His event highlight is a wave at the Box that involves a miraculous escape from the lip and into the barrel which earns a ruthlessly underscored eight and a piece. We’re told it was his first-ever ride there. It wasn’t. Italo had surfed there before, took one wave, face planted and came in.)
Italo’s head noise about sharks got the point where he hit up an old pal from Brazil who was living in Perth and who subsequently dropped everything to spend a week down south with Italo.
Big sharks aren’t a theoretical construct down here in the south-west, three hours drive from the capital city, Perth. They’re real.
People, mostly surfers, die.
The names Brad Smith, Nick Edwards, Kyle Burden and Chris Boyd, all killed by Great Whites at popular waves, carry a weight, a gloom.
Italo shakes his head.
He doesn’t feel good, he says.
Usually when he goes for a surf he can delete everything, problems with his life, his family, the tour, and just surf, focus on moves, combos, all the elements that will deliver a world title.
But in Margs?
“The energy is bad,” he says.
Energy. Spirit. Passion. More hackneyed phrases.
But, for Italo, they just work.
SCENE: A portable toilet at Bells Beach in 2018. Italo is in the second semi-final against Gabriel Medina. Spectators see Italo enter the toilet with his surfboard. He gently closes the door for overt politeness is a character trait of the Brazilian. The door clicks locked an the crowd watches as the little tower suddenly starts shaking from side to side.
There’s a fortississimo boom…boom…boom… as the walls are, what, punched?
Inside, Italo is bouncing off the walls, telling himself, “Just one more! Just one more!”
Before the final against Mick Fanning, who is in his farewell event, Italo enters again.
The toilet shakes and bangs.
“Just one more!”
Italo punches the wall.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
He leaves, smiles meekly at his fans and takes out Fanning.
At Bells. At Fanning’s final event.
He walks the stairs, steps back into the toilet.
The toilet reverberates with such violence it appears it may topple.
Italo explains to me,
“I was talking to God, just saying, I got it! I got it!”
Contrast 2018 to the following year’s event where he was left to drown in front of the cliffs at Winki Pop by water safety unable to pick him up in the fifteen-foot seas, and was booted from the event in the quarter-finals on a contentious interference call, a newly introduced rule, against a belly-boarding Jordy Smith.
After the interference was confirmed, Italo bypassed the portable toilets and headed to the competitors’ locker room where he “broke everything.”
Mari interjects, “I think in the athletes area they should have a punching bag. Yes! Yes!”
I ask Italo if he feels pain when he loses, punching plywood walls and “nearly breaking my fingers” notwithstanding.
“A lot, a lot,” he says shaking his head. “I came out of the water looking for the judge, like, fuck that guys. I saw the photo, Jordy was on the whitewater holding his board.”
Still, he knows he blew it.
“All the Brazilians, we do crazy things, we always hungry, we do everything to win. That’s why the rule was changed. (And) Jordy played the game with the rules.”
The previous day, in the biggest waves in a contest at Bells since 1981, Italo was caught inside and became quickly convinced he was going to die, that his Catholic God had decided to vacuum him to the heavens.
Italo’s board hit him in the face, he was held under for what he estimates was thirty seconds and when he surfaced he couldn’t get to the water safety crew’s jetskis.
“In that moment, you rely on instincts. I tried not to panic or do desperate things, to lose energy,”
Mari, meanwhile, was panicking, asking anyone who would listen, “What about Italo? What about Italo?”
Eventually, he got onto the Winki stairs and had started to climb when a local said the water part had made it to the inside and was looking for him.
Italo jumped back into the maelstrom, got back on the ski, competed, and won, the heat against Jeremy Flores.
On the walk back up the Bells stairs, Italo collapsed, Mari’s arms around his neck.
“I was exhausted. I have no energy, nothing. I can’t feel my legs. My adrenalin went from a hundred percent to nothing. I stayed there for minutes, breathed and drink waters and came back again.”
I ask Mari if Italo said anything to her.
“The first thing he told me, the first one,” she whispers.
Italo watches her face.
Mari chokes up.
“He said,” says Mari, “the first thing. First thing!
“‘Mari, I thought I was going to die.’”
Bells, 2018, Italo’s first WCT event win, was one of three for 2018, which included Bali and Portugal.
When he got back to Brazil, Italo went straight to a tattoo artist who drew a roaring Koala ringing the Bells trophy across the not inconsiderable canvas of his right bicep.
Italo, like most of the Brazilian surfer on tour, has been getting on the (ink) spike since he was a teenager.
If the reader will allow the interviewer a brief indulgence, we’ll take a tour of Italo’s illustrative body.
He has a map of his hometown Baia Formosa on his left forearm, Believe In Your Dreams (in Portuguese) written under a feather on his right; the word Jesus, the majuscule J crowned, fills the nook near an elbow; on his left deltoid there’s a drawing of himself at sunset and holding a board with the phrase Let The Light Illuminate You (in Portuguese); his birthdate in Roman numerals is written under his neck near where his gold chain falls; Blessed is written between his shoulder blades and a lion owns the back of his neck.
On the side of one hand is the word Surf; one the other is Fé, the Portuguese word for Faith.
There are more, of course, bats and angels and so on, but those are the most significant.
Of course, it’s all window dressing to Italo’s surfing.
For Italo is a surfer who leaves waves ruffled and ravished beyond words.
His secret, he says, is…
Italo, pauses, whispers to Mari,
Mari and Italo go into conference to find the word.
“The word,” announces Mari, eventually, “is Perseverance.”
If you’re ever at WCT event you’ll note that Italo is the first in the water, and last out, with the obvious exception of Margaret River.
Event security know him and Mari well.
The dawn shift guard will lift the gate to the carpark to let them and their rental car through and make the same joke, “You again!”
“Thats why things happen, win contests, get good sponsors, you need to dedicate one hundred percent to your job,” says Italo. “I can win the world title one day because I am the guy who has the perseverance.”
You almost won it last year, I say.
“Almost. I know. God’s plan. We never know. I’m here and I have all this opportunity to win again. That’s why I work every single day.”
Italo has a piece of paper with his career and life goals written on it. He looks at it most days, more when he’s stressed.
“When bad things happen,” he says.
Italo won’t tell me what’s on it or, for that matter what his ongoing family problem is that he says is troubling hell out of him, but says that when he wins the world title, and he emphasis when, he’ll post a photo of the page on Instagram.
What he don’t dig about Instagram, what he don’t understand is the anonymous hits he, like everyone else who puts it out there, gets.
“Sometimes stupid people say stupid things because some peoples didn’t know what I do, what work I do outside the contests. I wake up early, go to the gym and surf and when I surf a heat like with Jack (Freestone) at Keramas…”
Italo stops and shakes his head.
His mango-sized deltoids pop as he squeezes his hands together.
That heat at the Corona Bali Protected. Round of 32. Caught two waves, one a botched turn for a 0.80, the other, three standard turns for a miserly 3.97.
The year before he owned the joint, scored a ten, and won the event.
“Every single day I was in the gym. Every single day at five-thirty I was in the water. I train and I try to win that thing and when I lose the stupid people say shitty things. Mari knows. She saw the other surfers enjoying the pool and drink beers while I was training and surfing five times in one day. I think this is not cool.”
You might’ve guessed that Italo ain’t your usual jock surfer. He’s uncommonly, now what word we gonna throw in here that doesn’t rip the top off his swinging masculinity…
They all work. He’s a man with a sentimental feeling.