Tale of former world number eight Todd Holland’s harrowing escape from enraged Brazilian surf fans resurfaces ahead of Oi Rio Pro: “Armed police, with guns drawn, did their best to clear a path on the beach before escorting him to a jail cell for his protection.”


Any true surf fan will immediately recognize the name Todd Holland. Cocoa Beach’s other favorite son was a mainstay on the professional surfing circuit in the 1980s through the 1990s. Described as “baby faced” by surf historian Matt Warshaw (subscribe here) and “a scrappy pug” by surf journalist Steve Barilotti, Holland was the only east coast American top 16 pro for a solid handful of years, P.K. (pre-Kelly).

Pure red, white and blue though Holland also had the most eventful, exciting escape from the green and gold in professional surfing’s grand history, thus far, and the story has resurfaced ahead of the hours-away Oi Rio Pro where enraged Brazilian surf fans have promised to let their displeasure in recent judging decisions be felt.

But let us jump in our time machine and revisit the scene, told wonderfully by Hillard Grossman in Florida Today.

In the fall of 1993, just outside of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Holland was looking for one good finish in a World Qualifying Series event. That would have enabled him to rejoin the world tour the following year — and also would have allowed him to return to Cocoa Beach to see the birth of his son.

Instead, things got wild — and scary.

Holland was called for a paddling interference against Victor Ribas, one of the top Brazilian surfers.

“When you get a paddling-interference call against you,” Holland explained, “the only way to win is to get one called on the other guy. So I just sat on him, trying to grab any wave in front of him.”

Then, the contest announcer began inciting the crowd to turn against Holland. Suddenly, people were chasing Holland in the water.

“A guy jumped on my back and another hit me in the head,” Holland said. “I got hit on the beach a couple of times. The whole crowd tried to get me.”

Armed police, with guns drawn, did their best to clear a path on the beach for Holland, and they escorted him in a van to a jail cell, where he spent a few hours — but only for his protection.

“They told me to shave my beard off right away,” he said. “Then, later that night, another surfer came by and sneaked me onto his floorboard and then onto a plane. Basically, they sneaked me out of the country.”

If he had made it through that heat with Ribas (both were eliminated), Holland would have seen his son born. Instead, it was on to Hawaii, where he requalified with ease.

But the memories still haunt him.

“It’s something that should have never happened,” he said. “If I went back there, I know it would not have been safe. But I really never had any desire to go back.”

By 1995, his pro career was virtually over. Because he was forced to skip the big-points events in Brazil, it was nearly impossible to qualify for the world tour.


Extreme passion.


Surfing great Kelly Slater quietly left out of Oi Rio Pro draw continuing brutal legacy of thumbing nose at proud nation of Brazil!

World Surf League approved.

The Oi Rio Pro gets underway in fourteen hours, at time of writing, with a thrilling wave forecast that matches promised drama on the sand. We know certain standout surfers will, unfortunately, not be present. John John Florence publicly announced that his knee surgery would render him inactive and Tyler Wright came clean on a certain “transit visa” issue that would keep him away. The World Surf League has published accounts of both withdrawals and, as a rule, reports which surfers shall not be reporting to duty and why.

Except, of course, when it comes to surfing great, and fifty-plus year-old, Kelly Slater.

The 11x world champion was listed as “injured” ahead of El Salvador, though spent a seemingly wonderful time surfing much on Bali. Throwing tail high air reverses etc. like a man less than half his age.

Ahead of Brazil? Slater’s name is nowhere on the heat draw and there has also been lack of official mention detailing if/why he will be absent.

No “injury,” no “illness,” no “lousy travel agent.”

The many-time Pipeline Master has made his disdain for Brazil well-known throughout history, generally opting not to surf the country’s waters, using the event as a “throw away.” His legacy of nose thumbing legendary.

The odd thing, I suppose, is how the World Surf League supports his animosity. It would be thought that Brazil is very important to the WSL’s future of CEO Erik Logan’s promised 300% – 650% year-over-year growth and that he would ensure the country felt respected but apparently the League offices do not care.

Is it because the WSL imagines that Brazil should feel lucky to have an event at all? A classic, though very out of fashion, sort of paternalism?

A white man’s burden?


Fiery mob (pictured).
Fiery mob (pictured).

World Surf League’s official forecast partner delivers blistering report ahead of the upcoming Rio Pro creating potential for fireworks in water as compliment to promised riotous mob on sand!

Big in Brazil.

The Oi Rio Pro gets underway tomorrow minus Tyler Wright and Kelly Slater but plus the most exciting potential guest of any World Surf League event since the US Open of Surfing 2015. A riotous mob! As you know well, by now, Brazilian surf fans feeling robbed after the recently wrapped Surf City El Salvador Pro have promised to deliver vengeance upon the League by staging vigorous protests on the sand.

It will be thrilling to see what sort of forces Brazilian Instagram warriors will be able to muster. Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? It will also be interesting to see what sort of banners are flying above the assemblage. “World Shame League?” “Yanqui Give Us Scores?”

Well, while most eyes will be on the beach, some should maybe turn toward the ocean waves as the World Surf League’s official forecasting partner, Surfline, has just delivered a blistering report for the start of the window.

Thursday, Surfline declares, will see 6ft – 8ft faces with just a puff of offshore winds. Friday will back off, lightly, to the 5ft – 7ft range before Saturday explodes to a whopping 6ft – 10ft.


Now, a question for you. What if Saturday sees a reprise of the El Salvador Pro final, Griffin Colapinto vs. Felipe Toledo in the promised “1ft to 2ft overhead” monsters? Will the energy from the mob allow Toledo to put his head down and paddle into the great scary or will he be richly rewarded for brave shoulder hops?

And what of Colapinto? If he can steel his nerve, face down a potential stoning and win in Brazil should he just be gifted the 2022 crown?

With such a wonderful forecast, who you got?

Two-time world champion Tyler Wright shocks, depresses fans by announcing she will be missing upcoming Rio Pro due transit visa issues: “Absolutely gutted… absorbing this and we keep moving forward.”

"So so frustrating. Sorry to hear you’re dealing with this BS."

Two-time champion Tyler Wright took to Instagram, hours ago, to shock fans with the announcement that she will not be competing in the just-around-the-corner Rio Pro due transit visa issues. A mere two-ish months ago, the popular Australian powerhouse was sitting high after a solid start of the season, capped by a Bells Beach win, had catapulted her to the very top of the rankings.

But then a nastiness set in. Wright tested positive for Covid at G-Land, shuttering her in the jungle. El Salvador therefore became impossible, as she was recovering from the dreaded disease but Rio, Brazil’s sugarloaf jewel, would e her comeback.

Except the ugliness is still festering.

Per her post:

Devastated to let everyone know that due to a transit visa not coming through in the specified time I am unable to make it to Brazil. All other alternative options were extensively looked into however the current travel climate meant it was impossible for me to arrive in time for the contest. Absolutely gutted, so much work went into getting me ready for Brazil with my team. Absorbing this and we keep moving forward.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Tyler Wright (@tylerwright)

It is unclear how the transit visa got fumbled, who fumbled, but, nonetheless, a fumbling has occurred.

Her fellow professional surfers were quick to encourage.

Julian Wilson declared, “The hits keep coming. If there’s anyone up for the fight it’s you. Sorry to hear about another set back.”

Brother Owen Wright, who recently lost his spot on the championship tour, added, “spewing for you! You love a challenge but.”

Big wave star Paige Alms simply said, “So so frustrating. Sorry to hear you’re dealing with this BS.”

Which brings me back to the BS. Who fumbled? International travel can be difficult to navigate, especially in these uncertain times, but transit visa issues for an event on the calendar months and months and months out?

Cards always close to vest, I suppose.

Pip Toledo, hero to a nation of online warriors prepared to drip blood into their keyboards to salvage his honour. | Photo: @wsl

Brazilian surf journalist explains why Latin surf fans have turned to “gruesome” death threats and promises of swift retribution on sands of Saquarema following Filipe Toledo’s loss in El Salvador, “How many of those scary, hateful ultimatums were delivered? None!”

"Why the quickness of Brazilian surf fans to go nuclear? 'Cause they can! It feels so good!"

Got a message on Twitter last night.

“Julio, want to write a story for BeachGrit explaining why Brazilian surf fans are so, mmmmm, passionate I guess you could call it. (derisory pay rates.)”

Why do Brasileiros curse and threaten?

Born and raised in sunny Rio de Janeiro, I’ve been cursing since I could talk and being a Flamengo supporter, you learn to say many wonderful profanities to the referee’s mother at any given chance.

Like Italians, we used our hands a lot too when cursing, it makes our threats even more effective.

Not sure about it, but my guess is the first words you learn in any language are those bad words.

We believe you can’t really trust someone who don’t curse, nor the ones who don’t drink.

So, why do we go nuts on social?

Maybe because we like to mimic all the little things y’ all do in the message boards.

You have such a way with words, and they sound great when translated – both ways!

Yeah, of course, those scary, hateful threats are unacceptable. But how many of those ultimatums were delivered?


Most likely, one of those keyboard warriors would buy you a beer not glass you.

And we do the same thing with our own, just ask Caio Ibelli. Kid gets swamped in hate.

If you ever get a chance to attend a football game in a stadium or to watch it a bar in one of our cities, you’ll see just how fired up we get.

And, shock, we’re a reflection of the polarisation not surfing.

BeachGrit versus Jonah Hill, ISA vs WSL, Brazil vs the Judges and so on.

Love is out, hate is what it’s about.

Not as much as in the US, Charlton Heston gun blazing in schools hate, but there’s a lot of repressed anger.

Don’t call us passionate, however, it’s an energy.

Why the quickness of Brazilian surf fans to go nuclear? ‘Cause they can!

Fire up! Death threats! Mutilate! Castration!

Just one click away, and, god, it’s so easy and feels so good…