History of Surf in Rio de Janeiro

History of Surf in Rio de Janeiro

Beginning of Surfing History in Rio de Janeiro

The first signs of the arrival of surf in Rio de Janeiro date from the 1940s and 1950s. It is not known exactly how the sport arrived. Some say they were airline employees, others talk about tourists, some in American films that already printed the sport on the screens, but the truth is that, at that time, Cariocas were already seen on wooden boards made by themselves gliding on waves on Arpoador Beach.

In the beginning, wooden planks were known as “church doors”, due to their shape. Over time the material has undergone some improvements in its design, it came to be called "madeirite", but it was only in the 1960s that it began to undergo changes that would popularize the sport forever in the heart of Rio.

Between 1962 and 1963, a carpenter from Ipanema started making wooden boards and selling them, spreading surf, which was previously restricted to small groups of practitioners. In January 1964, O Cruzeiro magazine showed that the history of surfing in Rio de Janeiro was just beginning when it announced the “sensation” of that summer: “There is something new under the Arpoador sun - which, this year, takes on features Hawaiian beaches, with boys gliding on the crest of the waves balanced on boards. And the sport has an English name: ‘surfing’ ”.

Professionalization of Surfing in Rio de Janeiro

In the 1960s, sport began to take important steps towards greater professionalization. In 1965, the Carioca Surfing Federation was created, which organized the first competitions. It was also in that year that Brazil's first surfboard factory was opened, the São Conrado Surfboard, which introduced the first fiberglass surfboards in Rio de Janeiro.

In the passage from the 1960s to the 70s, a new world cultural revolution would have a lot of influence in the universe of surfing: the hippie movement. Rio de Janeiro could not be left out of this movement, the result of this approach was the departure of the “surf generation” scene, much more restrained, to make way for the extravagant hippy surfers.

This phase of the evolution of surfing history in Rio de Janeiro coincided with the “discovery” of the city of Saquarema by surfers. They often camped there all summer to experience free contact with nature, without much infrastructure. Some took up residence and resigned from promising jobs to invest in the city with strong and fascinating waves.

At this point, several peaks were discovered in Rio de Janeiro, and the sport became even more popular. Nowadays, the best spots in the city of Rio are in the west (Barra, Recreio, Prainha, Grumari, etc.), but in the 1970s, the south was really the main stage in the history of surfing in Rio de Janeiro. Something that today would be unimaginable, for example, occurred at that time. In the middle of the ipanema beach, the pier transformed the sea conditions into something very good for practicing the sport.

Competitions in the History of Surf in Rio de Janeiro

The institutionalization of surfing, however, only continued in the 1980s. The highest sports body in Brazil, the Brazilian Sports Confederation, only recognized surfing as a sport in 1988, after the first Brazilian surfing championship, in October of that year. In 1989, Rio de Janeiro shaper Henry Lelot and friends founded the “Surfing Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro” - at the time, the second surfing federation in Brazil.

Despite the late professionalism of surfing in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro has always been an important stage for competitions. In the old world circuit, Rio has hosted 10 events:

(source: Datasurf)
  • 1991 - Alternative - B. Tijuca (RJ) - Flávio Padaratz, Sunny Garcia

  • 1990 - Alternative - B. Tijuca (RJ) - Brad Gerlach, Flávio Padaratz

  • 1989 - Alternative - B. Tijuca (RJ) - Dave Macaulay, Martin Potter

  • 1988 - Alternative - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Dave Macaulay

  • 1982 - Waimea 5000 - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Terry Richardson

  • 1981 - Waimea 5000 - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Cheyne Horan

  • 1980 - Waimea 5000 - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Joey Buran

  • 1978 - Waimea 5000 - Breakwater (RJ) - Cheyne Horan, Peter Townend

  • 1977 - Waimea 5000 - B. Tijuca (RJ) - Daniel Friedman, Pepê Lopes

  • 1976 - Waimea 5000 - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Pepê Lopes

From the current WCT, Rio has hosted 11 stages:

  • 2014 - Billabong Rio Pro - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Michel Bourez

  • 2013 - Billabong Rio Pro - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Jordy Smith

  • 2012 - Billabong Rio Pro - Arpoador and Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - John John Florence

  • 2011 - Billabong Rio Pro - Arpoador (RJ) - Adriano Mineirinho

  • 2002 - Coca-Cola - Saquarema (RJ) - Taj Burrow, Mick Fanning

  • 2001 - Rio Surf - Arpoador (RJ) - Trent Munro, Mark Occhilupo

  • 2000 - Rio Surf - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Kalani Robb, Taj Burrow

  • 1999 - Marathon - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Taj Burrow, Shea Lopez

  • 1998 - Marathon - B. Tijuca (RJ) - Peterson Rosa, Michael Campbell

  • 1997 - Kaiser Summer - B. Tijuca (RJ) - Kelly Slater, Mark Occhilupo

  • 1996 - Rio Surf - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Taylor Knox, Ross Williams

  • 1995 - Rio Surf - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Barton Lynch, Sunny Garcia

  • 1994 - Alternative - Barra da Tijuca (RJ) - Shane Powell, Rob Machado

  • 1993 - Alternative - B. Tijuca (RJ) - Dave Macaulay, Fábio Gouveia

  • 1992 - Alternative - B. Tijuca (RJ) - Damien Hardman, Tom Carroll

Although Rio has no illustrious presence in the current famous phenomenon known as the Brazilian Storm, Rio has already had important surfers among the world tops. This is the case of Cabofriense Victor Ribas, who came in 3rd place in the 1999 WCT. He was the best Brazilian in WCT history until the rise of the Brasilian Storm.

In 2015, the Barra Tijuca stage is already confirmed in the window between May 11th and 22nd. We hope it will be a memorable event, with excellent performance by Brazilians, contributing even more to the history of surfing in Rio de Janeiro.

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