Haters say De Souza surfs with similar shape to this celebration. Bells victory, 2013. Photo: Joli
After two decades spent clinging to the top rung of surfing, it is only in the last five years that Brazil has affirmed itself as a genuine superpower on the world stage. The man you can thank (blame) for that is Adriano De Souza. There’s no looking back for Brazil now. They’re producing some of the best young talents in the world – versatile surfers, too, as both Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo have shown on tour – and a maiden world title feels like an inevitability. The chances are it will fall to Adriano. The youngest world junior champion in history at 16 years old, a World Qualifying Series winner, and with five top ten finishes on tour in his seven year career, including three top five finishes, he has a formidable record. He is undoubtedly the greatest Brazilian surfer of all time and although he may well be eclipsed by the likes of Medina, it will be him they thank for giving them the self-belief to do it.
Unlike the surfers beneath him, however, Adriano is not an aerial specialist and really has no one clear strength in his surfing. It’s all-round tenacity that’s his biggest weapon, a byproduct of his rough upbringing in the weak, competitive beach breaks of Sao Paulo. “one thing that will forever stick with me growing up in a favela (slum) I met all kinds of people and lots of them were hard working, honest people. It’s common belief that in favelas there are only drug dealers and thieves and it’s not true. I am one of many who grew up in the favelas and fought for my dreams,” he said recently.
It’s as close to a Rocky Balboa story as you’ll get in surfing. But in the gentleman’s club that is the modern day World Tour his passion and commitment hasn’t gone down well. “When I saw what the guys were saying about Adriano I was like, ‘oh I’m not gonna do that.’ you know, cause, they’re always talking about it and I don’t want that. I stay away from it,” says fellow World Tour surfer Filipe Toledo. This year Adriano is well and truly in the hunt for the title, but don’t expect him to turn the passion nozzle off. “I came from nothing, no hope, no planning, no money. Today I am one of the top five in the world. My passion comes from that eight year old boy who dreamed of competing, meeting Kelly Slater, being in magazines. I try to show the world how much I’ve fought to be where I am today, I hope they can understand my journey and see how much this means to me.” – JS