Make Room at the Top, Obrigado!

Fabio Gouveia, 1994. Photo: Williams
Fabio Gouveia (fist up) and Team Brazil, 1988 World Titles
Pepe Lopes, Pipeline, around 1978. Photo: Alberto Sodre
Competitor at the 1977 Waimia 5000 in Rio. Photo: Jeff Divine
Flavio Padaratz. Photo: John Callahan

As it had throughout the 1960s and '70s, surfing developed internationally at a happy, ambling pace during the 1980s and early '90s. Vetea David of Tahiti won the juniors’ division of the 1986 World Surfing Championships. From a distance, Peru’s euphoniously-named Luis Miguel “Magoo” de la Rosa, a seven-time national champion from Lima, could easily be mistaken for Tom Carroll. Tel Aviv became a minor European surfing hot spot, and a few dozen Italian ragazzi were thrashing around in the most...

By being loud and aggressive, Brazilians were treating surfers the way surfers—particularly two or three decades earlier—had famously treated everyone else. But the Americans and Australians were too busy gnashing their teeth to appreciate the poetic irony.