“Make Room at the Top, Obrigado,” last week’s History of Surfing chapter, talks about the rise of Brazil as surfing power, beginning more or less with Fabio Gouveia’s win at the 1988 amateur World Championships in Puerto Rico. “The closing ceremonies were glorious, with everyone cutting loose to an outrageous salsa band,” Matt George wrote in SURFER. “The champions were being celebrated, and Fabio, the new men’s champ, hadn’t touched the ground for the last 10 minutes, having been borne on his chanting teammates’ shoulders for three songs now.”
Ahhh . . . the first warm gust of the coming Brazilian Storm.
Here’s a clip of Fabio I made last month ago and isn’t he a beautiful surfer? The knock on Brazilians back in the ’90s and ’00s (one of many knocks, all of them pushed by entitled English-speaking surfers who knew their slice of the pie was about to get smaller) was that they lacked style and flow. Fabio, sometimes called the Brazilian Tom Curren, was a one-man argument against such nonsense. And sorry to be a bitch to my current favorite surfer, but if he had the same love for big waves that Fabio had, Filipe Toledo would have a pair of WCT world title trophies in his garage right now.
Here’s a new clip of four-time world champ Wendy Botha, and since my head was still in Terra do Brasil, it occurred to me that Botha was the Gabriel Medina of the late ’80s and early ’90s world tour. A first-rate talent who rose above equally-talented peers by working harder and having zero interest in making friends on the job. In fact, Wendy liked stepping on toes (read her Above the Roar interview), and I wonder if her reputation, 25 years after her last title, hasn’t been pegged back for her being too aggressive. In fact, I’m sure it has. We still want our female athletes to play nice. I’d also bet Wendy doesn’t much care. “Keep your femininity out of the water,” she once said. “It’s okay on the beach, but once you step into the water it’s lost its place.”
Lift a glass this New Year’s Eve to tough women.
Thanks, everybody, and see you next week.
[Photos: John Seaton Callahan, Jeff Hornbaker, Tom Servais]