Surfing or Something Like it
By: Trevor Murgio
A telephone rings in a dark hotel room, I reach for the phone eyes tightly shut, the late nights had begun to wear on me. I answer the phone to hear the cheerful voice of the women at the front desk. "This is your wakeup call sir." Still tired and confused, I asked what time it was. "It is eight thirdly sir." I thanked her and quickly hung up. I rolled over to see my roommate had already gone to breakfast. I got out of bed and walked out on the balcony the bright Brazilian sunshine burned my eyes and made me wince; I retreated to my room to get my sun glasses and returned to the balcony. The sun was already out and a warm wind blew off the ocean across the hot sands of Copacabana beach. It was already hot maybe 80 plus degrees and it was 8:30 in the morning, its going to be hot I said to myself. The phone was ringing again to I answered it. It was Jeff on the phone asking me if I was ready yet I told him I would be in about five minutes. I quickly got dressed and headed down stairs. I was the first one in the lobby and there I met Roberto. I asked him a few questions about the size of the waves and we where off. We walked outside to find our ride for the day; it was a beat up army Jeep with no top. The roll bar had a bunch of surfboards strapped to it. We all jumped in and speed off down the road, Roberto told us we need to pick up a friend of his. We waited around for at least 20 minutes before Fernando appeared up the street carrying two more boards. We tied the boards to the truck and speed off towards Barra Beach . The jeep ride took us through a cluster of Favela style streets on our way to a costal highway. We raced down the twisting turning road towards the exotic beaches that lay ahead. We parked the Jeep and got the boards off the truck and made our way to the beach.
The waves were intimidating to say the least at least 5 feet tall. They stretched down the miles and miles of beach building slowly as they neared the beach, curling to their highest point before breaking violently in a fury of white water. I thought to myself these are a little bigger then I expected. When we got the beach Roberto and Fernando began to give us our surfing lesson. We went over the basics and hit the water. The water was freezing 72 degrees which sent shivers down backs of our Brazilian guilds, but it felt good to us because of the sun was now even higher in the sky and the temperature was beginning to climb. I began to paddle my way out into the angry surf but kept getting rocked back to shore by towering waves. However persistence was the trick and I finally made it past the surf zone or where the waves break. This is it I thought, how hard it can be, all you have to do is catch a wave and stand up, I can do that. There have been few statements I have made that were less true. Catching the wave proved more difficult that I had thought it would be, and standing up was near impossible. After several attempts, and water filled lungs I made my way into the beach, a tired, coughing, waterlogged mess. I look around to see how Wild Bill, Jeff and Mike had faired, they didn't look much better. Seeing our performance Roberto and Fernando saw we were going to need a lot more instruction. They took us to a sand bar where they taught us the finer points of catching a wave, and we showed them how hard an American can hit the water from a surf board. We improved a little bit in the shallow waters of Barra but the waves broke too inconsistently to get the hang of it. We all however where able to stand up if only for a second or two. After about an hour we decided it was time to move to another beach so we got back in the Jeep and headed to what the locals call Wild Beach . Wild Beach is the smallest beach in Rio de Janeiro ; it is less then a mile long and is not built up like many of the other beaches around Rio . In fact there is nothing there but sun sand and the biggest waves in Rio . Even though we had surfed so poorly and been beaten so badly by the waves of Barra our guilds convinced us that it would be easier to learn here. They were partially right. The waves did break more uniformly but they were also about 3 feet bigger and the undertow was immeasurable stronger. We did however fair slightly better here and caught a few waves before I decided to give up on surfing, and work on my tan. That when Fernando and Roberto showed us what they could do. At this point you maybe asking yourself how well do two guys you hired off the street surf.
Well to answer that question one of our guilds, Fernando, won the All Rio de Janeiro State and City Competition two years running and the other, Roberto, works part time for Surfing Magazine as a photographer, when international surfing competitions come to Brazil. So it's fair to say they knew what they were doing. They put on a display for us that was incredible as we watched from the beach. Having had our fill of the surf for the day we got back into the Jeep and headed to our hotel. Although non of us were good good enough to be the next Kelly Slater we did however learn a couple of valuable lesson for the day, one surfing is a lot harder then it looks, two always wear sunscreen (this is even more true when you see the Brazilians doing it), and three never let Wild Bill behind the wheel of any type of thing with a motor, but that's a whole different story.