Welcome back to the pool, kids. I hope you brought your water wings. Here comes another new school year, and another surf column in your crisply folded edition of the Daily Nexus. Oddly enough, as you read this, I’ll be more than 6,000 miles away from the nearest copy of today’s Nexus. Brazil will be my home for the remainder of the quarter, so until January, I will try to paint you a picture in blue, yellow and green.
Those of you that have read this column previously know that I’ve always been an advocate of travel, especially when the bike ride to Sands sends you spiraling into a surf-starved depression that doctors have not yet been able to find a cure for. The medical and surfing communities may need to brace themselves, however, because I have a hunch that the cure is here in Brazil. I have heard people claim that the Amazon is so rich with diverse plant populations that the cures to many of man’s most threatening illnesses could be found there. But I’m not going to the Amazon (goddamn mosquitoes). I live a stone’s throw away from a beach break that looks the way Sands would if it broke with decent size and/or shape every day, and didn’t leave you scrubbing the chunks of tar from your ocean-numbed feet. This is my cure.
I love this place, and you know it’s true love when the novelty has worn off and you have legitimately moved passed the realm of schoolyard infatuation. You see, while you are all starting new classes and buying four-subject notebooks with quaint UCSB logos and little wave designs around them, I have been floating around Brazil for the past month, getting lost in a city that has made it clear to me and my fellow EAP wanderers that we are not in Kansas anymore.
The city of Salvador is home to about 3 million people, some of whom will crack a smile and probably a beer or two with you if you go out on a limb and try to speak to them in their native Portuguese. Others would rather smoke crack in the streets and try to rob you if you look like an easy target. Welcome to Salvador! Enjoy your stay! In all honesty, it’s a big city and has a lot of the same big city problems that you would see in New York or L.A. My fellow Santa Barbarian, Cole, said earlier in the trip that he was expecting a mellow little beach village, with some dirt roads and maybe even a horse-drawn wagon or two. He was a little off. The city skyline of Salvador is laden with massive apartment buildings and hotels that hug the coastline, and the roads are packed with stick-shifting Brazilians that barely show concern for other cars, and pedestrians don’t even show up on their radar. Some people like camping, I like crowded streets and the smell of cigarettes. Home sweet home.
So what is it about this city that makes it a surfer’s paradise? I know that many surfers would read the above paragraph and think that this place was anything but. The truth is that the surf here is amazing, and you could surf fun waves every day if you had the time. Even the beaches that we travel to for a weekend of daytime beers and cheap nightlife usually have awesome waves right in front of the beach umbrellas. I always ask ahead of time if we are going to a “surfing beach.” Half the time the answer I get from Brazilians is “no,” but by our Santa Barbara standards, everywhere has a fun wave and should be called a “surfing beach.”
As I write this article, my eyes are bloodshot and my face bright red from a full day feast of surfing with a dash of time spent in the classroom as well. The waves in front of my house were about five or six feet, with the Brazilians pulling into barrels so thick that I’m not even sure if they care about whether or not they get ground into a sandy pulp by the meaty waves. I thought I had a good wave the other day, until I saw an afro-clad Brazilian boost a lofty double-grab air on an inside section. He paddled back out as stoked as a grom that caught their first wave, and started talking quickly in Portuguese. I couldn’t understand everything that he was saying, so I just threw up the shaka and smiled. Enough said. We were both stoked to be surfing an awesome beach break, with warm water and only a handful of people. Salvador is a place of many contradictions, but where the sprawling city collides with the beautiful beaches, I can only assume this is paradise.