Ja, a destination of choice for surfing

Published: Sunday | July 5, 2009

Keisha Hill, Staff Reporter

Brazilian surfers (from left) Fernando Moura of Florianopolis, Igor Morais of Sao Paulo and Yuri Castro Zini, who is also from Florianopolis. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

Jamaica's reputation as a surfing destination is in line for a big boost following the recent visit of a Brazilian team of pro-surfers.

The Brazilians were on the island shooting local surf and lifestyle imagery for publication in Brazilian lifestyle magazine TRIP and campaign video footage for cutting edge surf brand 'LOST'.

The six-man team which was here for two weeks consisted of surfers Fernando Maira (MCD, Globe, Ogio, Freestyle), Igor Morais (Lost, Evoke, GU energy gel), and Youri Castro Zini (Lost, Freestyle, Evoke, Ark, True Ames Fins, OAM), photographer Moises Tupinamba, journalist Caio Ferretti and videographer Pablo Aguiar.

Although not traditionally identified as one of the world's hottest surfing spots, Brazil does have excellent beaches and many surfing professionals. The right hand side of the country hugs the Atlantic coastline where there are plenty of waves to get stuck into.

The best surfing spots are in the south of Brazil, especially in the state of Santa Catarina. Other good spots include Sao Francisco do Sul and Praia da Joaquina (where the Brazilian surfing championship is held). Outside this region there are also Ilha do Mel (Parana) and Ubatuba (Sao Paulo).

The youngest of the three surfers, twenty-one-year-old Zini, began surfing at eight years old and then realised that this was something that he wanted to be involved in for the rest of his life. Upon hearing that surfing was done in Jamaica he and his colleagues decided to take up the offer from their sponsors to visit the island.

"We travel to other countries and document their culture and show the world another side of surfing," said Zini, who is also from the home of world surfing champion Jacqueline Silva.

difficult for surfers

Maira, who surfed competitively for 12 years, won many pro-contests in Brazil but stated that it is difficult for competitive surfers there so he decided to retire. Despite this he is still ranked among the top 100 in the world.

The 26-year-old said they were a bit worried about the waves before they came to Jamaica but when they got here they got some good ones.

"The waves varied at times in the first days then got smaller. But we are happy that we got a lot of material to use," Morais said. "There are a lot of reefs but sometimes we needed bigger waves," he said.

With over 1,000 surfers in Brazil in comparison to little over 100 in Jamaica, Morais said that would account for the biggest difference between the two countries. He also said Jamaica had a better advantage in terms of having more reef breaks, although the sport was more popular in Brazil.

"Our coast is really big and we have a lot of surfers," he said.

Morais hails from Sao Paulo, one of the largest cities in Brazil and South America.

The surfing trio, who speak Portuguese and some English, said they have tried to add new manoeuvres and styles on the waves.

"Everyone knows about com-petitive surfing but we add back flips and other styles on the waves," Zini said.

President of the Jamaica Surfing Association (JSA), Billy Wilmot, said the interest in surfing in Jamaica is as a result of the work of the JSA to establish Jamaica as a surfing destination of choice in the region.

"We consciously went out to create this image for ourselves, where there was previously no image of Jamaica in this sport," Wilmot.

As a result, Wilmot said, they have also received exposure in a lot of magazines. "These are not the first Brazilians to have come to Jamaica. The first set were female surfers who came to Jamaica about five, six years ago," he said.

"As a result of that promotion and exposure, the word is getting out now that there is surf in Jamaica and Jamaica has a national surf team. When we go to international events other surfing countries realise that Jamaica has a team," Wilmot added.

One of the pioneers of the sport in Jamaica, Wilmot said the first thing many teams think is that Jamaica has a surf team but the sport is probably practised in the United States or another surfing nation. They are surprised, he said, when they are informed that the sport is done right here in Jamaica.

Wilmot said the manager of the LOST brand in Brazil approached him and indicated an interest in sending some of their pro-surfers to Jamaica, and the rest, as they say, is history.

"The companies find top surfers, give them a contract to surf for their brand and then pay for them to go and be photographed in unique places that will promote their brand and their logo," Wilmot said. Jamaica, he said, is just one of the countries on their list at this time.

exotic nature

"Jamaica was chosen as a destination because of its exotic nature and the sponsors preferred to make trips to locations off surfing's beaten path," Ferretti said.

Tupinamba added that every-where he pointed his camera the images were jumping out at him. "There is just so much great texture to everything," he said.

Top local surfers were also in the running for some quality "on screen time."

"There are thousands of surfers in Brazil and these features at such a high-profile level will catapult Jamaica on to the scene in South America. The surfers being featured on this trip are the top-sponsored pros in Brazil and will attract major attention," Wilmot said.

With the JSA's Makka Pro Surf Contest on this weekend, Jamaica once again gets the opportunity to establish its name as a legitimate regional surfing nation.