The importance of surf culture in Rio de Janeiro
The military dictatorship was in its peak and prisons, exiles and censorship were part of the country’s day to day life. The left had been decimated, or at least silenced and there was no outlet for protest. Meanwhile the surf culture was growing in the vacuum left behind the shutting down of the left in Ipanema, a neighborhood known for its leftist residents. This culture had been imported from California and been introduced to Rio de Janeiro’s middle class by students of the American School of Rio de Janeiro.
So were the surfers really relevant? Did anything they say really count for anything?
Most of the Brazilian intelligentsia would say no. This was an insignificant byproduct of a repressed era.
Well, it wasn’t. First of all it did not come from the military apparatus, nor was it well seen by the American mainstream. In the Coastal towns of the US the kids who were making it the king of sports among the youth came from the lower classes and were dropouts specially in the late sixties and early seventies.In this environment, being a long haired surfer was being against the establishment. The anti Viet-Nam war protests were at their peak, and protesting in the seventies was not theoretical, it was about taking on the mainstream by actions. The kids who were dropouts were closer to home, they could be anyone’s kid who was engaging into something outside the system, it could happen in any family, it was the real thing…
The generations who came after the surfers can still relate to them and the freedom that they represented. They sought a personal detachment from the logic that everything in life should be attached to a production system that has profit as an ultimate goal.
Surf culture in Rio was to give birth to the rock movement of the 8O’s that took the country by storm. For that generation they were like the stronger older brothers who told parents to shut up, who broke ties and who were radically alive. These were the precursors of Brazilian Punk, but healthier, more charismatic, sexual, and less hateful than their British counterparts.
If no one liked them in the middle class, it is because everyone wanted to be like them but did not have the inner strength to do so. In Rio some were spoiled rich kids, but this group certainly were not accepted into the surfing elite.One you had to earn their way into being respected by being good at the sport and by tough in the water. They were not dumb blondes, they were just too big for this world.