Yesterday I watched one of my favorite surfers (Mason Ho) surf against Adriano de Souza in a heat that would decide the WSL World Title — and I found myself rooting for Adriano. I posted my feelings about it on Instagram at one point and was immediately berated for the opinion, which is fine, but I wanted to take a minute and shed some perspective.
I’m personally not a fan of Adriano’s style on a wave, I don’t get excited to watch his heats and he was a dick to me once eight years ago after I almost ran him over at Off the Wall — which in hindsight I probably deserved — yet despite all that, I still found myself wanting him to win that heat and the title. And I’ve actually felt this way toward him for the past few weeks. And now I think I know why.
Sometimes we need a wrench thrown in the gears. It makes great sounds. And usually ends up fixing the broken gears by causing them to break more, forcing a total rebuild. And in a surf world overrun with hyperbole, corporations, shark stories, wave pools, unsponsored Dane, unsponsored Craig and surf leagues, Adriano de Souza represents a very big wrench in our gears. And he did his World Title winning like your local roofer would, in the hot sun with nails and determination and tools and hard fucking work.
You see, when Adriano wanted to learn to surf Bells better, he moved there. And he ended up ringing the bell. When Adriano wanted to get better surfboards and learn the culture of the “surf industry,” he moved to San Clemente and lived behind legendary shaper Timmy Patterson’s house, sponging knowledge and surfboard know-how. When Adriano wanted to learn to surf Pipeline better, he stayed with Jamie O’Brien all season and just won Pipe Masters, at very legit Pipe (aside from the final). He does not care what you think of him. But he cares a lot about winning a World Title. So much so, that nothing else has seemed to matter to him. He lost his sponsors. He sacrificed, fought, cried, yelled and competed his balls off instead of worry about you. And many dudes on tour talk about trying real hard and wanting to win, and I know some of them do, but their actions are not those of Adriano de Souza’s. He is the guy who does the quiet work, when no one is watching, with no spotlight, ever. Who puts everything on the back burner so he can win. No one is making videos about him. No one was talking about him. No one cares for Adriano. He was not attacked by a shark this year. He did not win any peer polls. But he just smoked the entire world at competitive surfing. And I back the shit out of that.
It’s pretty well known (“Fuck the WSL” and all that jazz) that we’re more interested in what happens outside of a surf jersey than in one, but after dealing with pro surfers who can have you book First Class plane tickets across the globe for their own movie premieres you’re hosting for them, and then cancel those same First Class tickets just as quickly — leaving you stranded with a venue fee and hotel bill because they’re “tired” from surfing Huntington Beach all week — I can’t help but love that Adriano and his style and tenacity just smoked them all.
I have to agree with writer Matt Warshaw who said he doesn’t think we’ll see a surfer outside Brazil win a world title in the next decade (or two). Sorry boys, but it might be time to “Fuck the WSL” and try something new. —Travis