How Pedro Henrique's Leap of Faith Paid Off

Words by Daniel Jenks, Interview by Nico Leroy

Pedro Henrique Wins in Israel
Pedro Henrique's experience was on point at the recent Seat Pro Netanya.

Pedro Henrique is not a household name in surfing circles, but the 33-year-old Brazilian has been surfing professionally for more than half his life. Not only was he Brazil's first World Junior Champion, he was also a member of the Championship Tour in 2006.

But after failing to requalify that year, then losing his major sponsors a couple years later, he was facing the harsh reality of living life in the streets. Determined to give surfing one more shot Henrique took a leap of faith, moving his family from Rio to Portugal, a move that ultimately led to his reinvention as a professional surfer. Today he's surfing under the Portuguese flag, and is happier than ever competing on the Qualifying Series, where he recently took top honors at the Seat Pro Netanya. In an interview with the WSL, Henrique revealed just how grateful he is to still be chasing his surfing dream.

Pedro Henrique (PRT) .Netanya QS 2016 Pedro Henrique gets chaired up the beach following his win at the recent SEAT Pro Netanya. - WSL / Laurent Masurel

WSL: What are you most proud of outside surfing?
Henrique: I'm really thankful for my great family. I have an amazing wife, two beautiful daughters and a ton of support for them. They are the most important thing in my life and my family is the best thing I created. We moved to Cascais recently because our grandfathers are from Portugal. It was hard to make the big change, so we did it after I stopped traveling so much.

I was almost living on the streets. But it was part of life that makes me understand a lot of things and makes me be more thankful.

WSL: What was the toughest moment of your life?
Henrique: There was a lot of hard times in my life, but maybe the hardest was in 2010 when I lost my sponsors. I almost made the CT again that year but I was competing without a salary and didn't find another sponsor. I didn't make enough money to put a whole season together. I couldn't compete anymore and in my mind I was completely out of surfing. I didn't know if I would have the chance to compete again. That was really hard because I had dedicated my whole life to surfing since I was a kid. My family is not a rich family and I didn't finish school because I put everything into the opportunity to surf and be a professional surfer. I felt like it wasn't fair and nobody believed in me anymore.

I really wasn't surfing much because I needed to work. That's super hard for Brazilians, if you don't have a rich family and you lose your major sponsor you having nothing else to do. I was almost living on the streets. But it was part of life that makes me understand a lot of things and makes me be more thankful. We saw a move to Portugal as an opportunity to make a new life, calmer, easier for my family and safer than Rio. We had a 100 euros in our pockets and I had amazing help from Alvaro from Polen surfboards. Everything happened slowly. We were working and I started surfing again. People started to believe in me and I got some opportunities to compete. Now, here I am.

Pedro Henrique, 2015 SATA Azores Pro
Henrique made it all the way to the Quarterfinals at the 2015 SATA Azores Pro QS10,000. He finished the season at 43rd on the QS.

WSL: If you could tell your five-year-old self one thing what would you tell him?
Henrique: What I taught to my daughters: Do what you love and don't care what other people think. I [haven't] pushed them to surf. I would really like to see them surf, but I don't force them to do it. They're just now starting to like skateboards. If they surf it will be because they want to.

WSL: What do you fear the most?
Henrique: I fear a lot of things, but I try not to make my fears prevent me from doing things. I think when I was young I lost a lot of opportunities because I was afraid of what other people thought of me. Simple things, like how I did in a heat. But what scares me the most right now is not being a good husband or good father and passing on the right teachings to my family. It's more important than results or money. I think if you have good teachings when you are a kid it's more important than anything in life.

Henrique Wins in Casablanca
Henrique clinched the European Regional Title in 2015, following a win at the QS1,500 in Casablanca.

WSL: If you could live anywhere where would that be?
Henrique: Right now, I'm really happy where I am (in Portugal). But Hawaii is probably always the dream.

WSL: Love of your life?
Henrique: Jesus Christ. I went to his grave [after the contest in Israel] in Jerusalem. It was really special. I spent my whole life reading about him and trying to understand what happened with the people before Jesus and after Jesus. So it was super incredible to see where things happened.

WSL: The best advice you've ever gotten?
Henrique: Andy Irons came to me when we were on the bus in Mundaka. I was so upset because I lost a heat and I needed a result to qualify. He came to me and said, "Hey man, don't worry. This is just a contest. It won't change your life if you make a heat or not." At the time I didn't really get it because I was so concerned with maintaining the life that I had. I was so concerned about staying on the CT and keeping sponsors that I put a really heavy weight on my shoulders. After losing everything, I understand it's just a contest. Your life is not just a heat.

Pedro Henrique airing it out as he waits for the Hawaiian Pro 2015 to begin. Pedro Henrique checks out the Israeli skyline. - WSL / Laurent Masurel

WSL: What's one thing you wish you could do over?
Henrique: Everything that we do in life makes us better. Even the worst parts I don't think I'd change, because I'm a little bit wiser and a little bit stronger.

WSL: What quality do you most admire in other people?
Henrique: I really like to see people who fight for what they want. But also I like to see people who conquer something and are still humble.

WSL: What's the most overrated wave?
Henrique: In Portugal there's a lot (laughs). There is a wave in Portugal called Santo Amaro that's a righthander and has a couple barrels. But it's always fat and crowded. I probably can't surf there anymore after this haha.

Pedro Henrique (PRT) .Netanya QS 2016 Henrique takes in some of the sites in Israel between heats. - WSL / Laurent Masurel

WSL: What's the biggest problem facing humanity?
Henrique: Greed. When politicians are corrupt and always want more and more, never ending. I think it's one of the reasons we have problems in the world. Everybody wants more.

WSL: What's the meaning of life?
Henrique: I believe that God made us to have a great life, we make things more difficult because we don't exactly follow how he wanted us to. But I think we are supposed to have a healthy, happy and great life as much as possible. I believe that's the reason God created us.

WSL: Who would you have play you in a movie about your life?
Henrique: I'm really bad with actor names. Maybe that guy Matt Damon. I think he could be me. He's the guy that made that fighter movie right?

WSL: I think you're thinking of Mark Wahlberg...