While Adriano de Souza, Gabriel Medina and Yago Dora are the Brazilians scoring the headlines at the Oi Rio Pro, another one has been silently, ruthlessly, going about his business.
While his public profile is low for a third-year Championship Tour (CT) surfer, Dantas is one of the more colorful characters on Tour. He was three years old when he started surfing in front of his mom's beach stand. While she was selling coconuts, food and drinks to beachgoers, he was waiting for his brother's board to wash ashore so he could grab it and ride some waves. After cutting his competitive teeth in Brazil he set off early to chase his pro surfing dreams, and was quick to make friends all over the world.
During his first trip to France as a young grommet he had no wetsuit. Worried he'd freeze, France's local legend Jeremy Flores handed him a brand new one, and they've been close friends ever since. In Hawaii, Dantas has practically been adopted by the Rothman family, and the islands have become his second home, which is why he's a perennial standout when things get serious.
Dantas has grown into one of the more powerful surfers on tour. He's more linebacker than lightfoot nowadays, yet dangerous in every condition. In Saquarema, he's already taken the dangerous pair of Ezekiel Lau and Sebastian Zietz out of the competition, racking up scores of 15.60, 18.27 and 16.54 in his last three heats. Going into his Round Five heat against Joel Parkinson the goofyfooter is bristling with confidence.
"When I heard the contest was going to move to here, I felt so happy," Dantas told the WSL. "I know the wave well. It's a powerful wave which means I can push harder and that suits my style. I've just been trying to get two good waves and do big turns."
Big turns is a Dantas trademark. In his Round Three heat with Zietz, his two scoring waves only featured four maneuvers, but such were their power and timing, he netted nine points for both.
After a diabolical start to the year where he finished 25th at both Snapper and Margaret's, the green shoots of his current form first appeared at Bells. There, he took out Kanoa Igarashi and the defending champion, Matt Wilkinson, on the way to a ninth-place finish. His trademark backhand belt found its groove in the Bells Bowl and you could see the spark returning to his surfing.
The Oi Rio Pro then came at a perfect time for Dantas to build on that result. Surfing in front of the parochial crowd and with his huge support network in town for the event, Dantas has looked entirely comfortable at Saquarema.
"I feel really good, I've won a prime here before," he said referring to his win here in the Saquarema Quiksilver Pro in 2014. "My boards feel great, my whole family is here and the crowd is amazing. So everything is coming together."
Of course he'll need everything to come together to get past Parkinson in his next heat to set up a Quarterfinal clash with De Souza. This other Brazilian might speak quietly, but he sure carries a big stick.