"I'd like to mention Yago. We've been staying together and he's such an amazing kid," said Adriano de Souza after beating the 20-year-old in their Semifinal at the Oi Rio Pro this week. "On the drive here I told my manager that I expected him to win the Trials, but I never expected him to get to the Semis. I love hanging out with him, we are family and that's important."
The bonds between De Souza and Dora are tight. Not only do they share a coach in Leandro Dora -- Yago's father -- but they were also roommates in Saqaurema during the Rio contest.
De Souza has watched Yago grow up from grom-dom to where he is now -- standing on the precipice of international surf stardom. They also have the additional bond of close ties to the late Ricardo dos Santos. Dos Santos, a Brazilian big wave surfer shot dead in 2015, was one of De Souza's dearest friends and played a key role in Dora's development.
"I'd like to talk about Ricardo, because he coached Yago at the beginning and he's been right here with us the whole way," De Souza said. Just seconds after the hooter had blown in the Final, Adriano tapped his right arm (where he has a tattoo in Ricardo's honor) and pointed to the sky. There may have been more than 10,000 surf fans screaming his name on the beach, but at that poignant moment there was only one Brazilian that ADS was thinking of.
However, if you thought that Adriano and Yago's special bond and event sleeping arrangements were unique, you'd be wrong. On glance at the opposite side of the draw produced a mirrored image in the form of Owen Wright and Matt Wilkinson. Again the closest of mates -- and roomies -- were battling it out to meet De Souza in the Final.
"I've been staying here with Owen and our beds are about a finger length apart," laughed Matt Wilkinson after he defeated Owen Wright. "I've been rolling over each morning and he's the first thing I see." Wilkinson's support throughout Owen's brain injury has been well documented and reached its fairytale conclusion when the two met in the Final at Snapper. Here in Saquarema his reward for beating his BFF was a matchup with his next-closest friend, Ace Buchan. The two grew up at the same beach on NSW's Central Coast and Ace has been a guiding hand, and best mate, throughout Wilko's career.
It is actually rare in an elite sport for these types of friendships to survive the most competitive of environments. Obviously Nadal and Federer don't share an apartment before Wimbledon. We are also pretty sure Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson don't fight over who was supposed to unpack the dishwasher prior to a round at Augusta.
However, surfing isn't tennis or golf, despite comments to the contrary. And the fierce competition is based on healthy respect, not disdain. Mind you, with all the surfers heading to Fiji where they'll bunk down together for two weeks on a remote island, maybe that's just as well.