Silvana Lima has long been one of pro surfing's survivors. She grew up in the city of Paracaru, on the northeastern coast of Brazil, to a family of few financial resources, and made her way to the WSL Championship Tour in 2006. She stayed in the big leagues for six years, largely paying her own way in the absence of lucrative sponsorship deals until 2012, when she suffered a knee injury and lost her spot on Tour. What Lima did next, though, is what elevated her to hero-status: Not only did she work her way back to Tour once, in 2015, but yet again in 2017, after falling off in the intervening year.
More recently, however, things have begun to click into place for the petite athlete, who's known for her powerful surfing and progressive, above-the-lip maneuvers. She's picked up a few major sponsors, like Neutrox, Oi, and Vult Cosmetics. And in September, she won her first CT event since 2010. So far this year, her season is already off to an auspicious start. She opened 2018 with a Quarterfinal finish at a top-tier Qualifying Series event, and has since been training at her home breaks. Before she hits the Roxy Pro Gold Coast this month, here's her take on her bright future.
World Surf League: You finished 2017 with a win under your belt, and solid results in December. What was the turning point for you?
Silvana Lima: After Fiji, actually, I felt like I was surfing well. I really love that wave. After that, I called all my friends, and my coach and said, ‘Guys. I want to win Mexico [at the QS 6,000 Los Cabos Open of Surf].' I sent everyone a voice message saying, 'I want to win this event. I have to.' The waves are similar to where I'm from, in northern Brazil. I just tell myself always, ‘Silvana, you have to win this event. Keep going.'
Because of that win there, it positioned you to keep your CT spot with your QS rank at the end of the year. Once the pressure was off to requalify, did you feel you were in a better flow with your surfing?
That's a terrible feeling for surfers. You feel pressure like, 'Maybe the sponsors won't have a contract for me for next year. It's finished.' I'm 32 years old, so I'm not that young anymore. If I'm not on the CT, all the sponsors go away. That's why I feel so happy to keep going, because every year my surfing is still improving. Getting better and better every year. That's why I keep going, and keep believing in myself, and keep believing in my dream. My dream is to win a World Title.
On the personal side, who is your coach, and is in your inner circle?
[Among others], I have one in Brazil, Leo Neves -- he was on the CT in 2009. We surf every day, try new boards, try to make airs -- he says, ‘Come on, Silvana. You have to do something different than the other girls. Work with this maneuver, or this one… .' And I have a trainer, I've been seeing him for three years. He's always by my side. And I have friends everywhere, I always stay at friends' houses.
How do you focus? And what do you think was the key to your win at Trestles?
I just think about good vibes - how can I say? Like, think that everything is going to be good. There is no wrong way. Just good. When I made the first round at Trestles, I hadn't done a freesurf before the contest started. I just went straight to the heat.
I don't know! [laughs]. Because I feel so nervous when there are so many people there. I want to cry, and why do I want to fight somebody [for a wave]? So I thought, 'Come on, Silvana, just get out there when you have only two people [in the lineup].' So all the heats I did, I did the same way. No freesurf. I went to Kelly's wave and I felt good. So, come on, that's like doing two freesurfs at Lowers. [laughs]
When you feel great, you don't need so many exercises before. You have to turn it on in your heat. You don't have to spend a lot of energy with freesurfing and exercise. All the women do it --- and that's good. But when I'm in Brazil, I work a lot. The gym, run in the sand, pool -- I do everything. But when I'm in the contest I say, ‘Come on.'
How else do you spend your time in Brazil, outside of your kennel, and training?
When I'm in Brazil, I also play soccer on the beach. I was confused, before I became a pro surfer. Like, in 2001 -- I thought, what am I doing? I want to be a pro surfer, and do pro soccer. I don't know which! But the surfing gave me good ideas, good waves, and helped my family a lot. So I went for the surf.
At the Surf Ranch, I saw you with the soccer ball. You were incredible.
You've never seen? I'll show you... still, look. I love to play soccer.
Where does your grit come from? How do you cultivate that?
I think it's just, me, because I love this. I push myself a lot. And the women on Tour are so good. It's motivating. Surfing is passion.
Catch Lima showcasing her passion when the CT season kicks off at Snapper Rocks, with the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, live on the WSL from March 11 - 22.