With three of the four Quiksilver Pro Semifinalists hailing from Brazil and the sole Brazilian on the women's Championship Tour (CT) making the Roxy Pro Quarterfinals, the World Surf League's (WSL) "Brazilian Storm" has officially arrived.
After a long-brewing tempest that started in 2001, last year's performances by Brazilians -- from Gabriel Medina winning Brazil's first-ever World Title to the success of Brazilians on the Qualifying Series (QS) -- cemented their place in the upper echelons of the sport. In 2014, Brazilians won 11 QS events overall. Of those events, five were on the most competitive tier (now called QS10000). That success helped elevate two more Brazilians from the QS -- Wiggolly Dantas and Italo Ferreira -- to join Medina, Adriano de Souza, Filipe Toledo, Miguel Pupo and Jadson Andre on surfing's biggest stage. On the women's QS, former CT surfer Silvana Lima led the pack and requalified for the elite Tour.
The biggest number of surfers representing Brazil in any given season is 13. That was back in 2001 when the men's CT had 11 Brazilian surfers from a total of 44 athletes (the men's Tour now has 34 total), while the women had two Brazilians. Those were the days of Brazil's legendary surfers Flavio Padaratz and Fabio Gouveia, who paved the way for a new generation of athletes. It would be common to see eight or 10 Brazilian surfers in the big leagues -- but not necessarily in the Top 10.
This year, there are eight Brazilian surfers on the CT (men's and women's combined), outnumbered only by Australia's contingency, with 18. And while it's not the biggest group in history, this generation of Brazilians is enjoying a significant, collective level of success.
Until Medina's Title year, the highest Brazilian year-end finisher was Victor Ribas, who took third in 1999. Even in the Padaratz-Gouveia era, there were long stretches of CT events without a Brazilian winner. In 2002, Neco Padaratz won the Quiksilver Pro France and Jacqueline Silva won the Billabong Pro in Maui. Over the next four years there were just two CT wins for Brazil -- Silva won the Gold Coast event in 2004 and wildcard Bruno Santos won the Billabong Pro Teahupo'o in 2008. But from 2009 to 2014, there has been a surge of success from the Brazilians on Tour, with 14 CT event wins: Lima has won three, De Souza has won four, Medina has won five, Andre claimed the sole Brazilian victory in 2010. So far this season, Toledo has won the first event of the year, at Snapper Rocks.
With all this success, it's easy to lump the Brazilian Storm together as a composite force of nature. But each surfer on the 2015 CT brings a unique element to the table. Here's a breakdown:
Gabriel Medina: Leading the Brazilian Storm is the reigning WSL Champion. Medina dominated last season and clinched the World Title during Round 5 of the Billabong Pipe Masters. Medina has momentum on his side and victories at two heavy waves -- Cloudbreak and Teahupo'o -- boosting his confidence as well.
Adriano de Souza: The veteran Brazilian. He just kicked off his 10th consecutive season on the elite Tour. De Souza's big edge is consistency: He finished in the Top 10 five years in a row and goes into the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach ranked No. 3. (See full rankings here.)
Filipe Toledo: One of the most refined progressive surfers on Tour. Toledo's air game and mind-blowing maneuvers earned him a 10-point ride during the Quiksilver Pro Final, leading to the first CT win of his career. Toledo showed hints of greatness when he won the O'Neill SP Prime last November and the Hurley Innovation Award at Trestles. (Check out Toledo's offseason training.)
Miguel Pupo: Pupo arrived on the scene in 2011 and finished in the bottom tier of the rankings, but he's been in the Top 20 ever since. At the first event of 2015, his experience paid off in tricky conditions -- he was one of the three Brazilian Semifinalists at the Quiksilver Pro. Pupo does best when he's able to let loose, like in the Moche Expression Session in Portugal. If he's able to find that rhythm in his CT heats he'll be a real threat.
Jadson Andre: He struggled at the Quik Pro Gold Coast in 2015 but is known to come into his own later in the season. Last year he made a huge statement during the season's back-half in Europe, which proved to be the perfect place to display his talents: He made the Final of the CT event in France with picture perfect barrel-riding and successfully defended his title at the Prime event in Cascais, Portugal.
Watch the Brazilians and others take to the sky with Aerial Roundup.
Wiggolly Dantas: Dantas made it further than any of the men's Tour rookies in 2015's first event, finishing in the Quarterfinals. During his 2014 run on the QS, he won the first Prime-rated event of the season, the Quiksilver Saquarema Prime. Dantas, who's first name means "warrior," is known for a progressive style and high competitive level that saw him place third and fifth in two other Prime events. He showed he performs best in high-pressure situations: Those results are far more impressive than his finishes at lower-stakes contests the same year. Now he's proven he can step up to surfing's elite. (Check out the Faces of 2015 feature on Dantas.)
Italo Ferreira: At the Quik Pro, Ferreira had the second-best finish of a rookie, placing equal ninth. While he didn't win any QS events in 2014, he made the Quarterfinals of two 6-Star events and three Prime events, proving that he could do well in a field that's packed with top talent. He was able to maintain a spot at the top of the QS pack all season and earned his stripes as an aerial artist. (See more in the Faces of 2015 feature on Ferreira.)
Silvana Lima: Lima put the world on notice when she scored the first 10-point ride of the 2015 season. She is starting her 10th season on Tour but spent last year on the QS fighting her way back to the elite ranks. At the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, the women's first event of 2015, she went 1-for-3 in heats against longtime rival and reigning World Champ Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) and had an average heat score of 16.37. That average is second only to Carissa Moore (HAW), who won the event.
Watch the Brazilian Storm and the rest of the CT competitors at Bells Beach, the next stop on the World Surf League's Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour. The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach and the Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach will be broadcast LIVE on the World Surf League homepage starting April 1.