Uruguay, the tiny country sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina, is hardly considered a mecca of surf, overshadowed literally and figuratively by its neighbor to the North. However, in addition to the typical countries represented in surf competitions these days, Marco Giorgi proudly carried the Uruguayan flag onto the map and into the Semifinals of the Volcom Pipe Pro. The 27-year-old was a standout throughout the event eliminating heavyweight Pipe specialists Koa Smith, Joel Centeio and Jack Robinson in his run to Semifinals before being knocked out be event winner Kelly Slater and Hawaiian legend Bruce Irons.
Giorgi's performance, however, is just the beginning. After taking a few years away from the QS to reexamine his approach to competitive surfing, he's more focused than ever. Could this be the year that Uruguay finally lands a spot on the Championship Tour? Get to know Giorgi below and make the call yourself.
WSL: Who got you into surfing?
Giorgi: My dad is one of the first surfers from Uruguay so he taught my brother first, then I was influenced by both of them. My dad had all the spots dialed, so they started taking me surfing on the right days at the right places.
We had to sell our house in order to pay bills and maintain the family business.
WSL: How did you get exposed to high quality surfing?
Giorgi: Between 1999 and 2000 there was a big [financial] crisis in Argentina which influenced Uruguay directly and my dad's business renting houses in the summer. Business got bad and we had to sell our house in order to pay bills and maintain the family business. My parents decided to move to a little town called Garopaba in South Brazil where we used to spend vacations and [escape] from the harsh Uruguayan winters. After moving there I started to have direct contact with surfers like Alejo Muniz (BRA), Ricardo dos Santos, Thiago Camarão and many others. It started to open my eyes to professional surfing. I never did good in Brazilian contests because they where so much better than me (haha) but I managed to get a sponsor from Mormaii. I went to Hawaii when I was 16, that [was when] I decided to be a professional surfer.
Most of everyone, my mom and dad are the heroes of all the story. They where very ballsy to move to another country that spoke a different language and start from zero. We had nothing when we got to Garopaba and they've always gave me the green light to go and surf no matter what. They were always there for me, especially mom. After my parents separated she stayed in Brazil and made it happen for us. (Thanks mom!)
WSL: You had an amazing run at the Volcom Pipe Pro; how much time have you put in at Pipe?
Giorgi: The first time I went to Hawaii I only surfed Pipe one time because I was too scared. The second time I went with Ricardo dos Santos and that year we stared putting a lot of time in at Pipe, Ricardo, Jeronimo Vargas, Felipe Cesarano and I where like a little team. We used to wake up at night and run from Rockies to Pipe every day. The waves didn't matter, we'd just paddle out and surf for a bit before the crowd came. We surfed it onshore, big, small, rainy--whatever it happened to be we where out there. I did that for a few years then I stopped because I never could get the that wave I had in my mind, so I got a bit frustrated.
This year I had a really good time, it was a blessing to surf heats with all those great surfers, especially because waves were all time. I wasn't thinking on results, I was having a good time, just trying to squeeze that moment the more I could. I was happy with the result especially because I realized how many people were watching and actually cheering for me. I was stoked to receive all the messages from lots of people that I didn't even know were following.
WSL: Uruguay has very little representation on the QS, can you tell us about the surf culture there?
Giorgi: Because it's such a small country things (boards, wetsuits, equipment) were always hard to get specially when my dad started surfing. The sport has never been famous or big, so there were never lots of surfers, but now obviously there are more. The place is beautiful and when the right things happen there are lots of point breaks, beaches and bays that get really good. There are a few good surfers there, a few 15-year-old kids that are surfing good, a couple from my hometown La Paloma, which is the underground surf city of Uruguay.
WSL: Who are you running around with on the North Shore for support?
Giorgi: I do most contest traveling with guys like Lucas Silveira, Jean da Silva and Yago Dora. I've been surfing with them heaps, but in Pipe I don't know. I've made friends over the years going to Hawaii. Wade Tokoro has been making my boards over there for years now and he always believed in me and gave me support with making really good boards, that was really important too, to have a board that are made in Hawaii for those waves.
WSL: Tell us about your goals on the QS this year, how many events do you plan to do?
Giorgi: I want to qualify. Last year I only did a couple primes. The year before I was bad in the ranks because I stopped [competing] for a few years and when I got back I didn't have points. I had to do the small contests and that was pretty annoying. But now I'm in the [10,000s] so I'm going to concentrate on that.
WSL: You must have some horrific travel related experience with all your flying around?
Giorgi: I think the worst was to travel the whole world and actually be at a contest, in a hotel, sorted and fine. Then because the forecast was flat I went and partied hard. When I woke up and opened my laptop I saw that my heat was ending. That was the worst feeling, explaining to everyone at home was the worst, making up some sort of a good lie to my sponsors. Until this day they don't know, but I guess now they do haha.
It's hard. Most contests are in bad waves, I was never a good surfer in tiny waves.
WSL: What's the hardest part about being on the QS?
Giorgi: The hardest part maybe is that you have a dream of being on the CT and surfing all those good waves, and when you actually see the reality of the QS you realize that it's not what you had in mind. It's hard. I was never a good surfer in tiny waves. I did the QS from when I was 20 until I was 23. I took lots of slaps on the face of life, and that is hard, to learn and get back on your feet. When I stopped and had some time to think, I learned how to take on all the traveling, contests and situations you put yourself in.
WSL: What trait do you like best about yourself? Why?
Giorgi: I'm a warrior, I'll fight it until the end, and I hardly get pissed when I lose. I think because I lost so many times that it just doesn't make sense to get mad and I have the warrior in me, it's just the Uruguayan blood, they call it "Garra Charrua."