Right now, when it comes to men's surfing, Brazil sits as the world super power. Italo Ferreira and Gabriel Medina have claimed the last two World Titles. Brazilians occupy 11 of the 32 spots on the Championship Tour. And Filipe Toledo and Yago Dora are among the most progressive surfers on the planet.
However, prior to that ascension, dubbed the "Brazilian Storm" by the surf press, it was very different story. For almost a decade it was Adriano de Souza who plowed a solitary furrow as the only Brazilian in touch with the Title contenders.
The natural-footer was one of very few surfers that consistently came close to challenging Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow. Oddly, outside of his homeland, he was never really considered as having the natural talent or style of that elite set of legends, despite having results that often mirrored theirs. Yet, if there was any artistry imbalance, perceived or otherwise, he simply responded by working harder.
"I say to myself, ‘I have to run faster than those guys, I have to wake up earlier than those guys, I have to do everything better than those guys,'" he explained. "A championship is made up of tiny details."
The reward for that attention to detail, relentless commitment and endless desire came in the form of his 2015 World Title. After a decade on the CT he claimed the victory in a dramatic showdown at the Pipeline Masters. That win further emboldened the likes of Medina, Ferreira, Toledo and Dora. All have expressed their debt and gratitude to the man they call "The Captain."
However as De Souza approached the 2017 Oi Rio Pro, to be held at Saquarema for the first time, he hadn't won an event since being crowned World Champion. It seemed his age may have been finally catching up to him. Had he passed the torch to his younger, more electrifying compatriots?
Turns out, he still had plenty left in the tank. Over the course of the week, with solid lefts suiting his powerful backhand, De Souza grew in confidence. He defeated Ian Gouviea, Medina, Parkinson and wildcard Dora on the way to Final.
With each victory the huge Brazilian crowd went crazy for their hero. By the time he scored a 9.80 in the Final to defeat Adrian Buchan the noise had reached a deafening roar.
The Brazilian crowd, like his fellow Brazilian surfers, knew exactly the role De Souza had played in elevating their country to surfing's top tier and they appreciated it immensely.
As it stands, the win at Saquarema was his last CT victory. One can never write him off, but if that does count as his last time atop the podium, it's hard to think of one that was more deserved or celebrated than his win at home at the 2017 Oi Rio Pro.