On the beaches in Brazil and in the surf spots there’s a certain localism from the surfers that live and surf that certain spot everyday. That localism not always is violent. But, a lot of times happens in a way to get you scared and take advantage of you. Like, saying that that beach is dangerous and if you hang out with them, you will be fine. All that, most of the times is just so you pay them drinks, or food, or give them clothes, boards and stuff like that. And obviously, happens a lot towards tourists. You know, a surf class here, a surf class there, and it’s R$ 100.
Anyway. Many years ago, while starting to surf in the northeast of Brazil, at this surf village called Praia da Pipa. There was this beach where the most hardcore surfing happens. Praia do Amor, also known as Praia dos Afogados, which means ‘drowned ones’ beach, is a sand break on open ocean at this beach that forms a heart shaped bay. On the right side, at the right conditions, you get a great fast barrel. On the left side, is where most surfing conditions happen every day. It’s some consistent malformed, no direction fast tubular waves. The channel happens sometimes between two waves, sometimes there’s no channel at all. Sometimes you just gotta make your own way outside through someones wave.
Afogados can be a dangerous beach for surfers and for tourists. And tourists abound there. From all over the world with predominance of the Caucasian European. When the sea is rough, the current can be strong and its easy to get taken by the undertow.
One day, I was hanging at the beach with some friends and went in the water for a dip. I went quite far out since it was low tide. And I started riding the waves back, “crocodile” style. That’s how we call in Brazil when you body surf a wave.
At that moment, I saw a guy from the nearby surf school get out of his seat and run into the water to try to “save” me. But I wasn’t drowning or anything. I was just waiting for the next wave to take me back to sand.
This guy from the Surf Salva project came out screaming and swimming, and side breathing at the same time. When he got close to me, he saw I was ok and me and him rode a wave back to the beach. He was nice and asked if I was ok and told me the beach was dangerous and not to go too much outside.
When we get to the sand, this guy raises his voice and says “be careful next time, HAOLE!”. He seemed to have gotten that out of his lung and said that, all on the same breath. I wanted to laugh but this guy had just “saved my life”.
That same day, I stayed at the beach hanging out. The guy went and saved a few other tourists. This time, he really did save this guy. He went in with his board and brought the guy back in. And guess what he told the guy, after the guy had recovered from the scare? “Be carefule, haole!”
I think that’s that Surf Salva salutation!
By the way, Surf Salva, is a project that trains surfers, surf school and board rental guys, that are trained by the Firemen at each beach town in Brazil to help keep watch on the Brazilian beaches, since the towns don’t have the budget to keep official lifeguards.