The World's 10 Best Cities For Surfers: Rio De Janeiro
From Stab issue 58: Stab reveals the metropolises where a man can lock down a satisfying occupation, be entertained in the most degenerate manner, where he won’t be vilified for his free expression and where a hunk of fiberglass can be put to exceptionally good use…
Number one is: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
By Jed Smith and Julio Adler / Designs by Shinya Dalby
There’s a very good reason why the Wall Street traders who vultures the global economy have begun relocating en masse to Rio. Well, a few reasons actually, but mostly it’s just ‘cause they’re smart. It’s boom time in Brazil and an exploding economy has added the final spice to an already intoxicating stew of culture, climate, caipirinhas and ah, what’s that other cheap and plentiful thing that abounds in South America starting with a C that blows the living heavens out of a healthy, but ageing, man’s heart?
Backed by giant green mountains, rimmed by rainforest and with kilometres of sandy, surfable coast to its north and south, it’s easy to see how Rio has earned the moniker cidade maravilhosa (marvellous city). With economic prosperity reigning, a skills shortage in several fields of high-end expertise and the football World Cup and Olympics about to drop by, the question has become not why you should move to Rio but, if it’s within your means, why haven’t you?
Why you’ll wanna live there:If surfing is but one part of a lifestyle that thrives in a richly artistic, eclectic, romantic and temperate (bordering on tropical) environment then get thee to Rio. If surfing is your lifestyle and sleeping in vans, crapping in ditches and shaving salt crystals from the back of your ear onto your morning omelet is your thing then Rio’s not a place of permanent residence for you. As the second largest city in Brazil and plonk on the beach, lineups are crowded and can be aggressive but that’s not to say great uncrowded waves are an impossibility. Just that, well, a calm disposition and a shortish fattish quad does go a long way here.
Six mill souls in this dreamboat city. Photo: Ryan Miller
Where to stay: Stab prefers the Hotel Fasano to anything else and, despite the cost ($500 upwards for a bolthole) believes a man can come no closer to heaven than being immersed in its pool overlooking the paupers below. Copacabana Palace ain’t so bad, either, but Hotel Fasano gots the fever right now. Ipanema, Leblon, Gavea and Santa Teresa are the best places for a truly Rio de Janeiro adventure, if y’into that sorta thing. Bed and Breakfast joints are the thing to do now, and even they are pretty pricey. You can stay right at the beach in Ipanema at Arpoador BB, or at the heart of Leblon at BB Leblon, Gavea at La Maison or even at the hills of Santa Teresa.
Violence: Not as bad as you’d think, if all goes well, psychotic if it don’t. Just ask Shane Doz who had a gun barrel pointed at his head by two runts on a scooter. With the World Cup and 2016 Olympic games bound for Rio, howevs, the government has spared no expense in wiping the grime and blood from it’s seething back streets. So far has the city come, the hillside hoods formerly owned by sniffling six year olds with homemade shooters are now occupied by quaint bed and breakfasts, Samba studios and tourist trails.
Getting out: Rio’s home to one of the most diverse and progressive social scenes in the world, with everything from clubs, bars, street jams, raves and mini festivals to live gigs, block parties and of course, come mid-February, Carnival, with two million cats taking to the streets everyday for a week of partying. But, people in Rio don’t have a habit of going out to hipster clubs. Y’can walk all night throughout the streets of Baixo Gavea. You can’t miss the Lapa, a sexy but sometimes dangerous neighbourhood, with bars, restaurants, and all kinds of clubs for the sophisticated. The big thing in Rio are the private parties, like Baile do Ze Pretim, or rockarocka and (only four times a year) the fashion brand Auslander party.
Y’like sand under your feet and sand bottoms under your 5’6” Mayhem? Rio sure is your city. Photo: Seth Stafford
Grinds: Maybe you’ve just scorched a fat green one in the soothing afternoon sun and you’re feeling a little peck to go with that icy caiparinha in your hand. Summon an Acaraje from a street vendor for a couple of clams (a black-eyed pea fritter topped with shrimp and all manner of other tasty treats) or, if you’ve got game on the cavaquinho (the four-stringed Brazilian ukelele) try to weasel into a beachside Churrasco (Brazilian bbq). Fail that, take a seat at any restaurant and order a bowl of Feijoada, the national black bean stew with smoked meats that takes a full day to prepare.
Cultural hits: Rio’s got ‘em in spades. Take the Barra Expresso on a Saturday down to the famous crafts market in Rua General Glicerio in Laranjeiras or check out the Bohemian hilltop neighbourhood of Santa Teresas. If you’re into finer arts, there’s the Instituto Moreira Salles (photography museum), the National Gallery of Fine Arts and the fruit at the fieras (open air markets). Oh, and there’s hundreds of samba studios catering to varying degrees of skill around the city. It’s a bit of a daunting scene but even the most rudimentary understanding of samba puts you way ahead of the bow-legged white men cluttering the d-floors.
Surfers: Rio is home to a giant surfing community and is proud to have birthed Raoni Monteiro, Leo Neves, Guilherme Herdy, Bruno Santos and Maya Gabeira.
Work detail: Learn Portuguese, top it with a degree and there’s big money gigs available everywhere in Rio. With huge media, electronics, engineering, computer and banking sectors located in the city, it’s developing a huge ex-pat community.
Water and all that: During the 60s and the 70s every surfer coming to Rio stayed either in Ipanema, Copacabana or Jardim Botanico. Enter the 80s and the big boom of commercialism threw the contest down to Barra da Tijuca, the longest beach in the city with 18 km of sandbars and infinite possibilities. If you pass Barra, you’ll find all kind of different set ups and waves: there’s Macumba, Prainha, Grumari and, can y’keep a secret? Rio’s rarest gem is Guaratiba, its own little Mundaka. It breaks maybe five times a year and the locals are very protective. Try Rio from late April until late October. Waves here are short and intense. If you drive an hour north from Rio, you’ll find Saquarema, Buzios and Cabo Frio, a must-do for every visitor.
Julian Wilson, Rio sloth. Photo: Ryan Miller
Now, come and dive into the idiosyncrasies that make Rio so totally hot!
Bossa Nova … is music to make love by: smooth, delicate, wistful. Rio de Janeiro can be like that if you know where to go, and when. The musical offering is almost obscene. You have free concerts by the beach year round, lots of happenings of every genre, from samba to minimal house. Avoid the big concert halls (expensive as hell!), except for the traditional Theatro Municipal, inspired by the Opera House of Paris. You can listen to music and visit amazing expos at Oi Futuro for cheap or for free (super cheap!). You also have Circo Voador and the parties at Fundição Progresso.
Saudade … has no practical translation and means that you miss somebody or something. During your stay in Rio, it’s inevitable to confront your wildest fantasies walking down the street or having breakfast at a Padaria (bakery). You simply can’t resist the urge to go up and face Christ the Redeemer at the Corcovado hill and the view up there is something capable of putting any agnostic down on his knees and saying a prayer to whatever sort of god he might get inspired by. Even the airport here has a lyrical name, Tom Jobim, the great composer who wrote Girl from Ipanema and many others. Usually, airports are named after generals and presidents, like Kennedy in NYC or Charles De Gaulle in Paris. Tom Jobim loved to spend the afternoons watching the sunset from the rocks at the Arpoador (one of the sites of the Rio WCT Contest).
Segredo … this means secret. Forget the Churrascarias, places where they stuff you with meat and beer and charge you a fortune for the all-you-can-eat orgy. If you want great meat, go straight to Majorica. You don’t need Michelin guides here, as many famous French chefs came to Rio and opened their own bistros in the neighbourhood, like Claude Troigros and the marvellous bakery La Bicyclette. Weekends can be spent at Barra de Guaratiba, with fresh fish in the shacks owned by the tias (aunts), rustic and delicious.
Rio is a paradise for fast food fanatics. Every corner has a small fresh fruit juice and burger shop (BB lanches, Polis Sucos e Ballad, all over Ipanema and Leblon) for your delight.
The Good and the Not-So-Good
+ In the current fin-loosing era, ain’t nothing quite so good as tipping your wings over a Rio wedge. Gals? Something about that brow skin and the vast expanse of a women’s ass laid bare. Dancing, fresh food, year-round sunshine and a job that’ll top anything you’ll score in NYC or London? Are you kidding me?
– Okay, despite cop squads busting open gangs and being zealous in the use of their pistols, the gap between rich and poor is real and when there’s a gap o that magnitude expect resentment and opportunism. The good side of the down side are the fruits of contraband. So cheap! So powerful!