Planning a surf trip to Brazil can be a little tricky, most people don’t realize how big the country is and might plan to visit north and south regions by car in two weeks.
Sorry to tell you, but you would spend most of your time inside your car and not surfing—not a good idea.
First of all, decide how many days you have, and start from there. If you have 2 weeks or less, it’s best to choose one region and explore a smaller region—I assure you will have plenty to see and surf.
Here is a surfers guide to Garopaba, Santa Catarina – Brazil.
Before you buy your ticket, don’t be a kook and check our updated Airline Surfboard Boardbag Fee Guide for Surfers.
Currency: Brazilian Real (BRL). U$ 1,00 = BRL 4*
(* today’s conversion 11/15—get an update here)
From April to September, the weather is mild or even cold (south Brazil) and southern region catches east to south swells. From November to March, is meltingly hot summer, during this time northern Brazil catches northern swells. Nevertheless always bring your full 3/2 wetsuit when you visit the south of Brazil.
In this post we will talk about Garopaba, a small coastal region in southern Brazil located on the state of Santa Catarina, known as the surfers state—you will understand why once you get to the end of this article.
Garopaba is located 55 miles south from Florianopolis (Santa Catarina’s capital) and has a population of 20K people. The region comprises of Garopaba Town and a few other small beach villages—you can surf in all of them!
The economy depends mainly on fishing and tourism. Which means: surf and beers everyday, helping the local economy. The main breaks are: Rosa Norte, Silveira, Vermelha e Ferrugem, all of them are driving distance to each other.
Just another summer day in Garopaba starts with a good surf session, while the wind is still calm. Then, go home, have breakfast, get some rest and prepare your stuff to go back to the beach and spend the rest of your day.
Chairs, sombrero, sarongs, water, sunscreen, camera, surfboards, etc. Arriving at the beach, settle down and go to the local bar/shack, order some fried shrimp and a cold Original Beer (local beer). Sit, relax and enjoy the view of beautiful people, white sand, blue ocean and the rain forest right behind you.
Surfing and napping is also mandatory along the day. At the end of the day, you will leave the beach starving, go to an “all you can eat” restaurant and be happy, or go home and make an awesome barbecue with your friends and more Original. Tomorrow starts all over again. Sound good?
First, let’s check the surf right now…
Arriving in Florianopolis Airport, you will need to rent a car. You can use the Airport Website to compare fares from different car rental companies and book prior your trip. Remember to ask for surf racks or bring your own Wave Tribe hemp travel racks and straps. Price average for a SUV is U$50/day.
Leaving the Airport you will take the freeway BR-101 direction south. After 50 miles, you will see a sign for Garopaba and turn left. You will enter a municipal road SC-434 that will take you to all the beach villages and the beautiful beach town of Garopaba.
There are many different options to stay, from luxury holiday rentals, B&B’s to simple fisherman’s shacks. The best option is to stay in a “Pousada”, they are kind of a B&B, but without the breakfast and most of them are safe (they have gates and night security).
Usually a pousada offers a self-contained apartment, simple furnished, full kitchen and a barbecue (very important!). It will cost you around U$15-20/night per person. The main grocery shop is in Garopaba is Silveira Supermarket, but you will also find some mini-markets around.
If you are feeling cheap, you can rent a simple fisherman shack for as low as U$8/night per person. There are 2 problems with this option: first they don’t have websites, so you might have to drive around and ask. Second, they are not very safe, doors are too easy to break into. Unfortunately there are bad people always looking for an opportunity to steal from tourists.
Here are some great resources for accommodation in the area:
Ok, now you have a car and a place to sleep. Let’s check the surf!
The main breaks are Silveira, Ferrugem, Vermelha and Rosa Norte.
To get to Silveira you need to take a dirt road from the main SC-434, close to Mormaii surf shop. The waves break on the south side of the beach, a nice right starts from behind the rocks and enter the beach. The beach is not developed, there are no bars around, so bring your all your stuff if you plan to stay there for the day.
It’s just 4 miles from Garopaba, follow the signs and you will be fine. It’s also a sand bottom and works lefts and rights. In contrast with Silveira, Ferrugem is very developed with many bars, lots of beautiful people and a good atmosphere—it’s a great place to spend the day.
Watch this video, this is just another summer day at Praia da Ferrugem.
You can only get there walking on a trail from Rosa Norte, 20-30 minutes. The beach has no development at all, you will want to bring some water. The bottom is sand with some rocks. Even if there is no surf, the trail is worth it for such amazing view!
Praia do Rosa has two breaks, Norte and Sul, or north and south. Rosa Norte is more consistent, the rocks on the coast protect the break from the north wind and you can easily paddle out thru a channel right close to the rocks. To get there you can park your car at Rosa Sul and walk along the beach, or park at the parking lot up the hill on Rosa Norte, then walk the trail down to the beach.
If you are travelling with your other half and want to take her/him for a special romantic date, Tigre Asiático located at Praia do Rosa is a great option. Asian food, candle lights, you know the rest.
There are some “all you can eat” types where you pay $10, get to choose one type of protein (fish, chicken or steak) and it usually comes with: spaghetti, salad, beans, rice, french fries, fried eggs.
You can always ask for more if it’s not enough. There is a really good one on the main road in Praia do Rosa, just opposite side of the road to Ouvidor. Wooden deck, easy to find.
There are a few small surf shops in Garopaba Town, Ferrugem and Praia do Rosa that would cover your needs, but if you are in town there is a bigger and more complete shop called Mormaii located in downtown Garopaba, they also have a nice café in the shop.
The night life takes place mostly during summer time, Praia da Ferrugem is the busiest place, it’s really a party town with many bars next to each other on the main road.
A good option if you want to hang for a few beers and music is Beleza Pura, a bar in Praia do Rosa main road and is open year around with live music on the weekends—beautiful people and flirting atmosphere, if you are single, that’s the place to be.
Met someone at Beleza Pura, fell in love with the place and want to live there forever.
Ok, that happens a lot. This is a magical spot in the world. Here are a few real states if you are planning to buy or rent a house. Remember to invite me for a visit!
Almost forgot, how’s the crowd?
In the winter the crowd is ok during week but is busy on the weekends. In contrast, the summer crowd is insane. Be nice to the locals, have fun and invite them to share some beers and you’ll get more waves.
Praia do Rosa Facebook Page here , you will find information about lodging, events, surf, restaurants, etc.
Praia da Ferrugem on Trip Advisor.
Rio is one of those places on the earth that you always hear about and that you dream of going to one day—at least, that was one of my dreams for a long time.
My first trip to Brazil was back in the early 2000s and I fell in love with Brazil on first site (or first visit).
I think I have been back about a dozen times since that first trip and each time I go I discover something new about this diverse country.
In 2010 I moved to Rio and gave living there a go—I got to know the city well and I surfed every imaginable wave in and around the city.
Rio is crowded, polluted, dangerous and yet seductively attractive. it’s one of those places you fall in love with and never stop dreaming about your love affair—it’s like falling in love with a prostitute, you know it’s not good for you but it sure does seem like the right thing to do in the moment.
It’s going to cost you about a g-note to get to Rio, that is $1000 for you non-native speakers. It’s a long ass flight, like 18 hours from LAX and you usually have to stop in DC our Houston—there are no direct flights from Los Angeles.
If you go through DC give yourself a few hours between flights, I almost had a heart attack running to make my connection in DC—note to self, start running pre-trip to Brazil.
Once you land in Rio—and see the sprawl from the plane—don’t worry cause where you are staying is nothing like the area around the airport. It will take 45 minutes to one hour to get to your hotel from the airport. Watch you stuff on the freeway, smash and grab is a real thing.
There are a lot of neighborhoods to stay in but I suggest that you stay in the north (which is actually east but always feels like going north to me) near Leblon or in Barra de Tijuca. There is always a wave in Leblon and when it get’s big it will maintain shape off the rock point jetty.
Staying in Leblon will give you access to the fun areas of Rio, just hop on the boardwalk and walk towards the tall buildings or follow the local talent along the beach. If you stay in Barra de Tijuca it is way more laid back, the water is cleaner and the waves are spread out. The perfect trip is to stay a few days In Leblon and then move over to Barra de Tijuca.[box type=”alert” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Please read my article of getting a gun shoved in my face to help you mitigate the danger factor in Rio and my tips for staying safe.[/box]
You got two options for housing in Rio, private or hotel. If you got the cash stay at the Radisson Hotel in Barra, it’s right on the water and surrounded by great restaurants and shopping. There is a good sandbar right out front, grab your gear and get out there and check it from the window of your hotel.
If you decide you want to be closer to Rio then the Sheraton sits just a few minute walk from the main beach at Leblon. It is really in a beautiful location overlooking the ocean, though not really surf-able out front.
Just behind the Sheraton is a Favela, it’s a trip cause you are sitting in your hotel room (costs like $200 a night) and from the balcony of the room you can see the Brazilian slums—it’s sounds worse than it is, yet this is the contrast of Rio and something that you’ll have to get used too.
If you aren’t into the hotel chains then check out all the awesome locations on Air B&B, I stayed at this place in Barra a few years ago and had a nice time. It’s super safe and you can see the break from the patio—though a bit noisy during the day as the traffic can get heavy on the main drag.
If you are down for a more authentic experience I like what these cats are doing at Rio Surf & Stay. I almost stayed there on my last trip but didn’t pull the trigger—the reviews are good and I did exchange a few emails with them and they were super cool.
* For the touristy stuff to see check this online guide or the one at the end of the article has some good tips.
In Zona Sul, the southern part of Rio and the place you’ll want to hang, there are some great waves that are a walk or a short bike ride away, and for the others, there are buses that can get you there.
You might want to consider renting a car—though it is a pain to park and to secure all your surf goodies. I recommend taking taxis or find a surf guide that can cart you back-and-forth to the far-way surf breaks.
You’ll want to stay in the southern area, my personal pick is Leblon or Barra like I mentioned above, the swell always seems to be a bit bigger there and the crowds are friendlier than at Arpoador. However, if the swell is macking you definitely want to paddle out at Arpoador, that left gets sick when the conditions are right . . . here is a photo of an excellent day.
Prainha is the spot of Rio, powerful lefts and rights with an amazing backdrop. Prainha can hold up to 12-15ft, show respect to the locals as in any other situation. On a big day paddle out next to the rocks on the south end of the beach, really fun left. Prainha is a 45 minute drive from downtown Rio and worth the trek. There is a fun wave in the middle section when the tide is right. Don’t miss this wave!
Arpoador is beside the big rock at the northern end of Ipanema has one of the best lefts around, but also one of the biggest and most aggressive crowds. f you want to fight for position you got to paddle in at the base of the rock while the sets roll in, it can be daunting as you navigate the take-off zone. If you can get one up top it’s a blast—get down the line fast. Super fun wave.
Leblon is at the south end of the Leblon/Ipanema beach has a wicked right hander off the canal outlet and also a nice bowl in the same area on smaller days. It has the best vibe in Rio. Even when it’s small you can catch some decent waves here. Right next to a sewage treatment plant, can get very dirty.
Barra is an 18 km long beach with many different breaks, there are tons of sand bars and many good waves to be had along this stretch. Barra also tends to be protected from some of the nastier winds that plague the city and it is usually blowing off shore at the north end of the beach—which is where you kite boarders want to go. If you want to escape the crowds you’ll find some deserted beach break here, its about a 30 minute drive from Ipanema. It’s one of the cleanest beaches in Rio.
Grumari is where scenes from Cidade de Deus were filmed. It is a nice beach with a sandy bottom and easy left and rights. It’s about one hour from the city center and it wild and rustic. I had one of my best all time days here on a big swell. It is a beautiful spot and worth checking out.
Copacabana or Leme are a few breaks along this stretch. In front of Posto 5 and 6 have the better breaks. Takes a bigger swell to get in here but when it does it can be really going off. I’ve also seen some really good waves along the fort at the north end of the beach, there are several takeoff points as the swell get bigger, better for a longer board.
Ipanema has various breaks scattered along its stretch, it is also a hive of activity and a great place to hang. Arpoador is at the north end of the beach and Leblon is at the south end—you could walk the distance in about 30 minutes and you won’t be disappointed by the view.
Macumba is one of the more pleasant beaches of Rio, various left and right peaks with an offshore bank that works on the bigger swells.
Praia do Diabo is on the other side of the big rock is this little break, easy rights and sharper lefts. Good fun and better suited for a bodyboard.
Praia do Pepe is at one end of Barra de Tijuca, for wind-surfers and kite-surfers (possible to hire).
Recreio is over the hill from Macumba, good on the large south west swells.
Sao Conrado break is at the bottom of the favela Roçinha. Conrado is an intense, short wave, but be aware here due to the proximity of Roçinha, cleanliness of water is also an issue.[box type=”download” size=”large” style=”rounded”]Download this free tourist guide for doing those non-surf related activities around Rio which you should put some time aside to check out.[/box]
Let’s check the swell forecast . . .
Ok, I know I usually write about green business and everything ecological, but let me start by saying there is nothing more organic than staying alive (keep reading).
I have been through some crazy situations in my life but this hits the top three for sure.
I have lived through a category 5 hurricane in Jamaica, I was chased by armed bandits by car through corn fields in the hills of Puerto Escondido, and I was on a boat in Indonesia (returning from G-land) when ‘the’ tsunami hit. However, the event that happened a few weeks ago in Rio, Brazil, in some ways trumps all of the aforementioned.
I am still unraveling the feelings around the experience and not sure where those disjointed perceptions will land.
While on a surf trip to Brazil this summer my partner and I went to dinner down the road from our apartment in Barra, a suburb of Rio. This particular restaurant had the best pizza I have ever had in Brazil: the cheese tasted like it’s flown in straight from Italy and the garlic was fresher than a northwest swell in October.
During dinner we spoke a lot about our stay in Rio, in fact we were leaving the next day so it kind of felt like a review of the last few weeks of our trip. The conversation was super positive, people had been so gracious to us, kind and helpful—everyone from the bus drivers to other surfers in the water.
We finished dinner and went to take a bus home. We discovered that you can take a bus for $2 or a taxi for $20 and as we’d learned the lay of the land, we had tried to take more buses than taxis.
Unfortunately we got on the wrong bus. Once we realized it, we got off and tried to figure out where the next bus stop was. We saw one a few hundred yards down the road and walked to it to wait for our ride home.
We stood there alone and I had a strange feeling inside, like something was not right or was about to happen.
And then it did.
As we were standing there, two guys on a motorcycle rode up to us in the dark. I stepped forward to see what was up and once they got closer I noticed the guy on the back had a strange look on his face.
I looked down at the rider’s hands and he was pointing a .45 Magnum at me. You see, I know a thing or two about guns, in a previous life (earlier in this one) I would have been the one holding a gun (with a badge) and I put guys like this one behind bars. Maybe in some kind of twisted universe this was my karma.
A .45 will rip a hole through you big enough to put your entire arm straight through the exit wound. As they approached the gunman said something in Portuguese but even if he had screamed in my ear I wouldn’t have heard what he said, my whole world and all my senses were concentrating on that gun. In what seemed like a nanosecond
I told my partner to run and we bolted out of there like lightning running toward the oncoming Brazilian traffic. We didn’t turn around until we had sprinted quite a distance, there was no sign of them following. We ran across the road and flagged down a taxi to take us home.
There is nothing like having a gun stuck in your face to get a little perspective on life.
It’s strange because in that split second that I saw the gun I had no fear, I knew exactly what I had to do and there was no question about intent or motive. The guy was too far away from me to charge him and I knew instinctively that it would be difficult for him to hit a moving target (i.e. us running) from the back of the motorcycle as they inched forward in the opposite direction.
Let’s be clear, it wouldn’t have been impossible, a bullet travels much faster than a human but I knew that was the chance we had to take. I also knew that even if we gave them our wallets and money they could still have shot us dead in the street, and I wasn’t going to test that theory.
I know how ruthless Rio gangs are and if you haven’t seen the movie Cidade de Deus based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Paulo Lins, you must watch it to get an understanding of how easily a life can be taken.
I knew that I’d go down fighting or running my ass off, I hedged on the latter as our best option and somehow all my instincts knew this and I ran like a cheetah.
Of course later I doubted everything, I should have tackled the motorcycle, I should have gone Bruce Lee on them and done a flying Jeet Kune Do kick.
I should have taken the bullet for my lady as she got to safety, but the reality is that what happened happened, and nothing else matters. I never thought I would die taking a bullet in Rio, but damn, you just never know what life is going to deal you.
I wanted to write about this experience to help remind you of the preciousness of life and also to pass along a few tips if you happen to venture to Brazil for a surf trip:
1. Don’t hang out in dark places at night, stay in well lit areas.
2. Stay in a hotel close to the beach that has security.
3. If anyone approaches you by motorcycle don’t stick around to see what they want.
4. Don’t take a bus at night in Rio, grab a taxi.
5. Celebrate your life TODAY, you never know when it will be over.
Life is about clear perception and how you show up in each moment, it’s about the awareness surrounding your daily movements, and it’s about a vital living action. This is why we all love surfing so much, it puts us in ‘the zone’ with very little effort. I hope these tips will help you have a safe trip as you venture to unknown places in search of that perfect wave.
Exclusive Interview with Shaper Felipe Siebert
We were in Brazil and Felipe invited us to his house in Floripa—to see Felipe Sierbert’s surfboards up close was mind-blowing, his incredible surfboard workmanship is extraordinary and we instantly fell in love with his shapes.
While we were at his home we asked if we could interview him and learn more about his life and his take on ecology.
This is the first video in the series of interviews with Felipe Sierbert.
The surf has been flat all week, I guess I have no other choice than to work hard. At least I don’t feel guilty about not being out there riding every molehill (like Campbell calls them on Sprout) I can find, nor about surfing when there is so much eco-stoke to spread!
But the day came when I had no excuse. The water was so flat I wish I had an SUP to paddle for hours, and the whales were down at the beach for a visit. A friend and I decided to grab some longboards and try to get as close as we can to get some good pictures of our big friends.
The only sketchy thing is to know when you are intruding. I don’t want to be pissing off a mother and provoke her to slamming us with her tail. Maybe someone can tell me if that’s a realistic fear… Anyhow, we decided to be prudent.
As we paddled towards one, it slowly moved away. We then decided to paddle closer but slightly aiming to get beside her. We didn’t want her to think we were predators going straight at her.
As we caught up with her, it turned towards us…we froze…now we slowly turned away, as it kept approaching us. I turned the camera on, as I also made a slight paddle away from it, showing we weren’t there to pounce on it. I got as close as 15 feet away, we were freaking out! That’s when it decided it was close enough and went on its way.
It’s so amazing to see these majestic animals from so close, especially when you are inside the water, and you only have a laminated foam block under you. We looked at the beach and saw people taking pictures from far away. I realized how lucky we are to be surfers and watermen, and have this connection to the ocean which allows us to experience these kind of things in such a more intimate way than the rest of the people. My footage on video is not so nice, I guess I was more worried about living it through my own eyes. I did get a picture though that might give you an idea of what we saw.
Wave Tribe Delegates Benny Zuse Rousso & Tomas Oberst Kadgien
It was a meeting from ACES (the Santa Catarina Surfing Schools Association) the Instituto ilhas do Brasil made a presentation about the Instituto itself and their projects.
In one of the presentations they spoke about Wave Tribe products, and Wave Tribe’s leashes were displayed as an example of a commercial project in sustainability.
Benny reports, “I really must say that I got impressed. EVERYONE liked the leash and wanted to buy them. They were impressed with the quality of the product, the design, etc.” Benny continued, “many surf schools owners got stoked ’bout the leashes as well.”
Wave Tribe thanks Benny and Tomas for all their wonderful work in Floripa, educating surfers and the public about the importance of green products with the industry.