It didn’t used to matter how serious one took the act of riding waves. It wasn’t a job,  a chore or a political act. Surfing was and still is about having fun. Some things contributed for us to face surfing as a serious sport, most prominently professionals that started making a life out of it and the contests that supported this market. When we started giving out scores for waves ridden we simultaneously turned surfing into a legitimate sport (which overall is a good thing) and a stern and sober act (which is not the funnest thing in the world).
I’m from the southernmost state of Brazil, and around here surfing has two particularities: most of the time we suffer from the lack of good waves, and second, you’re constantly traveling with friends to score. The odd result of this combination is that we have a thriving surf culture and the world’s biggest surfing population on a city away from the beach (Porto Alegre, RS). Though there are a few amateur and pro events around, 99% of the surfers are recreational. And they want to have fun. That’s how SurFest came along.
A concept created by Surfari, SurFest consists of a beach festival that integrates surfing, music, arts and good vibes. The surfing competition is based in 16 crews of friends that compete in 4 different categories:
  • Performance Surfing (traditional 4-man heat competition): 3.000 points
  • Single-fin Surfing (same as Performance but with a single-fin): 2.000 points
  • Costume Surfing (each competitor makes its costume, cheers through the crowd catwalk-style and then goes surfing): 2.000 points
  • Surf Photography (each competitor shoots the whole day and in the end turns in its best 2 pictures, one lifestyle and the other surfing related): 2.000 points
The festival’s first edition took place in Atlântida beach (130km from the capital, Porto Alegre) on 20/02/2106 and was a total hit. More than 8.000 beachgoers turned up for the event that overall had more than 24 hours of attractions. It started at 8AM with a locals only competition, than at 10AM proceeded to the 16 crews competition, simultaneously to all this there was an art show and a independent brands fair, to close the day three bands took up the stage. And to seal the deal, after dark the scene moved to a open bar celebration party.
There were two highlights that exemplified the joy and fun-orientation of this event. First, on the Performance and Single-Fin surfing competition three all-girl crews competed together with men, without distinction or privilege making it all lighter. The second was simply when the costumed surfers paraded through the packed beach. All 16 dressed surfers hit the water at the same time making everybody on the beach share a collective laugh. Aside from that, every crew had their own space and endless barbecues and toasts were made to their friends and friends of friends, creating a very positive environment to say the least.
After the scores were calculated the crews were brought up on stage to celebrate a full day at the beach, and the bands (New Age Travelers, Good Samaritans and Tonho Crocco) proceeded to rock. For the ones that still had batteries the night ended with a Corona-fueled party that lasted on until the sunrise.
In the end, it was a day well worth living. The organizer of the festival, Surfari, has an ethos that says “If more people surfed, the world would be a better place,” and as not every person in the world will grab a surfboard and go ride waves, initiatives like SurFest make a great amount of people to connect with the values of surfing. And that should make a good impact on the world.
Editor’s Note: This SurFest has nothing to do with Surfest Newcastle, in Australia, or Surfestival, in Chile. The name was just too good to define an event that is much more than a surf contest. It is registered for Brazil and South America.