Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Gay Surf Brazil... What is all about?

Gay Surf Brazil. Sounds cool, but what is it exactly? I can almost read people’s minds when I talk about our LGBT Surf Camp. Is it a kind of Gay Surf Week? Is it a surf version of the Gay Games?  Is it like a Summer Camp?

When Brazil Ecojourneys launched our first LGBT surf camp four years ago, I wasn’t sure myself what it would be. The idea for a camp started when Thomas Castets from GaySurfers.net contacted me to talk about a documentary he was making at the time, Out in The Line Up (OILU). He mentioned that he would like to have an event in Brazil for gay surfers because Brazilians were the 3rd largest group of members visiting his site.

I was interested, but not hooked. Then I watched the trailer of OILU, which really helped me understand the extent of homophobia in surfing. Then I started thinking of my own lonely experiences on the board. I’m usually the only woman riding the waves at my local beach, almost certainly the only lesbian and certainly the only O.W.L. (the Older Wise Lesbian) in a crowd of young male surfers.  So what was supposed to be just another tour for Brazil Ecojourneys became a very personal project: to give the LGBT community an opportunity to enjoy this amazing sport in a safe and friendly environment.

So what exactly is our LGBT surf camp? We start the week with a couple of days relaxing in Florianopolis, getting acquainted with one another and enjoying the gay Praia Mole beach. From there we head to Praia do Rosa, 90 minutes south of Floripa, here in South Brazil. For the next five days, staying at our comfortable beachfront resort (not in tents!), we concentrate on surfing for a few hours each day: lessons for the absolute beginners and surf sessions with local instructors for everybody else. For higher-level surfers, we film them, then review the video with our super coach, Capitão David (El Capitán!) the next day to help improve performance. There is something for every level of surfer.

We also host three group yoga sessions in our villa´s private yard overlooking the sea during the week, but you don’t have to be a Yogi for that! The idea is to learn techniques like breathing exercises and stretches that will help us surf better.

In between the surfing and the yoga, there is free time to enjoy the pool, the spa, the gorgeous beach, have a massage or go hiking. Rosa beach is surrounded by beautiful nature, so it’s also perfect to just relax. Towards the end of the week when everybody is ready to enjoy stronger waves, we hit the road for our Surfari, searching for the best waves in the remote and beautiful peninsula of Santa Marta.

Evenings are free but the group tends to get together for dinner. Rosa has many charming restaurants, so dining out is also a fun part of the week.

So it’s easy to describe the day-to-day program of our LGBT surf camp. What’s harder is to describe how the surf camp really touches those who attend.

When I started planning Gay Surf Brazil (GSB), I imagined that a lot of people in the LGBT community, like me, may have wanted to try surfing at some point in their lives but didn’t because they believed you have to be young, male and very straight. Sexism in surfing has been discussed a lot in recent years, but homophobia hasn’t. I am sure this silent barrier has kept many of us out of the water. That’s certainly what I heard from personal stories of our GSB participants and friends.

For our first edition of GSB, only gay men joined the tour. It seems sexism AND homophobia were still keeping lesbians away from the waves. Most of these attendees started surfing later in life and were not open about their sexuality in the water.

For other attendees, this was their first time on a surfboard. One man in his 40´s told me that living in Rio all his life, he would often go to the beach to watch surfers. He dreamed about surfing but was afraid he would be bullied if he tried, as he wasn’t your stereotypical macho guy. He was our most enthusiastic attendee, eager to learn. When he caught his first wave, everybody was cheering for him.

From Argentina came Gabi, who now drives two days in his truck every year to be with us. He had never surfed with “family” before our camp, but now he looks forward to joining us every year because here he is relaxed, doing what he loves amongst friends.

Another year we hosted a lovely, but somewhat shy German named Marc. He said very little at first, but now is the first person to ask the dates for next year’s edition. He uses his pre- and post–GSB time to travel across Brazil with fellow campers he’s met over the years.

And from Los Angeles came Joel, who started surfing at 50 after a defining event in his life. Although he travels often to surf, he had never been with a group of gay surfers before and is now one of our regulars.

The age range of our groups is generally 40-55, but last year we had Lea, a 62-year old woman from NYC, joining us for the first time.She let us know that she had some health issues and was a bit out-of-shape, but she wanted to try the camp all the same. I knew she’d fit in with our group on a personal level, but I worried she may not enjoy the activities given her limitations. She proved me wrong. She may not have performed the perfect cutback yet, but the moment she stood on that board on the second day of camp she was radiant! As she said, “Just so you know… it was the best vacation of my life. It kicked my ass in all the best possible ways!”

So, this is what you can expect at Gay Surf Brazil: it is fun, it is active, and it happens in a gorgeous place. But it is also about a sense of community, friendship, pushing your limits a bit and, maybe, if you’re lucky, it will totally kick your ass.

I hope you’ll join us on our next edition of GSB from 17 to 24 March 2018.
For more information and reservations check http://brazilecojourneys.com/pk/gaysurfbrazil/
Places are limited. Book now!

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