By Mary Bolling Blackiston, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Anyone who is enamored with surfing will certainly have a warm welcome in Rio. From Copacabana to Barra de Tijuca, the city is teeming with surfing spots, which hit their peak in June, July and August – but draw surfboards to the beach all year round.
For Thiago Castro, a Paulista who has been in Rio since the age of six, “surfing is a kind of therapy – it’s the time when I can forget my problems and concentrate only on the water and the sound of the ocean.”
For those who have never tried but want to learn, or for others who hope to master the sport, there are a number of surfing schools along Rio’s coast. As far as Zona Sul (South Zone) is concerned, the most popular place to surf is in Rio’s birthplace of surfing, Arpoador, which has waves ranging from two to ten feet.
The downside is that crowds are big and are known for being fairly aggressive. Going at night is an option for more advanced surfers (or those who go with a guide), since the beach is lit up. The Escola de Surf de Ipanema (Ipanema Surf School) is based in Arpoador.
Yet the best surfing spots, along with the majority of surfing schools, are further west. Barra da Tijuca, which boasts the longest beach of Rio (eleven miles long), is much less crowded and, like Arpoador, has waves from two to ten feet. The surf is also extremely consistent, which makes it especially appealing to beginners.
There are a number of schools based in Barra, including the Escola de Surf Rico (Rico Surf School), which is owned by a famous Brazilian surfer, Rico de Souza, and is known for being one of the best surfing schools in Rio. Escola Carioca de Surf (Carioca Surf School) is unique in that instructors will drive their surfers to wherever the best waves are.
Escola de Surf Pedro Muller Surf Club is another popular option in Barra, along with Drop Vertical Escola de Surf (Drop Vertical Surf School), which relies on simulators as part of the teaching method.
A bit further west of Barra is Recreio; according to Castro, the best spot to surf is Recreio and the surrounding area, because “here, the peaks and conditions are changing throughout almost the entire year.”
Rio Surf n’ Stay is both a hostel and a surf school in Recreio; Mauro Bender, one of the owners, sees it “mostly as a ‘surf camp’.” It is primarily aimed at travelers passing through Rio, but is also open to locals or anyone who wants to learn how to surf.
Special programs, such as the “Learn to surf in English program,” welcome outsiders and as Bender states, “customers love it as they get the opportunity to practice English with others and at the same time, practice a healthy sport.”
If one is willing to venture a bit further outside of the city, Prainha, a 45-minute drive from Rio’s Centro, is a beautiful, isolated beach with a backdrop of trees and mountains; it offers consistent waves that almost always guarantee some surf. It does get crowded, so it is best to arrive early in the morning, especially on the weekends.
Like Prainha, Grumari is a clean, secluded beach, surrounded by nature. Only accessible by car, this stunning surfing spot, mostly frequented by locals, is a bit of a hike. However, it is much less crowded than Prainha and has great waves.
While many of these beaches may be far from the center of Rio, they are readily accessible. Rio’s “surf bus,” which stops exclusively at the various surf points of Rio, from Botafogo to Prainha, makes it relatively easy to get to (most of) these spots.