It had only been two weeks since my arrival, but I still knew. My mother always told me not to be hasty, but when it hits you, it hits you. As I stepped onto the warm, soft sand for the first time and stared across the turquoise water charged with rolling waves, the proverbial question rang out in my head: if you had to spend the rest of your life in one place, where would it be? Right here.
Imagine an island with stunning natural beauty, a lovely sub-tropical climate, vivacious nightlife, and over forty amazing beaches. What’s even cooler is the populace is lively and social, taking every opportunity to spend time with others while sipping on Caipirinhas and listening to the rhythms of the Samba.
Florianopolis is an island just off the coast of the province of Santa Catarina in the south of Brazil. The Island is connected with the main land by a bridge, making for easy access. It's known as the “Monaco of Brazil,” and serves as a major holiday destination for Brazilians and Argentinians, but is relatively unknown in the US and Europe.
When we arrived at our house, I was pleasantly surprised. It was half way up a hill, making for an amazing view of the surrounding area. Within a five minute walk was one of the best beaches on the island, Praia Mole.
Brazil has a very specific beach culture. Brazilians don't lie on a towel in the sun. When not parading the beach, showing off their bodies in their tight speedos and thongs, trying to impress the opposite sex, they sit on a little chair, protected from the sun by a 'guarda-sol', sipping on an ice cold beer. When I say ice cold, I really mean ice cold… when the beer is more than 1 degree away from being frozen, they consider it too warm to drink.
Florianopolis is well known as an excellent surf spot. Our blond haired, blue eyed surf teacher looked like he came straight from Scandinavia. The first thing he explained was that surfing is about relaxation and patience. “You know man, you just relax, wait for the wave to come, and don't worry about anything. No stress, you know?” Great, but how on earth do I stand up on the board?
The waves seemed quite big and since none of us had any surfing experience, we were a little worried. The good news was that the beginner’s beach, Praia de Galheta, was a 45 minute walk from the surf school. During our trek, we came across a massive, jagged rock. Right when we passed it, a naked man jumped in front of us, giving us a super creepy look. “I forget to tell you man, this is the gay beach. Some people are a little crazy here. But if you’re into that, that’s totally cool, it’s just not my scene.” Not mine either, but kudos to that crazy naked guy. Ballsy.
My first wave didn't go as planned. I flew off the board, got tossed around by the wave a few times, had a massive amount of seawater push its way into my nose, and then crashed my head into the back of my friend’s board when I resurfaced.
After this somewhat rough introduction to surfing, the rest of the lesson went pretty well. Standing up on the board turned out to be easier than expected. I'll never forget that awesome, invincible feeling after riding my first wave. And just like that, a new passion was born!