Independent On Saturday – 19 December 2015
By Paul Botha
Brazilian Adriano de Souza completed a spectacular year on the World Surf League Championship Tour when he was crowned the 2015 World Surfing Champion and won the season-ending Billabong Pipe Masters at the Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii on Thursday.
Having never previously advanced beyond the last 16 in 10 years of trying at Pipeline, de Souza’s incredible work ethic saw him enlist the aid of Hawaiian standout Jamie O’Brien and spend literally thousands of hours in the hallowed, hollow tubes of the iconic break to improve his knowledge and expertise.
Practice makes perfect and he battled giant waves and the world’s best surfers before outsurfing compatriot and defending World Champion, Gabriel Medina, in really tricky 1-1.5m waves in the final, becoming the first Brazilian to claim the Pipeline Masters title.
The 28 year-old’s journey to the top award in surfing began in the dusty streets of a favela (township) in Guaruja in the south of Brazil when his older brother bought him a surfboard for seven Dollars in 1998 at age nine. Within three years he had qualified for the Brazilian team that competed in the Quicksilver ISA World Surfing Games in Durban in 2001, where he made an instant impact by posting a perfect 10 point score on the opening day.
Going on to reach the final in the under-18 division of the event, de Souza’s already apparent uber competitiveness led to him dropping in on local favourite Ricky Basnett, leaving the Brazilian with an interference penalty and a minor placing, but hindering Basnett’s chances and handing the World Junior title to Durbanite Warwick Wright.
Returning two months later to compete in the Mr Price Pro, the 13-year-old was detained by customs officials at Durban Airport for ten hours when a communications mishap resulting in his sponsor’s representative not being there to collect him. De Souza was unable to explain what he was doing in South Africa or where he was going as he did not know a word of English!
He qualified for Championship Tour, the global series of events in which the top 32 ranked surfers compete for the annual World Title, by winning the Qualifying series in 2005 with what was then the highest point total ever.
Finishing 2006 ranked 20th and just re-qualifying in 28th spot in 2007, he then became a fixture in the top 10 for the next five years before slumping to 13th in 2013, rising to 8th last year, and now he’s achieved his lifelong dream by becoming the World Surfing Champion!
Medina, who looked unbeatable at Pipeline, ended rankings frontrunner Mick Fanning’s path to a fourth World Title with a highflying aerial manoeuvre in their semifinal encounter on Thursday. Although he could not repeat that in the final against de Souza, Medina nevertheless became the first Brazilian to clinch the coveted Triple Crown of Surfing title for accumulating the highest points total through the three Hawaiian events at Haleiwa, Sunset Beach and Pipeline.
De Souza, Medina, Filipe Toledo and the rest of the aptly named Brazilian Storm completely dominated the World Surf League this year, winning six of the 11 event titles on the Championship Tour. And Italo Ferreira won the 2015 WSL Rookie of the Year title by ending the season ranked No. 7 while Caio Ibelli clinched top spot on the Qualifying Series rankings. The 2016 season is going to be really interesting!