Surfing in Rio...

Surfing in Brazil was my second goal right after training Jiu Jitsu. I grew up in Hawaii, but only surfed maybe a handful of times. Once I moved away to Texas and became land locked, my obsession with surfing emerged. My ex-boyfriend lived for surfing so we owned quite a bit of surf videos and magazines. For many years I surfed vicariously through those videos. I don't claim to be an expert,by any means. I consider myself to still be a beginner surfer. Mostly because I get to practice only a few weeks out of the year when I go home to Hawaii.

As I headed to Brazil, the idea of surfing on a whole different continent was so exciting! I imagined that Impanema and Leblon would be like Waikiki beach, filled with tourist and lined with surfboard rental stands. But this wasn't the case. When I got there I realized that the waves in Impanema were much too unpredictable and broke at the shoreline. The only spot that got any real surf was on the end called Arpoador, Praia do Diabo or at Impanema beach near the canal in between Impanema and Leblon. The line up was super crowded most of the time at Arpoador. You can rent surf boards in Impanema at the Galeria River shopping center. Impanema beach is also excellent for body boarding and skim boarding more days than not. On windy days kite surfing is also very popular in Impanema.


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At the hostel, I met another American traveler that wanted to surf as much as I did. She had never surfed before but had done her homework and found a surf school in Barra da Tijuca which is 45 min-1 hour by bus depending on traffic. Eager to get at the waves, I went with her the next morning.

It was a rainy cold Saturday morning, but class started at 8 am and rain or shine, we were going surfing! Danielle was no stranger to the Brazilian language or culture. She had spent a year and a half in Brazil and spoke fluent Brazilian Portuguese. She had also figured out the bus system and knew how to get from Leblon to Barra da Tijuca. This left little work for me, since I just kind of tagged along.

Riding the bus in Rio is like a roller coaster and the drivers drive like bats out of hell. In theory you'd think a bus would be slower than taxi, but that was not the case with our bus to Barra da Tijuca. The roads were flooded due torrential rain and poor or nonexistent drainage systems, but the bus flew along the road like it was sunny and dry. As we whipped around the mountain along the steep roads with 40-50 ft drops into the ocean, I tried not to picture our bus plunging over the edge. For the first time ever, I didn't want the window seat.

Once we got off the bus, it started to rain even harder than before. The ocean churned angrily and the waves seemed enormous. I thought, "Are they really going to take beginners out in this?". We walked along the empty boardwalk looking for the surf stand. I had my doubts that anyone else would be crazy enough to be be out in this storm.

But sure enough we weren't the only louco ones. There were 15 other surfers ready to take on the storm waves. It turned out to be an awesome session. The waves measured a little overhead and 1/2 (7-8 ft or 5-6 Hawaiian scale) further out. But we just surfed in white water that was maybe 2-4 ft. I actually got up on a few waves and rode almost to shoreline with a few of them! I was especially pleased with my self when the instructor told me I had a good stance. Most importantly, I had a blast!

Barra da Tijuca is a great surf spot for surfers of all levels. It's easy to get to via the bus and there are board rentals on the beach.

The best part about surfing in Barra da Tijuca is that it has a super shallow sand bar for a long way out. No need to paddle out, you can just walk your board to the surf. I am super lazy when it comes to long paddle outs. I'd much rather spend more energy catching waves than paddling to them. However, be careful to protect your head since it is so shallow. I had a great time and would strongly recommend surfing in Barra da Tijuca in rain or shine, when you are in Brazil!

Helpful links

Surf report: ,, and

Map of Rio Surfing beaches:

Surf spot guides:

Brazil Surf Camps:

Rio Sports Tours


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