"On days like last week, everyone just wants to come home alive,” says Matheus Couto who has been shooting Brazil’s brace of mutant slabs at Mother Island and Shock since day one. “It’s so gnarly and dangerous and everyone wonders why a small crew surf here. But to those who are out there, living it -- days like this mean everything to them.” Matheus is an an out-and-out frother but one for hyperbole, he is not.
Just away from the bustling hubbub of Brazil's most famous city of Rio de Janeiro is one of the country's premier slab zones. Shock, which by now you may have heard of, is a consistent, wide yet shallow barrel and often the go to when a big south swell lights up the whole area. It is usually very 'OMG' and there are many head scratching moments of 'how did they make that'. But then, pretty much the next beach over there from Shock is its evil cousin; Mother Island. Twice as brutal, shallower, heavier, meaner than its counter-part and is only unleashed when a big ol' south east swell.
Gabriel Sampaio knows a thing or two about Mother Island and here, puts a tick in the makeable bracket. Vid by Pedro Rolon Rodrigues.
That swell direction is actually super rare though, plus the combo of good wind, right size, tight angle. So rare in fact, it's probably broken twice in the past half-a-decade (and yeah, we covered that too). "While Shock is more like a random pile of rocks that gets shallow and deep and then shallow again, while Ilha da Mãe (Mother Island) is an actual island that rises steeply from deep water and creates this wild wave.” said surfer Ziul Andueza,
But look at the above and below, all around this feature! It is a bit more than that, we think. A below sea level, rock-avoiding, deep danger keg, for starts. Where it really shines though, is dancing on the threshold of makeable and impossible. "The crew that surf it, they're not like most people," said photographer Matheus Couto.
"Over the past few years, got together and decided to only surf the most dangerous and heavy waves around in Brazil,” said Matheus. "Here's one of them. Some of these surfers have their own jobs, that have nothing to do with surfing, but some are professional free-surfers, like Gabriel Sampaio and Kalani Lattanzi. One thing that everybody has in common is the passion for these slabs.
Willyam Santana and a gorgeous-looking back drop. Sequence by Matheus Couto.
“Friday, it was such a difficult swell to read. We knew it was going to be big, but we didn’t know how big, really. We had lots of wind and rain, and we knew the only time we had to score some waves would be on Friday morning. But the swell direction had changed completely to come from the south east.
“This is great news because it is not a common swell direction for here and it is the perfect swell direction for our super rare and epic slab Mother Island. I wasn’t really prepared for that!”
During the northern hemisphere summer season, big wave riders from Brazil have been using the likes of Shock and now, Mother Island, to practice for the likes of Nazare, Jaws. Testing inflation vests, putting rescue techniques to the test and forming a bond in camaraderie that's important in the connection between ski driver and surfer or photographer. Much like Matheus and partner Pedro Menzes.
"Matheus called me on this day and I was sleeping," said Pedro. "He asked me if I wanted to go out there to drive the ski and help him get shots. Any chance I get, I want to get out there. So, I got prepared fast and went there straight away. It was crazy out there. But I was super stoked because this wave it's just... special, last year I got the wave of my life out there and to be back feeling it again was incredible. To learn more about the ski... amazing experience."
An unridden force of liquid brutality — welcome to Brazil! Vid by Pedro Rolon Rodrigues
As for how Friday went. “Guilherme Hillel got a bomb, he pulled into a monster and then took a huge wipeout,” said Matheus. “Guto Goulart had a super glassy wave but went over as well.
“I’ve always had a great desire to surf the Mother Island,” said one of the session standouts Willyam Santana. “It really is a slab with incredible potential. It’s always challenging to slab surf for the first time, but when the reef is very dangerous and shallow. After two or three waves I understood how the wave works, released more of my foot from the straps and managed to make two good waves by coming from behind the peak.”
“Willyam Santana was one of the greatest on the session by the time I was out there and Felipe Cesarano had a perfect wave as well,” said Matheus. “Victor Gioranelli, a great friend of ours, got a huge bomb as well. It didn’t matter if it was only a few hours of waves, this place is just that special.”
Make you want to surf around Rio? Go HERE!