© Ben Thouard :

2020’s Silver Lining

Location: Guaruja, São Paulo

Caio talks about being in the water again

2020 was meant to be the year of big dreams, great achievements and scoring exceptional waves for Caio Ibelli! He was back from an injury and showed some powerful surfing in 2019 by placing 3rd in the Margaret River Pro and MEO Rip Curl Pro in Portugal, as well as conquering the death-defying reef at Teahupo’o for a 5th place at the Tahiti Pro.

But 2019 was always going to be the steppingstone for 2020…until Covid-19 hit and the WSL cancelled all events through to July. Borders and beaches were closed and Caio was left homebound for an extremely testing lockdown: several weeks without surfing!

Even though the WSL championship tour is still on hold and the pandemic wave continues to impact people across the globe, Caio is at least back in the water again with a new appreciation of doing what he does best!

So what does life look like right now for a professional surfer, ranked 17th in the world, after a break from (competitive) surfing? Caio Ibelli shares his highs and lows.

How are things in Brazil with regards to Covid-19 and returning to a new way of life again?

It’s still pretty crazy over here: more than 1000 deaths per day! People dying from Covid-19, hunger and mental health. So sad to see it happening. Slowly but surely, we are learning to adapt to a new way of life.

Here in my hometown, Guaruja, São Paulo, they just opened the beach from 6-10am for exercising, but at least I can feel the sand under my feet again. It feels amazing!

You must be so excited to be out of hard lockdown and back in the water– what was the best part of taking to the ocean again?

Yes, yes, yes!!! Never felt so good! The first time my feet touched the sand and I made a duck dive again, was super special. I appreciate it so much more now and I am just loving it – enjoying the ocean as much as I can!

Was it easy to take up surfing where you last left off?

That’s a good question. No, it wasn’t easy. We (professional surfers) have a very high standard of how we are expected to perform in the water and I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty upset in my first couple of sessions! But when I turned it around to be a gratitude surf for being back in the water again, everything felt perfect.

How did you keep sane without surfing during lockdown?

By staying positive and learning some valuable life lessons along the way: health and family are the most important things in our lives, nothing else matter that much.

Do you find that you have a new appreciation for surfing when it was taken away from you?

Most definitely! I never thought I would ever be without surfing for that long, but I’m also excited to hug all the people I love again and tell them how special they are to me.

Do you chat to a lot of the other guys in a similar situation?

Yes, but most of the states of Brazil and other parts of the world were open to surf. My hometown was one of the few ones closed so it was extra sad, but hey, what can you do!

What do you love about the surfing community in Brazil?

How passionate we are about surfing; surfing is our everything! It’s what we love, therapy to the soul and our way of living.

What’s the vibe like in the water – with the people being able to surf again?

I had to drive 10 hours to be able to surf, my hometown only opened the beach this week. So far, we had no swell, but we see everyone exercising, longboarding, spearfishing and running on the beach. It feels refreshing and it makes me happy to see people walking and enjoying the beach again!

What are you focusing on with the WSL tour still being on hold?

Staying healthy and fit. I must be ready to go at any time and I’m almost ready again. I just need a few more weeks and then I will be ready to compete for when they “press play”!

First place you would love to travel to/ wave you would like to surf – if you get the chance?

I would love to go to Indonesia and stay there for as long as I can! It’s a great surfing destination. From there my next stop would be Australia and Cape town. I had so many exciting travel plans for this year, hopefully I can still squeeze in some for the second half of 2020!

After 2020 turned out so differently – are you setting new hopes/aspirations for 2021 and what will those be?

I think I had a great mindset for 2020, just gonna keep that for 2021 with a little extra spice. I’m ready to do my best and have the best year of my career, training for that and preparing my mind and body.

Perhaps a word of encouragement to the global surfing community – all facing the effects (like travel bans, beach closures or social distancing) of the pandemic.

Protect yourself and your loved ones. Life is great, enjoy this time to create different memories, learn new skills, establish healthier habits and to improve yourself. Soon we will all be back doing what we love best!

We’re certainly glad to hear that you are back in the water again Caio! Seems like most of us were frothing to surf during the COVID-19 restrictions, and now that they are lifting, the ocean therapy might just be the silver lining we were looking for in 2020!

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