English Invades BrazilPhotographer Jack English Follows The WQS To Fernando De Noronha by Jake Stenson
In ASP jargon, it’s known as the Hang Loose Pro-a four-star rated contest held annually off the coast of Brazil on the remote island of Fernando de Noronha. Photo Editor Pete Taras called Senior Photographer Jack English days before the departure date and just said, “Go!” setting off a frenzy of packing and last-minute travel arrangements. Vague tales of great surf circulated, but all Jack knew with any certainty was the flight itinerary: fly to S_o Paulo, Brazil then onto Recife (a city on the coast of northeast Brazil), where he would catch a one-hour connecting flight to the island. Although Jack attempted to gather more information, nobody he spoke to had any experience or knowledge about the place.After two days of travel, Jack made it to Recife, where he met up with East Coast pro and travel partner Gabe Kling. Gabe arrived several hours earlier and lined up a hotel for the night. Eager to learn more about the final destination, Jack bombarded Gabe (who’d previously visited the island) with questions about what to expect and what they might need. Unfortunately, the long journey had taken its toll on Gabe, and Jack couldn’t get any straight answers out of him. Gabe just looked back with utter confusion. Momentarily defeated, all Jack could do was settle in and head out for his first taste of Brazil. He quickly realized that no one spoke English, making the simple task of exchanging money a nightmare in itself.The next day Jack and Gabe left Recife for Fernando de Noronha with nowhere to stay and no reservations-otherwise known as a full rookie maneuver. They hadn’t taken it seriously when they were told that there were only a couple of hotels on Fernando de Noronha and no ATM machines for cash. They soon found out this was not a joke.When Jack and Gabe arrived on the island, they were immediately charged an “Environmental Preservation Tax” of 280 reais (120 American dollars). In the late 80s, much of Fernando de Noronha was declared a National Marine Park in order to preserve its environment. The Environmental Preservation Tax increases for each day the visitor spends on the island and is used to deter visitors from becoming permanent guests. When the cashier totaled the amount, Jack nearly shit himself. Between Jack and Gabe, they were only holding a couple hundred dollars and the officials only took MasterCard, which neither of them had. Apparently Visa isn’t everywhere you want to be. Being from Southern California, where ATMs come close to outnumbering palm trees, Jack hadn’t considered the possibility of there not being an ATM on the island, which turned out to be the case. He had only brought 250 American dollars-around 580 reais-and was left with approximately 130 dollars after paying the fee.Traveling a little lighter after having their pockets emptied, they flagged down a taxi and took it to the first of four hotels on the island, where they attempted to get a room. Due to the existence of the National Marine Park, the government refuses to allow a large hotel to be built there because it would have such an extensive impact on the island’s environment and inhabitants. Only 400 visitors are allowed on the island at any one time, and the hotels are usually booked for weeks in advance. Every hotel Gabe and Jack checked out was booked solid for two weeks, which prompted Jack to reply, “Are you f-king kidding me?” After their mission to get to Fernando de Noronha, all they wanted to do was relax, but instead Gabe and Jack found themselves stressing to find a place to stay. Furthermore, the island is hotter than hell-it makes summer in Southern Baja seem comfortable. So after an hour of trying to communicate with the hotel receptionist (who didn’t speak any English), Jack was ready to rip her head off and was sure she wanted to return the favor.Dumbfounded, Gabe and Jack returned to the taxi and sat there diussing their dilemma. Out of nowhere, a man named Bill overheard their conversation and asked, “Are you guys American?” Jack had never felt so relieved to hear another voice that spoke the English language, and he proceeded to explain their predicament. Bill wanted to get away from his home state of Michigan for a vacation. He had two extra beds in his room and welcomed them to crash there. Even though Bill would be leaving in a few days, this eased their worried minds and they gladly moved in.Not wanting to intrude on his vacation, they set out to find another place to stay for the remaining ten days. After some searching, they finally came across a pousada (an individual boardinghouse) and decided to check it out.The sign out front read Pousada Do Golfinho. At the front door, they were met by a 200-pound lady with one tooth who smelled like she hadn’t showered in god knows how long-a disgusted Jack feared she might molest him. According to Jack, the pousada was the dirtiest place he’d ever seen: “If you could imagine a jail cell with the freedom to leave when you wanted, this was it. So f-kin’ dirty! I almost wanted to cry knowing this was what we were going to be stuck with on the island.” They left as quickly as they came-the lady was in heat, and Jack wasn’t going to let her have him for supper.Eventually they lucked out and found another pousada that had an available room with two beds, a TV, and a host named Daniel who spoke English. They took it and were finally able to relax a little. There wasn’t much to see on the island other than an old prison, some cannons from World War II, and a big rock the surfers call “the Cock Rock” for obvious reasons. The small town consists of some homes, a couple of hotels, a church, a bank, a hospital, a gas station, and a dance hall. It didn’t matter; the place was still crowded. Fernando de Noronha offers lots of activities for Brazilian honeymooners, such as hiking, snorkeling, and surfing.When Gabe and Jack arrived at the contest, a close-knit American crew had already arrived. The Hang Loose Pro is a four-star WQS event, so some solid points and solid money served as bait. In attendance were: the Hawai’ians Fred Patacchia, Jamie O’Brien, Joel Centeio, and Sean Moody; East Coaster Mike Hoisington; California’s Mike Todd, Chris Ward, Geoff Brack, John Robertson, and Tim Reyes; and a small, but fired-up group of Aussies led by Troy Brooks.The contest site is Cacimba do Padre, a fun little beachbreak similar to Puerto but with Tahiti-like blue water-a wedging left and right that peels off this huge rock at high tide, creating launch pads and sections for the guys to play with. The entire contingent couldn’t get enough of it. Jack described the nightlife of Fernando de Noronha as “pretty mellow and really cultural.” Cultural meaning there was a dance hall where the Brazilians got busy shaking their asses every night. Their booty movement was very impressive, and none of the Americans dared to give it a go. Surprisingly, the place was hardly crawling with girls. A few girls seemed to be on vacation with their families, and several more with their friends. Most of the surfers had just competed in a contest in the girl wonderland of Florianopolis, Brazil, so being on the island was like going from feast to famine. Everyone suffered in the miserable heat, staring at the few who had a G-strings on. At least they kept the surfers (and Jack) entertained.As any veteran competitor can tell you, Brazil can be a tough place to compete. Not only are Brazilians extremely patriotic, but they can be quite aggressive in a contest heat. In an amazing moment in international relations, the Americans and Aussies came together to cheer each other on. Wardo eventually made it to the quarterfinals along with Mike Todd, Fred Patacchia, and Troy Brooks. As the contest came to its conclusion, Brooks would be the only one to make it to the final, and he ended up losing to Brazilians Victor Ribas and Guga Arruda. With the contest completed and the photos in the bag, Jack English and the rest of the suffering surfers were finally able to get off the island.The moral of the story is, if you want to take a surf trip, be prepared! All the information you need to plan a trip is out there, so research your destination ahead of time. For more information on traveling to Fernando de Noronha, visit www.noronha.com/english. Jack wishes he had. Guga Arruda. With the contest completed and the photos in the bag, Jack English and the rest of the suffering surfers were finally able to get off the island.The moral of the story is, if you want to take a surf trip, be prepared! All the information you need to plan a trip is out there, so research your destination ahead of time. For more information on traveling to Fernando de Noronha, visit www.noronha.com/english. Jack wishes he had.