Life After Bodyboarding with Paulo Barcellos

We speak to the Brazilian World Champ and Pipeline charger about life behind the lens.
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Paulo and a pile of camera equipment that’s (probably) worth more than your car. Opening Image: Gustavo Camarao

RT: What have you been up to since finishing up on the World Tour?
PB: I started a photo and video company [Barcellos Images] where I’ve been working a lot. I travelled so much with the World Tour, but now I’ve been trying to spend at least seven months of the year in Hawaii where I can work and don’t need to be travelling so much.

We hear you’ve been travelling and shooting with Adriano De Souza [current world number seven on the ASP World Championship Tour]. How’d that come about?
Me and Adriano worked together for the first time last year in Portugal and France where I was hired to do some freesurfing sesions, lifestyle pics and at the World Tour contest. This year we went to Indonesia together. We were always friends and it has been nice to have the opportunity to work with a friend. What makes me happy is to work with professional surfers, because of the professionalism that they have acquired over the years. They’re always giving me support, which makes my job easier.

How did you get into shooting and when did you realise you could make a living from it?
A friend of mine, Gustavo Bordallo (Camarão) encouraged me to start shooting. He always told me that my experience as a bodyboarder and many years at Pipeline was going to help me as a water photographer, so I bought a Canon 7D, one fisheye lens and a housing. On my first day [Hawaiian winter, 2010], after asking some friends how to set up the camera, I took some sick photos… and one of them was of John John [Florence]. Now I work with four cameras, seven lenses and three housings. I’ve now shot seven surf magazine covers. One of the most important jobs for me was the Rio Billabong Pro. I was very flattered to be hired to be the official photographer of the most important surfing event in Brazil.

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A handful of Paulo’s shots that have graced the covers of surf mags. 

What’s your work schedule currently look like and where does it take you?
I spend a lot of time working in the Hawaiian season. I worked for a Brazilian surf mag and for some Brazilian TV channels. During the Hawaiian season I covered all the surf contests for ESPN Brazil, and followed Isabela Sousa in the IBA Pipeline Challenge and at the Chile contest. Now I’m shooting 13 episodes of a TV show about bodyboarding where I’ll be one of the protagonists as a bodyboarder and as a photographer. It premiered last month.

When did you finish up on the World Tour and what led you to the decision?
2010 was my last year. I’d been trying to stop since 2008, but then I won Pipeline. After that I couldn’t stop! In 2009 I started making semifinals… so it was another year of trying to stop. In 2010 I had an accident shooting at Pipeline two weeks before the contest. I had to stay out of the water for nine months, so it was an easier way to stop doing the tour.

Looking back, how proud are you that you have your name up on the World Champions list [2000], especially during a time when Andre Botha and Guilherme Tamega were so dominant?
I have to be very proud of myself! At the time Tamega and Andre were showing their best on a bodyboard! For me it was a special feeling being the best in the in the world in my category.

Was it hard in that transition from professional athlete to trying to find a career to pay the bills when you’re bodyboarding career ended?
Not so hard! I’m very determined and professional in what I do. I know when to work and when to surf. I have work scheduled until next year, thank God!

What about bodyboarding nowadays, do you still manage to get in the water often?
I’m always surfing in Hawaii, especially on those huge days at Pipeline! This year I surfed several waves in Tahiti during the recording of my TV program.

Isabela Sousa told Riptide recently that you you were a huge influence on her and her path in bodyboarding. Are you still quite involved with the Brazilian bodyboarding scene?
I told companies that it would be an excellent investment to hire Isabela. I always knew of her future! And today we’ve been working together on the World Tour. I was hired by one of her sponsors, PENA, to film her for a Brazilian TV channel. I’m always trying to show my best to the youngest, saying that if you want to achieve any goal in your life you have to work hard and be professional.

What advice would you give any young bodyboarder looking to become a pro? What about advice for a rider whose pro career’s starting to wind down?
Willpower, determination, respect, professionalism, faith, courage, love what you do. I think these words are for everyone of all ages. Even if bodyboarding isn’t their chosen profession, become a real professional by proudly representing what you do.