Growing up in the favelas of Brazil is a life more difficult than many of us will ever truly know.

In a place where it is easier to get a gun and R$300 a week selling drugs than get a regular job, three young Brazilians from Rio de Janeiro have used bodyboarding to rise above the turmoil of their surroundings.

Socrates Santana, 16, and Matheus Bastos, 17, both come from Favela Pavão-Pavãozinho, which overlooks the beaches of Copacabana. Meanwhile, David Barbosa, 18, comes from Favela Rocinha, one of the largest and most notoriously dangerous favelas in Brazil.

David Barbosa with a big flip. Photo: Anderson Guerreiro.

Not only have these three made a name for themselves on the 2015 APB Pro Junior World Tour, they have positioned themselves to potentially win a world title, and become symbols of hope in the process.

The Brazilian “Favela Storm” is a gleaming example of just how important bodyboard schools and clubs are, not only in cultivating the future of bodyboarding but as social projects that can provide a positive alternative in a tough environment as well.

Socrates Tubo Copacabana
Socrates Santana slides through a silky smooth Copacabana tube. Photo: Flavio Brito.

All three of these talented riders grew up as students in bodyboarding schools and social projects in Rio. Socrates and Matheus both attended the EBC (Escola de Bodyboard de Copacabana), a bodyboard school at Posto 5 founded in 2003 by six-time World Champion Guilherme Tamega and Brazilian event promoter Flavio Brito.

Meanwhile, David came up through the EBR (Escola de Bodyboard da Rocinha), a school in São Conrado which has been run by Wanderley Silva since 2001.

Matheus e Socrates com Guilherme Tamega foto Joao Ricardo
Six time world champion Guilherme Tamega (centre) with his protege’s Matheus Bastos (left) and Socrates Santana (right). Photo: Joao Ricardo.

The bodyboard schools helped mold these well-trained young athletes into talented competitors and, even more importantly, provided an alternative to the paths of drugs, crime, and violence that are ever-present in the favelas.

In a recent television interview, Matheus’ grandmother, Eunice Da Silva, tearfully said, “Bodyboarding is saving his life!”

Matheus Backflip
Matheus Bastos with a nice backflip. Photo: Flavio Brito.

Not only has bodyboarding given these three boys opportunities they may never have known, but their accomplishments have inspired those around them. Their communities have rallied around them with social initiatives and fundraisers to help support their chase for a Pro Junior world title.

Countless young bodyboarders look up to these three riders, emulating their new role models as they themselves develop as bodyboarders. Even top professionals on the APB Men’s World Tour have taken notice. Current MWT points leader, South African Jared Houston, spoke about the success of “Favela Storm” in saying, “These three are so inspiring. Actually, the whole community is inspiring.”

Socrates Santana busts a huge invert at Itacoatiara, Brazil.

The Favela Storm heads for the season finale in Puerto Rico with Socrates Santana ranked second, Matheus Bastos in third, and David Barbosa in fourth. All three of them remain, mathematically, in the hunt for the Pro Junior title as they try to chase down Hawaiian Tanner McDaniel.

Tanner has held the points lead all season. Will he be able to hold on to take the 2015 crown, or will he get caught in the Storm?

Brazil’s next generation have no shortage of style either. Tidy air reverse by David Barbosa. Photo: Marcello Farias.

Regardless of the outcome in the title chase, it seems rather easy to forecast the future of Brazilian bodyboarding. A storm is coming. The Favela Storm.