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Leo Rossini: Brazilian Texan With Stoke For Surfing
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Leo Rossini: Brazilian Texan With Stoke For Surfing

Listen on: Spotify | Apple | Google | Breaker | Overcast | Radio Public | Pocket Cast | Stitcher

Love to surf but living far from the coast?

In this episode, I got the chance to talk to Leo Rossini, who is a surfer living in Texas. Leo was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and surfing has been a very important and huge part of his life.

But currently living in Texas, Leo shared how he has to drive 4 hours to reach and surf in Galveston and how he continues to find alternatives to continue surfing and get stoked.

Listen to Leo's journey and learn that if you have the stoke and the kind of fortitude to get out there and surf, you can always find ways.

Social Media Profile:

Topics Discussed:

  • How long have you been in the USA?
  • I see you have no social media—is that intentional?
  • What is the closest beach to you?
  • Is there any surf culture in Dallas?
  • What is it like to surf a wave pool?
  • Describe your first surfboard.
  • What is the best wave you have surfed?
  • Your favorite surf trip?
  • Did we miss anything?

Location: Dallas, TX


Good afternoon. Saltwater High. I have with me today Leo Rossini? Rossini?

Yeah, correct.

To the bang?

To the bang. To the [foreign language 00:00:13]

Yeah, amigo. Good to have you finally. Yeah.

Good job, man.

Yeah. So how's it going over there in Texas?

Oh, man. First, I'm very happy for being here. You know how hard it was for us to meet at this point. And I'm very pleasured.

Me too, my friend. Me too.

Great. Aloha. I follow you on Instagram. I don't have it right now, but, I used to receive your emails and I appreciate your job with sustainability, everything related to soul, surfing, and peace and love. Good job.

I appreciate that, bro. Yeah, I saw that you don't have any Instagram or Facebook. Did you decide to just get off everything for a while?

Oh yeah. I live in Texas for 5 years and since I moved to this location, I decided to stay a little bit focused on my English program, my education. So I think social media was taking my attention. It was distracting me since then. So I decided for a while to stay off. So just focus on what is important for me. Sometimes I search about surfing, forecast, for world swell.


But I don't have to watch everything on Instagram or Facebook that distracts me, man.


Sometimes it's good to be out. I have a daughter 3 months old so I take my time doing a lot of things instead of being connected.

Yeah. That's great. You've prioritized, you've realized your newborn is more important, your studies and surfing. So my hat goes off to you because I think too many people these days are just wasting their lives away on social media. And of course, it can be use for some good things, too. But I think as we move forward in our lives, we have to be really careful with how much time we spend kind of down those rabbit holes, right?

I agree. I agree with you, man. I think that's the point that when you ask me about my social media, it was hard because I have only LinkedIn. It's related with work and everything. But no Instagram, no Facebook.

Yeah. No problem. For me, my hat goes off to you for that. I think that's incredible. Yeah. So, yeah, you're in Dallas. How do you go from São Paulo to Dallas? Tell me that story.

It's a long story.

Oh, come on. Let's do it. Let's do it.

No, it's okay. No worries. First, I was working for Nike and in Portland. So Dallas was the central point for all my first stops. Sometimes it's hard to find a direct flight São Paulo to Portland. Right? And I stopped in Dallas. And I have a brother-in-law living in Dallas now. So after all this situation, I moved to Brazil and I met my wife. And after 8 years together in Brazil, we decided to move to Dallas to improve my English skills.


Just something for my education. I knew the situation was a little bit complicated, talking about economically, all these situations with politics influencing our lives, and we decided to try something different.

That's great.

And Dallas was the place that we choose but was not the first option because it was very far from the ocean, Derek. So a little bit dilemma. I went talking to my wife to decide to come here but the living costs is safe, is different in Brazil. So it was not so hard to make a decision.

Yeah. Is she Brazilian or is she American?

She's Brazilian. My brother-in-law has been here for 20 years.

Oh wow. Wow, okay. That's amazing. To uproot yourself and to move to a new country takes a lot of courage. And my hat goes off to you again on that one. And I actually lived in Brazil for about 6 months.

Yeah, I read something about it.

Yeah. So I know what you left, right? You left both, I mean, obviously a lot of really great things and also some difficult things. Right?

You're right, yeah.

So I'll be interested to see how your journey unfolds. So what are you studying?

My major right now is business. I already had my MBA in Brazil, but for some reason my credits in Brazil, my transcription, they are not the same. And to keep studying my master's degree or something higher, I should do some classes. And now I'm taking speech classes, I'm taking account algebra. All these other things that are related.

Yeah, very cool. And what's the surf scene like in Dallas? Is there a wave pool there?

Man, there is a wave pool in Waco.

Waco. Okay.

Waco is one of the most famous now and it used to be Austin. NLand Surf Park, I think Kelly Slater bought 2 years ago. I used to go there as well. It's amazing.

Yeah. I've never surfed a surf park. How is it different or is it just the same wave over and over or what do you like about it?

Man, I like ocean much better. I like these things, yeah, there is no comparison. But I surfed in Galveston this last Wednesday. The little swells Zeta hit the Gulf Coast. And I was ready because I was monitoring since the Delta Hurricane right here. I said, "Oh my gosh, how is it possible?" I saw by the cam, I was so off and for some reason, I searched Galveston camp, surf camp. And I saw something coming perfect near by the pier. I said, "Oh my gosh, next I will be ready." And luckily, one week after maybe two weeks after Delta, these little swells hit the coast and Wednesday afternoon, I was surfing there. Oh my gosh, Derek. Was perfect conditions offshore.

Was it? Yeah.

Oh, man. I have some pictures I can share with you later.

Oh, dude, definitely. Please send me after the podcast. I love to see them.

Video, yeah. Video and pictures. And yesterday I went to Waco. I surfed at the pool. So was totally different because the waves come perfectly. But there is something different. I don't know. I like to see the wave comes, the swell comes. All these situation. It's hard. I cannot explain.

Dude, you surfed more times than I did the last week. I went to Mexico the week prior and then I got back and the swell here has been absolutely flat for a week. So you surfed more than I did and you live in Dallas, bro. Yeah, that's amazing. That just shows you if you have the stoke and you have the kind of fortitude to get out there and surf, you can find it, right?

Yeah, you're right, man. Normally I go to California. Mostly I have friends in San Diego, Malibu, L.A., El Porto, Carlsbad, San Clemente, all these spots, man. I normally go almost once a month. But this COVID situation there, it's been hard.


Normally every 3 months. Now and with the baby, I keep my mind focused and finding the perfect wave always, relaxing, finding the good wave.

Yeah, is there a pretty big Brazilian community in Dallas or is there not many Brazilians there?

I think New York and Florida, they are bigger in number of Brazilians. Here we have a huge community. Texas is too big. But I cannot tell you it's a huge community. But I know there are a lot of Brazilians here in Texas as well.

Yeah. And do you have any surf shops in Dallas or are there any shops?

I never searched something related because I bought all my equipment from Brazil. I have everything. Normally when I go to California, I go and buy something over there. But no, no, I cannot tell you there are surf shops right here. Maybe in Galveston. I didn't visit. I think in Austin, I remember that I saw something related to surf shops, skate shops, snowboarding, everything. But in Texas, I cannot tell you, Derek.

Yeah. So what when you surf Galveston, was it crowded? Were there a lot of guys in the water?

Oh, I arrived there 2, 2:30 p.m. and was perfect. Was a lot of people surfing but as long as the day goes, the swell was getting bigger. And when I left like 5:25, 5:30, I could see people arriving because the sunset was predicted to be like 6:37 so they could surf at 1 hour and 30 minutes. Was full of people. I got impressed, I got impressed. Yeah. It was really nice sensation to see the ocean. When I saw the waves coming, I said, "Oh my gosh, look at these conditions." The wave comes perfect and the wind was perfect. Ahh, was a great sensation, great sensation.

Oh, dude, that's the best. No matter where you are in the world, there's no other feeling.

Yeah, you're right. No matter. If you're nearby the ocean, you can feel the breeze, you can feel the breeze.

How close is Galveston to Dallas?

I drove for 4 hours, nonstop.

Wow, 4 hours. Man, that's a long way.

I-45, Interstate 45. And you go directly, nonstop, man. Just driving safely. I was feeling something different in my body. I was shaking. I was like, "Oh my gosh!" I was expecting something that was amazing and oh, it was a great emotion. Great, great to describe.

I have this theory that if you surf for a good portion of your life, you start to develop this other sense like people see and they hear and they feel. But there's sometimes when I'm in the water, I can feel the sets coming, right. I don't see them, but I could feel them. And it's much like that. I'm sure that's the same feeling you were feeling when you were driving, right. You could feel the waves getting closer.


Yeah, man.

I could imagine, I could have predicted. And I said, "Oh my gosh, look at the sets. There will be 3 or 4." How is going to be my surf because I'm a longboarder. I like 9'0, 9'4 surf glass. And I broke my boards in Trestles, 2 boards last December. I stayed in California for 25 days and I surfed a lot. I broke 2 boards and I was only with this one 6'4 right here, single fin.


I couldn't paddle a lot because after surfing a longboard, you know how easy to get the waves.


This one should be a little bit more ready, prepare. So I got good ones, but I wish I could stay more. I was not ready to just surf for 3 hours, catch a surf for one. And I was really tired but really happy as well.

Absolutely. So let's talk about São Paulo a little bit. Where was your main kind of surfing area when you were there?

I lived in Santos. Santos is a city one hour far from São Paulo. I used to be there all my youth with my cousins and it was hard to catch my first wave. Since I was in front of the ocean, I got a lot of, how can I say, problems into the ocean because sometimes you need to respect. Since I was not ready, I could not swim sometimes, I don't know how can I explain. But I need to get into the ocean. Scared. Scared. I was scared to get into the ocean so I could not get my evolution into surfing if you're not ready. I was trying to catch the wave, but I didn't know how to swim. So first I got some swimming classes that helped me a lot. And after that, I couldn't stop and I got my first wave after 7 years or 8 years after that.

Wow! Dude, that's a long journey. So when you first started to surf, you didn't know how to swim?


And then you learned to swim later and then you went back and you got better obviously at surfing?

Yeah. I was practicing outside with my dad, with little bodyboard. It was not so deep, it was shallow. And I was getting confidence to get in deeper and deeper and deeper. And sometimes the high tide, low tides influences a lot and the current. So I was getting ready for the day and I was surfing with a wrong board. My dad gave me one like 5'11. And I was like, yeah, almost 5'11. I was almost 100 kilos, like strong boy. And I was surfing with the wrong equipment and I bought a longboard. And since then, man, every single weekend was like, "Oh my gosh, I need to catch this wave. What am I doing wrong? Why am I doing it wrong?" Sometimes it's frustrating because you go surfing, go to São Paulo, put the board on top of the car, go to Santos, drive, pay the pedajo. I don't know if you know this word.

Yeah, the pedajo. Yeah, the fee.

Yeah, fee you have to pay. And how hard this and go there and you cannot get waves. I said, "Oh my gosh, but I cannot give up." So that's one thing that I tell all my friends that they have some problems or they are struggling with something and make analogy with surfing. I said, "Man, I tried it for 8 years to catch my first wave and you know how hard it is. And sometimes we cannot make anything wrong. It's just the time. You have to be ready. You have to keep there paddling, waiting for the perfect and right moment."


The right position, everything is related. As you commented a few minutes ago, you'll feel differently when you are into the ocean. You can see, you can feel different when the wave is coming, where the wind is going to help you, and somehow there's something that is more instinct that comes with you. And it is a learning process.

Absolutely, man. Absolutely.

Yes. So probably not so far from Santos, Santos was my first spot over there. Santos and Guarujá. You know Guarujá is?

Guarujá, yeah. I know Guarujá .

Yeah. But after that Maresias. All this literal north, going up north to Rio de Janeiro, Ubatuba, all these spots.


I surfed in the south as well, Praia do Rosa.

Yeah. I love Praia do Rosa. That was amazing.

Yeah, Praia Mole.

Did you get out to Floripa? Florianopolis?

Floripa, yeah. I lived there for 4 months.

Wow. I love that place, man. That's a great place.

Where did you go there?

I lived at the Eco Lodge, I don't know if you remember that. It was right on, I forget the name of the beach, but right like in the middle of the island. But I surfed every wave on the island. I surfed everywhere.

Praia Brava.

Praia Brava, yeah.


Yup. There's one you had to hike in like an hour through the jungle. Either you have to take a boat or you had to hike in.


Yeah, that was that. That was it. I love that beach.

Yeah man, I know. Imagine for a Brazilian, I travel all the coasts. I stop nearby Itacaré.

Yeah, I surfed Itacaré. That was my very first trip to Brazil was to Itacaré.

Nice, man. You got a nice experience. I stopped there. So there are a lot of spots over there going to Grande de Norte, going very north. You can find a nice place in Pernambuco. We have sharks as well over there.

Yeah, in the north. Yeah.

Noronha. Fernando de Noronha is amazing.

Yeah. Brazil is just full of so so much good surf from the north to the south. It's interesting of course because of Medina, right, Brazil is more on the map now. But when people like when my friends think about going somewhere, nobody really thinks about Brazil. They go to Peru, to Chicama, or they go to Costa Rica. But I always tell everyone Brazil is a fantastic trip. From the culture to the people. And Rio alone, there must be I don't know how many good waves.

You're right. You're right, man. I miss a lot these opportunity to go surfing everywhere. Right here in Texas, I need to go to Galveston alright. In São Paulo, you have 15 different spots


But this is the time.

Yeah. You're doing what you think is right for you and your family. And you're making some sacrifices, which man, for a surfer it's tough.

It's tough, man. I went for a psychologist first before moving because I was, "Oh my gosh. I going to be far from the ocean." So I need some medical help to talk about it because it was a real problem for me. But you need to do what you have to do, what's the best option. And my wife always follows me. Sometimes she gets angry with me because I just talk about surfing. And sometimes, "Leonardo, could you stop talking about only surfing. Now you have a little baby. Can you stop thinking about it?" But it's hard for me. Something that makes me feel good and keeps me motivated when I open my surf gear around the world and I can see some waves breaking, people surfing makes me feel happy. Like, oh, my God, this is life.

Yeah, it is life, bro. Do you have a vision in the future to get back coastal somewhere, maybe California, or somewhere where you can be closer to the ocean?

Yes, man. Look, I have 2 more months for graduating.

Great. Congratulations, man. That's great.

Yeah, it's going to be something really nice. And my wife loves Texas. I have my brother-in-law here. My little daughter was born here. But I don't know, I will open the opportunity right now as long as I graduate. I have the OPT. It's a document that allows international students to move forward for the next step so I can be ready for the companies to hire me. And I can show that what I have learned and improve some process. I'm ready and open for every opportunity. Just apply and let's see, let's see, I will wait for the next step, Derek. And probably if one of these spots allows me, it's going to be California for some reason. Because it's the closest place to surfing. But I know it's expensive. It's more expensive than Dallas. But sometimes, I need to live there for 6 months, 1 year just for surfing for a Sabbathical year. Think about the next step.

Yeah, dude. It's good to have dreams and to align your passions with those dreams. And so you're sacrificing now for a future that hopefully is more aligned with how you want to live, right? And I know you have a kid and a wife. And so more things to think about than just layover at this point, right?

I try to connect everything always. I tell my wife, "Babe, don't think and work too much. We can have some time together. At least 2 days, 3 days. Cannot be 3 years now. But if we have 2 days, 3 days to enjoy our family, go to somewhere, see the ocean, see the waves is fun for us." It's something that keeps us motivated to one day, for sure, live in a place in front of the ocean. And we realize it. Amazed.

Yeah, I love that attitude. And that's one of the things I love about Brazilians. Is this look, life isn't just about money and working. It's not about that at all. It's about the other side. And I feel like it's part of the Brazilian vibe, right. You guys, I remember being in Rio and going on the streets and listening to music.

At Lapa.

Yes, exactly. So I don't know. It's a different mentality that I think maybe like the perfect human being has a Brazilian and American kind of mentality and mend the two.


So, yeah. I have to tell you one thing also about being in Rio as I was in the carnival. I actually I was in it like I went through the line.

Oh my gosh.

The girl I was dating at the time, she was part of a samba group and so she invited me to walk through the carnival and dude, that was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had.

The sound is impacting. The sound of the [drum sounds].

The drums, yeah. It was amazing. I had to wear this costume that was like a fish and it had all of these like feathers.

It's heavy. It's heavy.

And I was sweating. But man, that was one of the best experiences I've had in my life, for sure.

Yeah, I remember it, man. This is one of the things that you'll never forget.

Never, bro. Never.

Yeah, good memories.

Yeah. So describe to me your very first surfboard.

Oh, man. I got my first board, it was a fish 6'2 and two fins and it was hard for me because I think too, how can I say, too thin, you know?

Too thin? Yeah, too thin, yes.

Too thin, yes. And I was getting heavier. I was getting stronger. 16, 13, I don't know exactly, but I was getting heavy. And I surfed with it for 8 years, with the wrong board.

Yeah, we all did.

And I was struggling. I cannot, I cannot do it. It's not possible. And I could not put the board [inaudible 00:24:57]. I said, "No, I need to try." I will improve my paddling. So I will keep swimming, I will go training, I will try different things. So different mentality. I could be there for straight. I said, "No, no, I'm going to surf again. "And during the winter, Derek, it is very hard because I could not afford a Long John first.

Oh, yeah. It's quite expensive.

Yeah, it was expensive in Brazil. And I don't surf too much. And during the winter for 6 months when you can find the real waves, I was not surfing. I said, "No, I should change my mind." So if I would surf, I need to buy one Long John. So I work and I save money. And I bought my first Long John and for a reason, I think one of my friends that was surfing, he was sick at the day and I told him, "Man, should I try with your board?" And it was like a 9'4 longboard single fin like the classic one. I was paddling like oh my gosh I was flying, I said. Because I tried a 6'2 for a long time and I was not evolving. I said, "This one is very great." And for maybe just too different waves. And I got my first wave.

That's awesome.

And I said, "This longboard. This thing's going to change my life."

That was for you.

And I start searching everything.

Nice. Awesome. I love that story. And so what is the best wave you ever surfed? Where was it?

That best wave?

The best wave. Like you close your eyes and you're like, "Oh yeah! I remember."

Man, yeah. I was in Trestles this last December.

Oh nice!

When I woke up, I checked the Surfline, the app. Was something orange, 4 to six 6 feet glassy. That's where I broke my board. Because I was like too confident, like ready, powerful. And I said, "Man, this is the perfect waves." And I surfed all day. I started surfing 7, after my breakfast and I stopped for a little lunch around 1:30, got some water, and I surfed until 5:15 and through the sunset. I surfed all day. All day.

Dude, that's amazing.

Me and Chris, Chris is my friend who lives in L.A. Chris Murray, we surfed together. We are always together when I'm in L.A.

Nice, dude. Well, you're going to have to come visit me in Ventura.

For sure, man. I don't get tired of going back. I'm always there. It is going to be a pleasure to visit you and we can surf together.

Yeah, absolutely. You're going to love the wave at the C Street, which is closest to where I live or Rincón. Those are the 2 main breaks. But they're both well, C Street's more longboard-friendly, I would say. It's made for longborders.

Any time, any time.

Sweet, bro. Sweet.

Trestles is one of the places that I know that I can take. Another place that is one of my favorites one, C Street. Yeah.

Yeah. Cool, man. Cool. Is there anything else you want to say to the tribe before we leave? Any departing wisdom from my friend, Leo?

Man, I think, this is something that happens for a reason. I was doing my speech classes for almost 6 months and I was talking about something that I really love—surfing. So I did 4 or 5 speech and it was so easy for me. And the teacher called me. She said, "Oh, my gosh, your passion for the surf is incredible. I can feel it in your voice. I can see in your eyes. I can see your body movement. That's something that is really easy for you." So imagine if you really like something and you can transmit this for other people, it's something that, for sure, you are transmitting your energy or soul. Another people can feel that. And if you share your emotions, the others can understand, and probably they can realize that's probably great to dream and keep dreaming. Everything is possible.


And the passion that is with me right now, when there was the frustration to not go surfing and having some problems, I do everything that I can to keep surfing, keep healthy, try to think positively, try to not get injured. So now is something that I'm getting old and I hope to be surfing until at the well, the last days of my life.

Well said, my friend. And I agree with everything that you just laid out. Love it.

Yeah. It was a pleasure for being here. I waited so long to talk to you, to being part of this project that you are involved. Great to do with the community and for the surfers that follow you. All these ecological things that are related with surfing should be shared and should be everywhere around the world, people caring about oceans and going shopping with responsibility instead of doing everything that's going to be bad for the environment. Think first in your ideas. It's going to be something really nice, Derek.

Thank you so, man. I really appreciate you. I appreciate your attitude. And you've been a great guest, and I look forward to having you back and to sharing a wave and a beer sometime in the future.

Yeah. I will give you my phone and everything. We will share contacts and I hope soon get a beer and surf together, my friend. And thank you so much. English is not my first language. I hope you guys like it. And sorry if I commit some mistakes.

Dude, you did great. You spoke better than I did.

Oh, thank you so much, Derek.

Yeah. Okay, bro. Thank you, man.

I appreciate. Talk to you soon. Thank you.

Talk to you soon.