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A Surf Camp For The Gay Community Grows In Brazil

“Being good to yourself and finding community can be a powerful form of activism”

This week, a group of surfers will hit the beach in Florianópolis, Brazil, for what’s known amongst participants as “gay surf camp.” This year’s retreat may be the most important yet—and the reason has little to do with the swells. "Now that we’re facing huge setbacks in LGBT rights both here in Brazil and in the U.S.A., I think events like ours will be even more relevant and important to our community," says Marta Dalla Chiesa, a South Brazil native. With her partner Lesley Cushing, Dalla Chiesa co-owns Brazil Ecojourneys, a week-long experience for people of all genders and skill levels in a welcoming and diverse atmosphere. “Demonstrations and protests are important,” she says, “but being good to yourself and finding community can also be a powerful form of activism.”

Brazil Ecojourneys did not begin as an LGBTQ travel company. The pair were less interested in sharing what the southeast coast of Brazil had to offer: colonial history, abundant seafood, unusual wildlife, and, of course, surfing. That changed when Thomas Castets of gaysurfers.net, the LGBTQ surfing community site, contacted them. In shooting the gay surf documentary, Out in the Line-up, Castets wanted to secure some interviews in Brazil. “We were impressed with the diversity of things (Brazil Ecojourneys) offered,” he says, “and, of course, the surfing opportunities.” Dalla Chiesa and Cushing saw the importance of the project and, after some strategic planning, Brazil Ecojourneys hosted their first Gay Surf Brazil retreat in October 2013, and Out in the Line-up was released the following February. “Surf is a very nonstereotypical sport for gays,” Dalla Chiesa explains. “Even I was surprised that a social website with thousands of gay surfers existed. We knew we wanted to get involved.”

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