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The Coastal Crew Hit-Up Brazil: Driven by Chance

Introducing the Coastal Crew. Words and Photos by Harookz.

Introducing the Coastal Crew…

Taken From Dirt issue 140, October 2013

‘Arrival’ brings you into the world of the Coastal Crew (filmers and riders) as they join the next wave of mountainbikers capturing the adventures that unfold in front of them. Arrival documents the fun that is had in a new generation, simply put… it’s about riding bikes, and on this occasion it happens to be in Brazil.

Sodium seeped beneath my sunglasses, singeing my retinas in a vicious rinse cycle. Like a giant straining colander, every pore sprung a violent leak. Not even ten minutes after touching down in Rio de Janeiro, my swamp–nuts situation set a new personal record. Kyle ‘Norbs’ Norbraten, Dylan Dunkerton and Curtis Robinson of the Coastal Crew, Nic ‘VZ’ Genovese, World Cup racer Stevie Smith and I touched down in Brazil to harvest goods for a new production, ‘Arrival’.

A ramped–up growth curve of Brazilian presence in the Whistler Bike Park was undeniably hard to miss. Brazilian downhill racer Bernardo Cruz’s win at the first ever Un–Official Whip–Off contest (Crankworx 2011) provoked our curiosity for Brazil’s mountain biking scene further. Why were there so many Brazilian mountain bikers in Whistler, shouldn’t they be playing soccer?

Pre–trip preparations for our maiden voyage to Brazil were slim to none. Due to last minute travel visa hiccups, Bernardo was locked down for the last two days of our week and a half itinerary. The drive from the airport to hotel should have taken 20 minutes, but our sat–nav directed us on a 90 minute hanger fueled journey, passing by torched cars and streetside bonfires. Seedy areas resembling a war stricken country conjured violent flashbacks of scenes from ‘The City of God’. My street–smart radar beeped while zombie like figures banged on our windows screaming gibberish. “Don’t stop here Stevie, hit the gas!” yelled VZ as I scanned the zombie’s hands for potentially intrusive paraphernalia.

Arriving at the hotel felt like I reached a safehouse. Norbs’ phone locked onto the Wi–Fi, beeping with a notification on Instagram from a self–proclaimed freerider based in Rio. Through Norbs’ Insta feed, he discovered we were heading to his country. With no further screening procedures, we put our trip into the hands of a 21 year–old Brazilian stranger, Caio Suzarte.

Day 1 with our guides had us peering down at this scene.
PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Marcio Machado

Back in 2005, YouTube and Google queries for ‘mountain biking’ revealed the freeriding world to Caio. “Me and my best friend Marcio Machado bought shitty hardtails from our local bike shop and dug a small jump.” Having ridden the Whistler Bike Park back in ‘07 it was “a life changing experience” for Caio and Machado. “I can 360 my Demo 8 now and want to be the first to 720 a downhill bike!” I was relieved to hear he had a respectable ride, taming cynical judgment calls due to past experiences with eager guides. “He’s ridden in Whistler, he knows what’s up,” I convinced myself.

Caio Suzarte

“I can’t wait to show you my back flip line!” exclaimed Marcio. “We have a lot of respect for what you guys do, you’re our inspiration,” giving us a universal fist pound of approval. I sensed the overly stoked joy of our new friends. “This is unbelievable… you guys are actually here!”

“There are some downhillers and many cross country riders here, but freeriding pretty much doesn’t exist,” Caio explained. “Our first step is to build many trails and lines then produce a top quality movie to show this country’s potential.”

TAX ON STACKS

It immediately sunk in for me that mountain biking in Brazil was in its infancy. With a population exceeding 196 million and having hosted a UCI World Cup back in 2006, we expected a flourishing movement, particularly after witnessing a multitude of Brazilians lined up in Whistler.

“A used 2011 Demo 8 frame costs $5000 USD here,” said Caio, stunning us in outright disbelief. “The government pockets a 60% import tax, and shops mark–up their prices 25%, so it’s difficult to afford a nice bike.” Turns out, it’s cheaper to fly to Whistler, buy a new bike, vacation for a month and slip back into the country.

“See that black car over there, it costs $30,000 USD… used,” states Caio, pointing over at a rusted late 90’s Honda Civic. It wasn’t long until we bombarded him with Brazilian price quotes for our toys back home. “Your Toyota trucks… those are worth a lot, around $120,000 USD.”

GRAND THEFT AUTO

Numbness crept up my left forearm as I battled to mentally subdue the dreaded arm pump. My heart rate bounced off the limiter as I figured having one hand clenched around the ‘holy-shit’ handle would up my chances of surviving a wreck. We were escorted in a base model KIA through Rio where two lanes meant four, kissing side view mirrors, screeching over a deteriorated highway at an average of 170km/h. Caio was driving like a maniac! Bodies outnumbered seats, shutting down the option of being strapped in. The line separating real life and playing Grand Theft Auto was non–existent as our coffin disregarded red lights. The utter silence in the vehicle hinted that I wasn’t the only one scared shitless. Anxiety peaked while I waited for somebody to speak up and simmer down our driver, but we were all men and nobody wanted to be that guy. This was the one time in my life I closed my eyes and prayed for grid locked traffic. The KIA took an exit and came to a halt at a pump.

“We have no rules here,” laughed a calm and assertive Caio. “If a police officer pulls you over, you can negotiate with money.” We secretly shook our heads as we hesitantly transformed to procedures that were unethical in North America. “My brakes are fading!”.

Our lies were out in great danger to witness this sunrise. Good morning Rio De Janerio.

Caio was racing us to a high vantage point where we’d witness the sunrise over Rio. “I’m pretty sure a sunrise is never worth dying for,” I muttered. We survived a final course of hairball drifts, skipping over tight hand laid cobblestone switchbacks up a steep mountain pass. E–braking to a stop, a postcard worthy serene view of the city lights lit our faces as my attention shifted away from the heavy smell of asbestos. Christ the Redeemer towered over our backs, while we witnessed a neon pink hue cloak over Rio de Janeiro. “I told you guys it would be worth it to drive fast,” snickered Caio.

LOCALS ONLY

In a matter of minutes, my sense of direction was in the gutter. Norbs aggressively tailed Caio and Marcio in our Renault Duster, knowing that we’d be hooped if we lost sight of our most valuable resource. Threading the needle through a kaleidoscope of locals and untrustworthy seafood stands, I was grateful Norbs manned the wheel. Parking in a dead end, I looked around for a hint of anything resembling a trail head. Hugged by a hillside littered in homes divided amongst aggressively steep stair sets, the area looked better suited for an urban downhill race.

“So, we’re riding on dirt today… right Caio?” double–checked Dylan.

“It’s a quick hike to the forest and about 20 minutes to a scenic area, trust me guys,” Caio reassured us with a smirk. Admittedly, the sunrise was spectacular so my expectations naturally shifted skywards. As we proceeded past a city of beach umbrellas, strings of locals with coolers in hand locked onto our alien group. I was certain they’ve never seen people pushing downhill bikes through this area.

The concrete path pointed painfully upwards, zigzagging through a Tetris stacked town, the Atlantic Ocean teasing us to our right. Temperature levels in the mid 40º Celsius range seared us in the open, amplifying odors from sewage run off that we carefully walked through to prevent any splashing. “So much for the quick hike,” I rumbled, we weren’t even at the forest yet and our drinking supply was 80% depleted. The onset of heatstroke dropped Dylan in a limited patch of shade.

“I feel like I’m going to puke, holy shit,” panted Dylan, frustrated as he reached for what was left of his lukewarm water. “I thought Caio said the forest was nearby?” he whispered. Day one in the field and our rookie badges embarrassingly glistened. We’ve all logged time in tropical environments but the Brazilian humidity put prior experiences to shame. As I faded in and out of a delusional state, the scorching rays left me thinking I was walking towards the gateway to hell.

We tucked underneath a dense tropical canopy with hopes of lowering our core temperature. Looking down the trail, a technical field of soccer ball sized minerals fired up Stevie since he prefers to tackle this style of terrain. He weightlessly navigated through the boulder field like a minx, hoaxing the traps set to destroy anyone who made the slightest error in line choice. Local passerby’s held their breath in astonishment as Stevie ripped down sections that were quite sketchy to manage on foot. “That was sick, let’s keep’er going!”

Click through to view part one of the full gallery of the Coastal Crew in Brazil before reading on…

A window in the vegetation provided us with a glimpse of our destination, a neon green peak popping against the deep blue of the ocean. A dehydrated 50 minute hike later, we posted up in a bay and gazed up at a perfect Toblerone formation, blanketed in shoulder high grass. Looking carefully, I spotted a ribbon of dirt and rock bisecting the foliage, protected by giant asparagus like trees that dotted the edge of exposure. Heat stroke was the devil, manipulating our priorities towards a dip in the Atlantic in an effort to shake off our pounding headaches. The recovery swim was cut short when the tide decided to invite a human turd, narrowly missing VZ’s lips.

The heat was unbearable and three of our soldiers were surrendered to a makeshift roach den at the base of a tree. Bothered by the unknown, Stevie, Norbs, our two guides and I battled the steep slog towards our final objective.

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