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A Paipo Interview with Reinaldo “Dragão” Andraus

Riding waves and recording surfing history.

A Paipo Interview with Reinaldo “Dragão” Andraus
October 14, 2013 - São Paulo City, Brazil
E-mail interview by Bob Green

Reinaldo began his surfing life at the beach breaks of Santos, the local beach of São Paulo. First bodysurfing, known as "pegar jacaré" (surf a wave with you body stretched as long as you can - like an alligator), Reinaldo then rode a wooden board followed by a coolite, before getting a surfboard. In addition to riding waves, Reinaldo has been documenting the history of Brazilian surfing. His impressive book is still a work in progress.
1. How did you first become interested in riding waves?
I lived my whole life in São Paulo City, 100 kms from the sea. My parents always had an apartment by the beach. It was a natural thing. The main diversion was the sea. I can define two different moments in my life. As a boy when I was six to seven years my dad taught me to body surf, then (I don't know the exact year) I started using this board (mini alaia). THEN, in 1967, I saw the film Endless Summer in the movie circuit. That changed my life. From then on (I was 10) I started my campaign to get a surfboard. It happened during the Easter of 1969, when 12 years of age. My surfboard was a Glaspac MK3 molded series almost 10 feet long. Heavy, I couldn't carry it alone. I started to surf standing-up then. Never stopped

Reinaldo “Dragão” Andraus with boards he first
rode in the 1960s. Photo by Silvia Winik.

2. You've mentioned riding a jacaré board in the 1960s. When and where was this? For how many years did you ride a jacaré board?
First we had an apartment in Santos, with small rolling waves. My first board was the wood mini-alaia. I rode this board for some five years, from the mid-1960s on… In 1967, my parents moved to Guarujá, the waves there are way bigger. In 1967, the evolution for my body boarding was the acquisition of a Styrofoam (Isopor) board, called planonda. Even with this more buoyant craft I still liked the feel of the wood board and used both of them depending on my mood. The alaia broke (from nose to tail) and I discarded it. My planonda is in the Museu do Surf (Surfing Museum) in Santos [see a list of surf museums in Brazil in Note 1]. Basically I bodyboarded from 1963/1964 to 1969. I left them both aside after getting my first surfboard.

Reinaldo with longboard, planonda and jacaré.

Photo by Silvia Winik

Can you explain what the phrase "pegar jacaré" means? What did you call going surfing on these boards?

"Pegar jacaré" means in Portuguese, the act of surfing waves. Because your body in the water looked like an alligator... In my opinion "pegar" = "get" and "jacaré" = "alligator" or, to surf a wave with your body stretched as long as you can.

"Board" is "prancha" and "surfing" is "surfar." I usually referred to "pegar jacaré" if I went body surfing and "surfar de prancha" if I were using my little alaia wood board.

The bodyboards in the beginning were called prancha de madeira (wood) and the planonda prancha de isopor (styrofoam), Then came the boogie boards created by Tom Morey.
3. Do you recall where you acquired the board? Was it bought from a shop or homemade?
Both of the boards were bought in stores that sold balls, mats, umbrellas, chairs for the beach… You went to beach stores and there was a stock of 10 or 20 boards for sale. In São Paulo, I never saw any color in the wood boards. The planonda came with colors and drawings. My original planonda didn't have any drawing - just the word planonda written in blue.
4. What can you tell me about the dimensions and design of the board? Was this typical of this style of board?
Yes, they could be easily found in beach stores. The boards were about 36 x 12 x 1/2 inches with rocker in the nose area. They had two "handles" on the edges. These handles were only to carry [the board] as I never used them surfing, maybe just to hold the board in the shorebreak.

(Left) Jacaré board showing lift. (Right) Handgrip closeup.

Photos by Sylvia Winik.

5. Were these boards mainly used in shallow water to ride white water, or closeouts, or could you catch and ride unbroken waves further out?
You could ride them everywhere. I went outside and never used swim fins. Catching unbroken waves was the real thrill. With the planonda (and it's added buoyancy), I went further and further OUT in bigger days. Most of the kids rode them in white water, standing on the sand to get propulsion. Standing in waist high water you pushed with your feet to get initial speed and surfed the wave in shallow water. We used that technique to propel the board instead of kicking the feet (which was done afterwards).
6. Was there much technique involved in riding one of these boards?
No, just fun. You watched what your friends did and tried to match. Usually the goal was to ride the wave all the way until the board "landed" on dry sand.
7. Did many people ride these boards? Where would you see them ridden and who mainly rode these boards?
Not many, but I had a bunch of friends in Pitangueiras Beach, right in front of my building. But I think they were used all over Brazil. The boards were mass produced beach toys. With stand-up surfing we started exploring our coastline.

Reinaldo at Astúrias Beach, Brazil. The design on the deck of the board was a lion in a shield copied from the Encyclopedia Britannica. This is where Reinaldo's nickname, "Dragon," (Dragão) comes from.
Photo courtesy of Reinaldo Andraus.

8. What do you know about the history of these boards? Was there much evolution of the design?
I never thought about that until I had my surfboard. What I saw was what I got. I just wanted to go surfing. The product available in the shop was the toy. That was the same with my first surfboard, as there were very few manufacturers at the time (late-1960s). Bear in mind, I was 10, 11, 12... I only got interested in design and serious performance after I was 15 years old. That was around my third or fourth surfboard.

(Below left) Reinaldo with Alcino Pirata (Pirata is pirate in English, a nickname because of his artificial leg which initially was made of wood). (Below right) Reinaldo with museum boards similar to the boards Reinaldo first surfed on.

Alcino Pirata's surf school is in Pitangueiras Beach, right in front of the Pirata Surf Club (surf shop/museum/surf school) at Guarujá in São Paulo state. Reinaldo has advised that Alcino's leg was amputated as a result of a motorbike accident. He kept surfing and has surfed 6' Padang Padang. Alcino's photo has appeared in Surfing Life (formerly Australia's Surfing Life), tubed, standing on one leg and balanced by one hand on the deck.

Photo by Silvia Winik and caption information by Reinaldo.
9. Over what time period were these boards used? Why did their use decline?
Today they are not produced anymore. But I remember seeing people using these small alaias even during the 1980s. The Isopor boards are the introduction to most kids even today, then they buy the more expensive Morey Boogies. Then, if it get serious, surfboards. What made the decline was the mass production of (inexpensive) boogie boards, flooding the market.
10. Irencyr Beltrão has spoken of the church door style of board. What were these boards like and over what time period were they used?
[See Note 2.]
I never saw a church door style board in São Paulo -- they were used in Rio (400 kms north). They were left aside when the madeirite boards came along, around 1959. Madeirites were the evolution used in Brazil in the early sixties until 1964, before the first foam boards started to arrive and be produced here. Madeirites were "the norm" surfboards here in the early-1960's. Wood in Portuguese is madeira, that's where the name came from.
11. Photos of madeirites show surfers wearing swim fins. Can you explain what a madeirite board was and whether they were always ridden standing-up? It must have been difficult standing on a low buoyancy board wearing flippers. Was there a special technique involved or were the flippers modified for standing up?
Well, I never experienced that, as I went from my planonda to a fiberglass surfboard. I heard they cut the front part of the swim fins so they could stand up without tripping. The madeirite was a Brazilian phenomenon and were built for stand-up surfing. But I'm sure people went prone on them. After the beginning with the "inventors" - Irencyir and friends, the madeirite also went on to be sold in sports stores.
12. Was there a history of indigenous people riding waves in Brazil?
I never heard about that, but It's reasonable to speculate. (See more information in Note 3.)
13. What started your interest in surfing history? Can you tell me about your book project?
As I started working as editor of surfing magazines in Brazil, my passion for the sport evolved to seek a broad knowledge of it. Once I was giving a lecture on the History of Surfing in University of São Paulo and the students asked for a bibliography and that triggered the idea, as there were only magazines about the subject. I was already thinking about writing a surf book. The format História do Surf Brasileiro came to my mind. My research for this project is only starting...

Draft Book cover of A Grand History of Brazilian Surfing (A Grande História do Surf Brasileiro).

Photo courtesy of Reinaldo Andraus.

14. Where has your surfing journey taken you. What boards do you ride and any final thoughts?
Surfing is a journey of its own. Being in the ocean, riding waves, no matter which instrument you use, is an exhilarating experience. Today I surf mostly with longboards, as I'm heavier and reaching my sixties. But I love watching the ASP webcasts. The evolution of surfing is incredible in all aspects. BUT we have to go further… Never forgetting about the past and the roots. The history and legacy of this sport of kings, the lifestyle, this art form, religion, spiritual quest… Surfing is a fulfilling experience. Being in the ocean for long periods of time is one of the healthiest things that a human being can do. We are lucky! Keep playing in the sea water.

Note 1. There are several surf museums in Brazil, including
  • Museu Do Surf Cabo Frio. Located in Cabo Frio, 200 kms north of Rio de Janeiro. Website link.
  • Museu Do Surf Santos. Located in Santos, 70 kms east of São Paulo city. Santos museums website link and Trip Advisor web link.
  • Museu Do Surf Rico. Located in Rio de Janeiro city and operated by legendary surfer Rico De Souza. Website link.
  • Pirata Surf Club. In Guarujá, in the São Paulo area, on a smaller scale but can be considered a museum. Website link and Facebook link.
Note 2: Irencyr Beltrão noted in the waves.terra website,

These guys started surfing with boards known at the time (1950s) as "church door." Then came the "madeirites" and, finally, the fiberglass boards.

"Esta galera começou surfando com pranchas conhecidas na época (anos 1950) como "porta de igreja." Depois, vieram as "madeirites" e, finalmente, as pranchas de fibra de vidro."

Irencyr Beltrão identified these surfers as acquaintances with madeirites he designed in the 1960s.
Irencyr Beltrão, "Sao todos meus conhecidos e estas madeirites foram projetadas por mim e construidas na Ilha do Governdor pelo Moacir. Nao foram dos anos 50 e sim anos 60 e tal."

Unknown author. (1964, January 18). A nova ordem é de pé sôbre as ondas. O Cruzeiro, 36(15), 92-97.

Note 3: In Peru, riding waves had a history predating the Spanish conquistadors.

Pre-Columbian Peruvian surfing images: Nazca and Chimu figures.

Geoff Cater's site identified the source of the image as Graciela Laffi's private museum with the photo taken by Jose Antonio "Gringo" De LavalIe; Museo Regional Arqueológico Enrique Bruning de Lambayeque, Peru.

(Below left) Thor Heyerdahl with Peruvian children holding traditional reed craft, still ridden around Huanchaco and surrounding coastal areas. (Below right) Mural section from the Chiclayo area.

(Above right) T. Heyerdahl (2000). Scandinavian Ancestry. Azerbaijan International, 8.2, at:; (Above right) Museo Regional Arqueológico Enrique Bruning de Lambayeque, Peru.

Feel free to send me suggestions, comments and additional information to: The Paipo Interviews

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Last updated on: 12/18/13