It was a cold and rainy night in Costa Mesa, Calif., but inside Volcom headquarters it felt something like a Native American sweat lodge. Hundreds of surf-stoked groms and tattoo-laden crusties huddled together inside the steamy warehouse-turned-skate-park-turned-theater, watching the premiere of the brand’s new film, True to This.
About halfway through the feature, perfect Maldivian lefts started tearing across the screen. Mitch Coleborn and Nate Tyler traded freight-train barrels and punchy sections with the flair you might expect, but no one could have predicted the show-stealing appearance of a relatively unknown Brazilian kid named Yago Dora. The stick-thin 17-year-old launched into huge stalefish rotations and straight slobs with style to burn. The wide-eyed crowd turned to one another and whispered a collective “Who the fuck was that?”
“I have never seen someone nail so many different airs in a single session,” says Coleborn about their Maldives trip. “He’s got every rotation, flip, and grab down, both frontside and backside. It’s unbelievable.”
Outside of Brazil, no one had heard of Dora until a little over a year ago, when he stuck a backflip on a blustery offshore day at Rocky Point. The clip dropped shortly after Gabriel Medina’s similarly acrobatic aerial, leading many to wonder what the hell they’re putting in the churrasco down south these days.
Truth be told, even Dora struggles to explain how he arrived on the world surf stage. Although his dad is a lifelong surfer and the current coach for several Brazilians on the ’QS, Dora started surfing only about six years ago.
“I was always more into playing soccer and going skating as a kid,” says Dora. “But because of my dad I was always around surfing, and when I got into it myself, he really helped me progress. Maybe the skating did too.”
Today, it would be tough to overstate Dora’s potential. Inspired by Dane Reynolds, Dora has developed the kind of flair and spontaneity that defines most modern freesurfers. It’s a far cry from the competitively minded, highly regimented approach to surfing many of his countrymen take, but Dora isn’t at all averse to the idea of channeling his approach in a competitive format as well.
“I would love to be on the World Tour one day, but I will never be a competitive machine,” says Dora. “I’m not the kind of guy who obsesses over scores or ratings. The most important thing for me is to keep having fun with my surfing and pushing myself as hard as I can.”