Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Interview Wednesdays: Jair Bortoleto

Jair Bortoleto

Jair Bortoleto is someone that I admire because of his passion and kindness, his authenticity, his vision and his way of bringing people together. I was hoping we could get to know more about Jair as an artist and as the man behind Santos SurfArt.

Olá Jair! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for PineappleLuv.

What is your local break?

Santos city is divided by 7 canals, and the best waves break on the canal 1, so, this is where I consider myself a local.

Jair surfing his local break

What is your favorite surfboard?

I have a 6’6 that I shaped, that really looks weird, but works very nice... Everyone that sees it, always thinks that “this thing doesn’t work”, but then they try it out and change their minds…It’s a 70’s template, flex single fin glass on.

What is your favorite place you've ever surfed while traveling?

I surfed big Jockos in Hawaii once…that season I had a tattoo in my mind… 4 big bombs, with a long gun…

I loved reading your history on your website and how you started surfing. How did you choose Peru as your first surf trip?

I found that some friends were going to Peru and I was 18 at the time... Brasilians are not used to traveling a lot, like Australians you know… So to me it was a big highlight in my life. I surfed nice waves in Punta Hermosa and went to Macchu Picchu on the same trip. Peru was a culture shock.

How did you start shaping and designing surfboards?

When I was 17, I start to work at the Lightning Bolt factory here in Brasil. I used to cut templates of fins in a big saw machine…kind of scary actually. A lot of times there was nothing to do and I used to sit and watch the local shapers do their job in a thousand boards. One day I bought a blank and asked for some help and did my first board. Shaped, glassed, didn’t sand… and put the fins on…It was fun and rewarding.

In that factory I had the chance to meet Erik Arakawa, Glen Minami, Mark Jakola and the best shapers from Brasil. Then I moved to Hawaii for the third time and my home mate was a shaper and taught me a lot about boards and designs… talked a lot about boards… actually he is from Redwood City, but lived in Hawaii for a long time. His name is Micah Truax. Good man and good shaper… Also learned a lot from OJ Midgett, also in Hawaii. And now I speak a lot about designs with my good brother in faith Bob McTavish on the net.

Is there a shaper you would like to meet in person?

Yes, would love to meet McTavish in person. Only spoke on the net, you know… Would love to meet Skip Frye…so smooth.

When did you realize you were meant to be an artist?

I was more about photo journalism… then I moved to Boston and had art around me a lot… museums, people, Harvard… all this vibe around me that made me want to do a different kind of photography. A photography student that used to work in the same hostel gave me black and white film, and my life changed… From then I never saw the world in color anymore… it’s all black and white for me….

Picuruta Salazar
The most influential surfer in Brasil - nicknamed The Cat

Photo by Jair Bortoleto

Was photography the first way you expressed yourself as an artist?

Probably not. I was checking some old stuff from my child times and I found some drawings… kind of funny stuff. Probably is where I found that I was an artist.

Where has photography led you in this world?

Photography allowed me to show the pureness in the imperfection. We are all imperfect and we can show some pureness in our acts and words. That’s what I want to show with my photos.

Thomas Rittscher
Photo by Jair Bortoleto

Tell us how you came up with the vision for Santos SurfArt.

The Festival organizer asked me last year if I want to take care of the art in the Festival, and I got the idea to organize an art show. First one was ok, but full of little mistakes that I don’t want to repeat on the second edition. It was with wood walls, and we printed all the pictures here… after it was done I felt kind of fake… The photos didn’t get touched by the artists, you know…

How has your vision changed or expanded for II Santos SurfArt?

First difference is that all the works are original, and will be sent by the own artist. Second we will have a surf museum. And it’s all love, all free and I have the chance to show top art to all kinds of people. Last one we had on the same time the mayor and homeless people looking at the same stuff at the same time… this is special for me.

You are bringing together art, surfing, a bit of skateboarding, and a surf film festival for thousands of Brasilians to see. What is your biggest hope for this festival?

That people here open their minds to what is going on around the world with surf. Surfers here are more about thrusters and super airs tricks, and they forget about the glide and the soul of it. I want to show the best of art and show that surf is more then airs and competition. It’s all about the love that you feel when you are inside the water.

This year's festival is in a new surf museum. You must be very excited about this!

Yeah! The surf museum is almost ready, and the whole area was designed by a famous architect named Ruy Ohtake. And the whole park has been rebuilt. Everything is looking sick already.

Is it true that your town Santos, is the city where Brasilian surfing began?

Yes. It’s a big controversy between two guys about who was the first, but it was four pioneers that began everything here. Two American siblings, Thomas and Margot Rittscher, and two Brasilians, Osmar Goncalvez and Jua Hafers. They built a Tom Blake type of board from a Popular Mechanics magazine from 1937, and started to surf over here.

To me, this is all super romantic, you know… Controversy, love, angry, waves…. It’s all beauty, and still have some angry discussions about who was the first, but I prefer use that they were 4. The two Brasilians friends already passed, but the American brother and sister are still alive and I photographed them for my book.

Margot is a 93 years old lady. She says that when she’s looking out her window and sees surfers, she wishes she can go and surf, but she’s too old… And some guys here did a Tom Blake replica and when she saw the board, she cried. This is romantic or what?

What would be your "perfect" imperfect day?

Wake up early, coffee, go and talk about God’s Kingdom to people, then comeback for lunch, rest, grab my board and go to a perfect 3 to 4 feet, with good friends, then comeback and drink a beer with my wife Michele and dog…


Does your dog like to go with you to the beach? What is her name?

Melka hates to go out… she is a schnauzer. When we bring her out, she cries a lot.

Devo would think Melka is really cute!

What is in your CD player at the moment?

Andrew Kidman’s new cd… it’s not that new already, The Brown Birds from Windy Hill… how good are they…. Soulful!

Do you have a secret talent that most people wouldn't know about?

Not really… I don’t have too many talents. I force myself to do everything right, but make a lot of mistakes and I’m very anxious.

What is the worst job you've ever had?

When I got to Hawaii the second time, this guy asked me to work in his house and clean the houses and stuff. He asked me to clean beneath the houses and was full of rats and centipedes…I just held my breath and cleaned that thing… Was very nasty and crazy and I had to do it on my knees…But it was all good.

What was your favorite candy as a child?

Chocolate bar, and still is…

What is the last surf movie you watched?

Innermost Limits of Pure Fun, that Mick Waters sent to me and George Greenough allowed me to screen on the Festival… sick!

I learned on your website that you lived in Boston for awhile and learned to love jazz there. Was there a certain moment in Boston that inspired this passion – did you hear a band in a club?

I used to work in a Hostel, and the buildings around were full of music students. And I could hear people playing jazz… Was a very deep moment in my life and I felt very lonely, but full of inspiration there. And one day I met a girl that used to tune the pianos on the music school over there… How sweet and lovely was that…

If there were a huge thunderstorm in your town right now, what jazz record would you play?

Let's Get Lost
, Chet Baker.

Do you collect anything?


What is your favorite home cooked meal?

Barbecue, beer with friends.

What is the funniest thing you saw today?

My dog always surprises me with little things… she makes the funniest moments in my day.

Is there anything more you'd like to say to the readers about the festival or life in general…?

One thing. Next time a Jehovah Witnesses knock on your door, listen to them. The message is that God’s Kingdom is coming.

Jair, working with the DRIVE Skateboarding crew in the City of God -
"The craziest place I have ever been".

photo by Mark Falkenstein

It was an honor to interview you, Jair.

Santos Surf Art – Blog for II Santos SurfArt Festival (Jan. 20-26, 2009): artist interviews and more

Pureness in the Imperfection – Jair's blog

Jair Bortoleto Photography
– Jair's Photography website and info on his book


Ryan said...

Jair rules. Nice interview!

Patch said...

Great interview. Jair is a talented soulful man.

maggie said...

Woot woot!
Nice to hear a little more about Jair--this time with him on the other side of the questions!


Andrew said...

Nice interview, great guy, fantastic work! ...And Jair's website is pretty nice too (if I don't say so myself! haha)

Santos SurfArt said...

Thanks all for the kind words.

sealegs said...

an insight into an obviously extraordinary dude. kudos.