Dada Figuerido was the Brazilian equivalent of Kelly Slater back in the 70s and 80’s, but the first I heard of him was when I stumbled on an obscure Netflix doco about his life.
‘Radical’ tells the story of the boy who came from the back streets of São Paulo to the beaches of Rio where he discovered he was a naturally gifted surfer – in fact he was head and shoulders above anyone else in pure giftedness.
Grainy footage of his teen years, random interviews with his old mates (none of whom I knew) and the subtitles meant I almost gave up on the show several times. But he was a quirky character – rebelling consistently against all societal mores, establishing his own fashion label (‘anti-fashion’) which ironically took off and became somewhat self defeating, pushing into the punk and anarchic scene and then into drugs, crime and violence.
The story is told of him turning up at the awards night of a surfing contest to receive his trophy only to call everyone (including the corporate sponsors) f**king parasites for feeding off surfing and making money out of it, before peeing on the table. He was rude, obnoxious and consistently sought to push in the opposite direction of what was considered acceptable.
I persisted with the story – but as his life descended into a spiral of depravity and drug dependence I started to wonder ‘what am I doing watching this B grade doco about a surfer I have never heard of?’ Seriously- what value is there in watching this terrible story of a life gone wrong? His story hit a new low when he narrowly survived a stabbing over a petty crime.
It was dark stuff.
Dada found Jesus and his life turned around entirely – he became a new person and gave up the drugs, alcohol, violence and every other vice he held.
If the story is true – and it seems it was -then the change was almost instantaneous – and humungous!
As it’s told in the doco, we hear that ‘Dada found religion’, but anyone whose been ‘religious’ knows that religion doesn’t change anyone for the better and it certainly doesn’t transform them so completely and so quickly.
His wife was happy because now he was someone she could live with and as a result she found faith too. His friends were actually quite patronising, suggesting that perhaps people of weaker character needed the help religion offered.
As for Dada – he was a new man and (as far as I can tell) his life has been on a Jesus trajectory ever since.
Religion won’t save anyone – but a ‘saviour’ will if you will let him. I’m guessing desperation pushed Dada to that place. But the beauty is that in the desperation there was hope.
I tell the story because as I listened to his bio on Netflix I was shocked – stunned that someone like him found faith and was so radically transformed. I just needed to be reminded again that this is what the gospel is capable of – for those both desperate enough to need it and humble enough to receive it.
There is a 10 year old testimony of his on this Christian surfers site, which fills in some of the details. It’s in Portuguese and translates badly into English:)