Perseverance and Gratitude with Victor Bernardo


I would like to start by saying that Victor is not only one of the most stylish surfers, but he is also one of the absolute most genuine and caring people out there. Character comes from trials, and he has had his fair share, but as I had the chance to talk with him, it became apparent that he has his priorities straight. From taking care of his family to sending surfboards back to his brother in Brazil, Victor never forgot those who helped and supported him. This interview was an absolute pleasure and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.



Thank for sitting down with us Victor. Can you tell us a little bit about where you came from and how you got to where you are today?



I feel like Guarujá-S.P. was the best environment I could have been in. It was easy to spend the whole day at the beach because of the temperature. When I started surfing we lived a bit far from the beach. I would always walk with a bunch of surfers from my community and surf all day. On the way back from the beach we would climb trees and pick some fruits. My dad made sure I was always surfing and having fun! Back then, there were a lot of contests and so many talented surfers to push the limits like Edgard Groggia, Deivid Silva, Filipe Toledo, and a bunch of other rippers. I remember Adriano being my biggest inspiration growing up because we have a similar background history coming from a poor community and trying to provide a better life for our family. 


I shared the same coach as Jesse and Vitor Mendes, Junior and Caio Faria, Alejo Muniz, Sidney and Leonardo Guimarães, Malu Mendes, and Ian Gouveia. After our surf we would always watch all the clips and correct everything. It was really good because we could learn from our mistakes and also from the other surfers. 




I grew up watching surf movies and one of my biggest dreams was to be in one. I was able to accomplish that when I was thirteen years old. I was part of a movie called “A Escolha” by Henrique Daniel. After that I did a trip with the Hang Loose team to Indonesia to film for a movie called “Bagus Bagarai”, and it was probably one of the best trips of my life. It was like a little light bulb lit up on top of my head… “I could do this my whole life, travel and film the best waves in the world”.  If I ever stopped competing, freesurfing would be an amazing career choice.



I met Jake Marshall in France during the King of the Groms in 2012; he and his dad invited me to come stay at their house in California. That following year, I flew to Cali and stayed with them for a couple months, but I almost got deported because I told the CBP officer that I was coming here to study and I had a tourist visa. They called Hillary (Jake’s mom) and she explained everything to them. Back then I only knew the basics in English, and being surrounded by his family helped me a lot at getting better.



A few years after that, I got on Billabong, and in 2017 I started renting an apartment by Trestles with Johnni, my wife. She’s from Santa Clarita and had sent me a dm on Instagram before we met in 2015. As I was doing the whole QS tour trying to qualify, I was also trying to connect the QS locations with other small trips for filming to produce surf movies. In 2018, we did another movie about a couple of friends that went on a boat trip called “Mais Um Filme De Surfe” by Bruno Zanin and another one called “Isla de los Buffalos” with Gabriel Novis. 


The following year was 2019, and my plan was to still do the QS and travel around to film. Around March, I got a letter to the house saying that I was getting dropped in the next month by my main sponsor. I was saving money to buy a house for my family and all of a sudden, I couldn’t do it.


Johnni and I went back to Brazil because it was cheaper to live there, but it was a lot more expensive to fly from in order to compete. I still had a couple co sponsors, but I only had enough money to pay for my family bills. So, when Covid hit I was like “Woah, I’m really short on money now.”. It might be better if we go to California and start working. Johnni and I had tried to fly back to California, but I got stopped and deported. We had all of the papers and documentation with us. They were saying I couldn’t enter the country and start my green card process, I had to do it in Brazil. They flew me back and then I didn’t get to see her for five months until she flew back. That was a really hard moment in my life. 


A year and a half later, after getting deported, I was able to get my papers to fly here to California. We moved in with her mom in the desert which was like 2 hours from the beach in La Quinta. All of a sudden, I was a surfer living in the desert. 


I was living in the desert and surfed maybe like two or three times a month. I would just drive to the coast and back when I had enough money for gas or I would ask my friends if I could sleep at their house so I could surf two days in a row. 


In January we did a day trip to Ventura, the forecast looked really good. It was me and a bunch of friends and we surfed all day long. I posted a bunch of stories and I got a message from Album saying how they wanted to talk about the possibility of me riding their boards and becoming a freesurfer. 


It was a dream come true, not to mention that I had told my friend before I left Brazil that I would buy an Album board so we could take turns. 




I had signed up for a contest in Brazil a week before I had a chance to re-qualify for the CS events, and I really wanted to have that one last shot. So I told Album I would sign with them after doing that contest.


Before I went to Brazil, I visited the Album shop just to check it out. I wanted to try a board so bad, so I got a used Twinsman. I went for a late afternoon surf at trestles and on the way back from the Lowers drop off, the borrowed Album board flew out of the truck. I walked back and forth on the side of the freeway and I couldn’t find the board, it simply disappeared, and I didn’t know how to explain to the Album crew what happened. 


I went to Brazil, did the contest I wanted to do and lost in the first round. I called Album right away and told them I was in, I wanted to get things started. 


When I was around eleven years old I started riding for Shine Surfboards, a local shaper from my hometown. He had a bunch of different boards from back in the day, and I was always curious on how those boards would ride. I would always try some different shapes, twin fins, single fin, alaia and some quads too.



How long have you been riding for Album surfboards, and what are your favorite models?


I’ve been riding for Album for a year and a half now. I’ve never really ridden an asymmetrical board before Album. The first board that he shaped me was an asymmetrical twin Disorder model and a two plus one set-up to keep from throwing me off too much. As much as I fell in love with it, I still don’t really order specific boards from him. He just shapes what is in his mind, and we connect. He’s always coming up with something new and different. Each time it comes out to be super fun to ride. 


When he shaped me my first Dark Arts board I was like “Wow, it’s super light under my feet. I could go back to QS with this.”.  


My favorite model to ride nowadays is the Bom Dia model. It's a quad asymmetrical board that rides really well. I’ve been doing my best surfing on Album boards and it's keeping me psyched to surf all day everyday, I feel like a grom again.





Where do you find inspiration?   


My family! I just want to take my dad on surf trips, take my sister to fly on a plane for the first time, pay for her university, get my brother a car, buy them a house, and stuff like that. It sounds so simple to some people, but it means a lot to me. Seeing them happy is what motivates me the most. Every accomplishment fills me with so much joy and happiness and that's what keeps me going.


Giving all the support to my family is my main goal in life, I just want them to enjoy life and to never worry about anything else. 


What are some personal highlights you experienced from filming trips, and do you have any favorite edits?


Since I signed up with Album, I’ve been traveling and filming a lot. We were sitting on a lot of footage from when I went to South Korea, Australia, and Indonesia, with Ian Grose. Filming in wave pools, at Bells Beach, and Snapper rocks. The footage isn’t out yet, but once it’s released it’s going to be my favorite. 


Another one I loved working on was “Saudade”, which means like when you miss someone or have a sense of longing. It started when my good friend Rafaski told me he was starting a production company with another good friend of mine, Davi Realle. They invited me to film something during my visit to Brazil, and it turned out amazing. It’s also super special because it’s about how I miss my family now that I live in the US. There are a lot of family scenes, and also some with my dog that passed away so it’s an edit I’ll never forget. 


Do you find yourself gravitating towards symmetrical shapes or asymmetrical shapes now?


I go back and forth a lot, but mostly asymmetrical boards. Matt has been making me all kinds of boards all year round. We talk boards all the time, I’ve learned a lot from him! I love riding different boards all the time. It makes me feel like a little grom again.


Your story is inspirational; you’ve been on the roller coaster of the industry. It's so competitive and you’ve gone through some scary and lonely times…


I pinch myself every now and then since it's always like a dream come true. It’s a dream to be here riding these boards and surfing for a living, and yeah, I had a couple down days but I kept going. I think that competitive surfing has taught me how to bounce back from a heat loss really well. Now when I have a bad moment in life, it makes it easier to bounce back and get back on track.


What would you tell the next generation of surfers?


Just like to never give up, and make sure to focus on your own.  Do your own thing and make sure you’re original. Do it with full passion and do it for you. Just be yourself and believe. I feel like it worked for me, and it can work for someone else.


If you’re doing the right thing, good things will come to you. My whole life was just like that, and I don’t know. My dad was always good at keeping me on track and he helped me a lot throughout both my life and career because he didn’t have much. But, he was able to provide everything we needed in order to keep us going while growing up in a really poor community. We lived by a hill, and one day the hill came down in a mudslide. My brother was living at the house, and when the house went down, that was the only thing my family ever had. Now I’m glad I can provide everything for them. 


I was blessed with a gift and now I’m using it to bless them. It’s been a roller coaster, but at the end of the day God has a better plan than our plans. I know people are super competitive, but just try to be better than the person you were yesterday.


I say everything happens for a reason. Being a good person will bring good into your life.


For us at Dark Arts it’s like getting people to ride our boards is super exciting, but it also comes with challenges… 


I love what you guys have going on here, it’s providing the best carbon boards in the world and to think it comes from a tight family is great.


Who do you enjoy surfing with the most on the Album team?


I don’t know, all of them! I’ve recently been surfing with Margo who was one of the first freesurfers in the world. He’s a super nice person, and it’s really nice traveling with him. He opened up a lot during the trip, and we connected. His wife is Brazilian and we just have a lot in common. I really love surfing with my family. I just sent my dad and brother a Dark Arts twinsman for them to share. My brother sent me a picture, and I was crying when I first saw it since he didn't surf for a long time. When the board came he surfed it and was super stoked on it. When I went to Brazil last year, I also brought a Dark Arts board for my dad. He’s 54 so I wanted to give him something he had never seen before. 






Sponsors today?


Currently, I ride for Katin, Album, Moonglade superfoods, Clearweather, Fu wax, Juneshine, Naked Viking fins,  Feral wetsuits, and Pedal Electric. 


I also want to put out a big “thank you” to my coach, Paulo Mendes, who has not only shaped me as a surfer, but also as a human. He actually came up with this idea to have two different boards for the kids he trains. I think Dark Arts would be a great contribution since it lasts so long. I spoke to Matt (owner of Album surfboards), and he said if he could do it, his idea would be to have an asymmetrical Dark Arts board which think it would be cool.


Thanks so much for sitting down to chat with us Victor, we wish you all the best.


Of course, thank you for having me. This has been great!