Surf School

Schools World Service tells the story of the children from Brazil's favelas who attend Favela Surf Clube for key stage 2

Surf school dur 8,00

Rio de Janeiro

Surf school on Ipanema Beach in Rio, Brazil The sands of Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro

Rio is the second largest city in Brazil. It has mountains, sea and miles of sand. Rio is the home to Ipanema Beach - a beach with a difference.

Every morning it is transformed into a school. It's a school with no textbooks or paper: this is a surf school.

The school aims to give kids from poorer backgrounds access to free surf boards and lessons.


A favela is a community located high up in the Brazilian mountains. Favelas began in Brazil because poor people didn't have anywhere to live, so they built houses on Rio's steep hillsides.

People have lived in favelas in Rio for over 100 years, but it hasn't always been easy.

The houses are built on the hillside so they sometimes get washed away in heavy flooding. Many favelas don't have proper roads or sewers. Often there aren't enough rubbish collections, so piles of litter build up.

Today, over one million people live in Rio's favelas. They're like a jigsaw of houses knitted together by a maze of alleyways. People's houses are usually very small, so kids spend most of their time outdoors.


Iuri wants to be a Surfer at the Rio Olympics in 2016 Iuri wants to be a Surfer at the Rio Olympics in 2016

Iuri is 12 years old. He joined the surf school last year.

He says: "when you go down the wave, no one holds you anymore, you're alone. There's no-one ahead of you and you go all the way to the sand."

When Iuri grows up - he wants to be a surfer or a footballer.


Anderson plans to move to the city in the future Anderson plans to move to the city in the future

Anderson is 11 years old. He has been attending the surf school ever since he was 4 years old.

Anderson says: "When I'm on a wave, I keep imagining what I'm going to do on that wave. The waves here are the best ones for me, here in Rio."

When he's older he wants to leave the mountains behind and move to the city. Anderson says: "I'd rather live in the city, because in the favela I can't live with people throwing rubbish at their neighbour's doors, throwing rubbish on the floor, everywhere."

He also has plans to visit Hawaii and try to surf the huge waves.

Cantagalo Favela

Cantagalo Favela in Brazil's Hillside Cantagalo Favela on a Rio hillside

This is where Iuri and Anderson live. The best way to get there is to use the lift which was installed in 2010, before then you had to climb hundreds of steps.

Iuri says: "I live with my mum. There's one bedroom that I share with my mum, a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom."

Lots of kids make their own kites out of sticks and paper. Some of them fly really high. Sometimes the kite strings get tangled and it takes a lot of co-ordination and shouting between rooftops to get the kite back.

Anderson says: "What's good about the favela is that we can have lots of fun, play football and fly kites."

Iuri likes it here, he says: "I'm in my favela and I feel free. I like living here. I was born and brought up here. I never want to leave my mother alone. Wherever I go, I'll take her with me."

Criminal gangs and the police

Start Quote

I was so scared I almost fell out of my bed. We were waiting, there were gunshots for some time.”

End Quote Anderson, 11 years old

Some favelas are ruled by criminal gangs, which means life can be dangerous. ‬‪But things are changing. In 2016 Rio will host the Olympic Games and the government wants to make improvements.

The police have started taking back the favelas from the gangs. Sometimes this process has been violent. And the fact that the police now constantly patrols the favelas has been criticised by many. They moved into Iuri and Anderson's favela just over two years ago. ‬‪

Anderson was at home when the police arrived.

Anderson says: "I was sleeping. It was 1am. I started hearing gunshots and a helicopter coming over the woods. I was so scared I almost fell out of my bed.

We were waiting, there were gunshots for some time and then in the morning it was gone. My mum got me to go out to buy some bread and when I went out, gunshots started again.

Three criminals ran past me shouting 'get out, get out' and I was really scared and I went into a lady's house to protect myself and not get shot."

Cantagalo today

Anderson says: "Since the pacification things are good. Because without the criminals we can play, we can have fun, and the policemen let us play until whenever we want to."

Making the favela safe is good for the local economy as people can come to visit.

Iuri says: "I see lots of tourists and it's good that they come here. It improves the favela's image. It's good that they can walk around the favela freely, because when there were criminals if tourists came it could be dangerous."

In Brazil children only have lessons for half a day - because there are so many children and not enough schools. Iuri and Anderson's school is outside Cantagalo, in the main city.

Rio 2016 Olympics

Surfing for success on Ipanema Beach Surfing for success on Ipanema Beach

Anderson and Iuri will be teenagers by the time the Olympics come to Rio in 2016.

Although surfing isn't actually an Olympic sport, Iuri would like that to change.

Iuri says: "It's going to be the best. It's the first time I think, and if I can, I'll be in it!"

Schools World Service is a BBC British Council co-production

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