Brazilian Romeu Bruno Interview from the 2007 Towsurfer Vault

July 17, 2007

by Eric Akiskalian

Romeu Bruno

Age: 43
Height: 165lbs.
Weight: 6´0
DOB: 03/21/64
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Blue
From: Brazil
Current Residence: Florianopolis
Marital Status: Married
Children: Tito, 7 years old
Years Surfing: 37 years
Years Kitesurfing: 4 years
Years Towsurfing: 12years


  • “Basic Life Support Instructor” by the American Heart Association (BLS – CPR and First Aid)
  • “Life-Saving and Rescue Craft Operator” by Ocean Safety Department of Honolulu
  • “Ocean Safety Education” by University of Hawaii
  • “PWC Open Water Rescue Boat Operator” by K-38
  • “Boat Skills and Seamanship” by the United States Coast Guard
  • “Open Water Diver” by PADI
  • “Neuro-linguistic Programming” (NLP) by Metaprocessos Avancados
  • “Personal Computer Specialist”, “Digital Media Specialist”, and “Information and Computer Science Specialist” by the University of Hawaii
Towsurfer: Where are you originally from?

Romeu: Originally I am from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I left Brazil when I was 23 years old to surf around the world. First stop was Indo in 1986, then Mexico, California, and Hawaii. I lived for two years in San Diego around 1986 and 1987. Then I moved to Hawaii in 1988 and lived there until 2001. Then I moved back to Florianopolis, Brazil and now I go back and forth during the seasonal changes.

Towsurfer: What got you into towing?

Romeu: I was a lifeguard back in 98/99 in Hawaii, and at the time, Captain Brian Keaulna introduced the Jet Ski to do rescues in the surf zone. Then couple years after that I was working at Sunset Beach and saw Derek Doerner, Laird Hamilton and Buzzy Kerbox tow-in with a Zodiac at Back Yards! The next summer after that, 1995, I bought my ski, and started towing-in at Sand Island, South side of Oahu. There were only a few guys towing-in at that time: Dawson Jhones, Mickel Willis, Ace Cool and Ron Baron. I learned a lot watching Brian Keaulana, Terry Ahui, Mark Donbrowski and Derek Doerner! Then I called my friend Edson Depaula, also a lifeguard, and asked him to be my partner. After couple years I start to teach Carlos Burle, Sylvio Mancusi, Eraldo Gueiros, and Alfredo Villas Boas. We formed the Power Surf Team, and we were together until 2001, at which point then we split!

Towsurfer: How was it to be a lifeguard on the North Shore?

Romeu: It was great and scary, but it was also the best time of my life! Coming from Brazil was tough, and I had to prove to myself and others that I was capable of working on the North Shore and on West Side with guys like Mark Cunninham, Derek Doerner, Butch Ukauka, Roger Erikson, Brian Keaulana, Mel Puu, Dennis Gouveia and the others. Work at Waimea, Pipe, Sunset, Haleiwa, Log Cabins, and Makaha carried a huge responsibility, and I had to earn my respect with the locals. I’m very thankful to the Hawaiians and to the whole North Shore community in general.

Towsurfer: How many years did you work as a lifeguard?

Romeu: I worked for 12 years then I quit in 2001 after I got the Valor Award for saving a woman and a man in the 25-foot surf on the North Shore of Oahu. I wanted to pass on all the knowledge I acquired in Hawaii to the lifeguards in Brazil.

Towsurfer: When did you surf Jaws for the first time?

Romeu: It was in 98’. I went with Alfredo Villas-Boas, another lifeguard on Maui. After that, I went out almost every time Jaws was breaking. Back then it was only the strap crew out there. We would sit in the channel, and watch Laird, Derek, Kalama, Buzzy and the rest of the crew surf. It was a great experience to learn by watching them while showing respect to the place and to them. Then, they would pass by us and call us into the lineup to catch waves too. Nowadays surfers don’t even respect them; they don’t know who is who! The situation at Jaws is dangerous, to0 many skis, and no respect… There must be some semblance of order. Some guys have their preferences. The rest have to get in line and wait their turn.

Towsurfer: Have you competed in any tow-in contests?

Romeu: I did the first contest at Jaws, before the World Cup. I finished in 4th place with my partner Edison Depaula. I also placed 2nd in my division, 8th overall in the first Molokai Channel Paddle Race – 50 miles paddling straight from Molokai to Oahu. I did win two years of Jiu-Jitsu in Hawaiian state tournaments in my weight division.

Towsurfer: Who is your tow-in partner?

Romeu: I have more than one partner. I learned with Laird, Derrick and Kalama to have a team. It’s hard to get people to understand the concept of teamwork, probably because of the nature of contests. I tow with a lot of guys like Pacelli, Ambrosio, Daniel, Mancusi, Pato, Edson, Luis Fernando and Tony Muniz. Formiga, Alemao and Koxa are some of the guys that I usually tow-in with when I’m back in Brazil, or out traveling around the world. Rodrigo “Koxa”, he’s a young guy, and at 26 years old he has a great experience with big waves. Koxa has been surfing Pipeline, Waimea, and Teahupoo for the past four years. I took him with me to Jaws last season and we surfed a couple of swells. He is surfing really good and has a good attitude. All of the time we have lots of fun together!

Towsurfer: What about tow-in trips?

Romeu: We have been finding some good reefs offshore back home. I have been going to Chile for the past four years, and we’ve also taken skis to Easter Island. That was the best tow trip I’ve ever done, but it’s very hard to get there. I would like to travel to Peru, Mexico, West OZ, Indo, Europe and Tahiti some day before I can’t do it anymore!

Towsurfer: What kind of training are you committed to?

Romeu: The best training is actually just practicing towing-in, stand-up, kite, and paddle surfing. However, I do lift weights, do Pilates, go mountain bike riding, run rocks under water, run the beach, do yoga, swim, and go snowboarding sometimes. Back home in Florianopolis, it’s very good for kitesurfing on waves. Also, Mormaii has a training center where we do a lot of work on the sand and yoga. At the gym “Forma Eporte Clube” I have a personal trainer that helps me with my weightlifting and with my swimming program. Now I’m going back to Jiu-Jitsu and boxing. It’s good for the cardio!

Towsurfer: What are your thoughts on the first ever APT World Tour Tow-In Surfing Circuit, and how does your country feel about it overall?

Romeu: I knew it was going to happen, the sport is growing fast and it’s the right time. It helps to push the performance to a higher level and brings more money into the sport. Tow-in in Brazil is big; we have a former world champion Rodrigo Resende, and an XXL winner Carlos Burle. We also have about eight top teams that are world class! So the APT tour is all over the media in Brazil, and it’s a big deal. We don’t have really big waves in Brazil, but there are some reefs off shore that break up to 15’ barrels.

Towsurfer: Tell us about the Brazil tow-in federation that you are a part of. Who is involved, and how will your group work along side of APT?

Romeu: Carlos Burle is the President and I’m the Vice-President. We invited all the top guys to be on the council’s board: Sylvio Mancusi, Pato, Eraldo Gueiros, Rodrigo Resende, Danilo Couto, Joao Capile, etc… We think that Eric Akiskalian, the Founder of APT is doing a great job! It is not so easy to launch such a big project, and we all know that it will take time and a huge amount of international before it is running strong. It has to start somewhere, and Rodney Kilborn, the APT Sanctioning Director, has been involved with tow-in events for a long time, and he has the experience to know what works concerning point system, formats, etc… The Brazilian Confederation will help APT bring a qualifying contest to Brazil and support the APT World Tour to grow!

Towsurfer: You seem to be doing a lot of international traveling promoting the Brazilian Tow-In Federation, APT and the Hawaii State Tow-In License Certification program. How is all of this coming along?

Romeu: In Brazil, we are getting individuals educated. Not only on how to drive a PWC in all conditions, but how to do to ocean rescues. We are also educating PWC operators on how to respect the surfers paddling and other tow teams in the line-up. We are making great progress, and surfers/towsurfers are starting to see that if we cannot continue to respect each other, the fun is going to come to an end. About the APT World Tour, I have been talking to respected individuals in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Peru and France to gauge their interest in getting involved with the world tour. So far, the response has been very positive and now Eric will come and meet with the right people that I have spoken to and make it happen. International events have to be done through the right people in every country, and then the tour will be huge and successful. With regards to Hawaii State Tow-In Certification in South America, I have been looking for the right Universities in South America to put them in contact with the University of Hawaii to offer the Hawaii State Tow-in License Certification program. My concern is the number of licenses that will be issued and the crowds that will follow. I will only support that if we have some kind of pre-qualification of the students that can take the course! Respect to the locals and paddle surfers must be the main topic of discussion in the course!

Towsurfer: What are your biggest concerns about how fast the sport is now growing?

Romeu: The crowds! We need to respect each other in the lineup, and also respect the paddle surfers. There have to be laws and Tow licenses all over the world to educate and control the tow surfers. We have to make room for the newcomers but must show respect to the pioneers. Everybody deserves respect! The problem that I see is the newcomers that skip the step of paddling in big surf for a few years to learn the ocean secrets (currents, power of different waves size and type, losing the board outside and swimming back to shore, etc..), then spend time tow surfing medium waves to learn the proper way to tow, to rescue, the basics. After you go through those processes you are ready to charge extra large waves….

Towsurfer: What size tow boards and how much weight are you riding at Jaws on the big days?

Romeu: 50-foot faces and up I use a 6’0, 20 pounds. 20 to 50 foot faces I use a 5’10, 15 pounds.

Towsurfer: What was your worst wipeout ever with tow surfing and what were you thinking at the time?

Romeu: Last year I caught this 40-foot face, and I was way too deep. When I made my bottom turn I saw the barrel starting to pitch, so I pulled in from behind. When I was getting in the barrel, I hit a big chop and went airborne in the barrel. It was minor for a few seconds, but I landed too high, and when I tried to go down I got sucked up and over the falls head-first. I was talking to God on my way down, wondering if this was my time. When I hit the water I felt like I was going to pass out. It felt like a massive blow to my head, and then I could not feel my legs. The lip ended up pushing super deep and it felt like a bunch of guys kicking me from every side. I cleared my mind of every bad thought and just started to relax so that I would save oxygen. When I came up, the lip from the second wave was just hitting the water a couple feet in front of me, and it happened all over gain. I took a deep breath and got run over like a freight train – just as bad as the first wave. Now I had a moment of fear, but I told myself to just relax, that God was in control. I came up having stomach contractions and seeing black spots. I was almost on the rocks when the third wave of the set ran me over, but this last one went by fast. When I finally came up my partner was right there to pick me up. I ended up sitting in the channel for the rest of the day – feeling like I was lucky to be alive…

Towsurfer: In your opinion, who are some of the new unrecognized chargers at Jaws?

Romeu: Jorge Pacelli, Haroldo Ambrosio, and Chuck Paterson charges hard too!

Towsurfer: What will become of Jaws with all the crowds? This has been a major issue for some time now, and I keep hearing people saying that they need to put a stop to it. How will this happen?

Romeu: I feel kinda sad when I don’t see Laird, Kalama, Darrick, and the rest of the crew out there on an average good day. The first time I went to Jaws back in 98’ was one of the most special moments of my life. Back then, there was mutual respect in the water for each other and the wave. Now only a few guys have respect for each other and for the wave. Today, there are so many skis in the water, and this makes it is very dangerous and challenging. If people don’t start to show respect while waiting in the lineup, I think that the locals will have to start strong-arming just like they do at Pipe. It will be very sad to see fights at Pe’ahi. Selfishness is the problem!!!!

Towsurfer: What can you say to those that have never surfed JAWS/Peahi and are thinking about doing it for the first time?

Romeu: Go with someone that has experience in the lineup, wait for your turn, respect the seniority, and make sure you have paddle surfed Waimea and/or Mavericks or some big waves, and have gotten pounded good. Also, make sure you have plenty tow-in experience and know the proper rope work and driving skills. Lastly, HAVE THE RIGHT REASON TO BE OUT THERE, AND ENJOY ONE OF THE BEST WAVES IN THE WORLD!

God bless you all!

(c) 2017