de Souza, Adriano

Determined pro surfer from São Paulo, Brazil; winner of the 2015 WSL world championing. After years of being ignored or ridiculed by surfing's English-speaking tastemakers, de Souza, following his 2015 win, was for the most part heralded as a worthy and deserving standard-bearer. "No one can say Adriano isn’t a worthy champ," Stab magazine wrote. "He’s as silently committed, as steely, as determined as is required to win a title.

De Souza was born (1987) in the touristy port city of Guaruja, the son of a cash-strapped dockworker father and a grocery store clerk mother, began surfing at age eight, and entered his first competition two summers later. In 2003, at 16, de Souza became the youngest ever ASP World Junior Champion, and in 2005 he handily won the World Qualifying Series title, qualifying for the elite pro tour. By 2008, De Souza had settled in as a perennial top-ten world tour finisher.

Built like a terrier (5'6", 137 pounds) and fixed to his board with a wide, squat, function-first stance, De Souza rode with near-monomaniacal intensity and often willed his way to heat victories against more talented surfers. "I'm a huge fan of Adriano," former world tour pro Shea Lopez said in 2010, "when he plays to his strengths, [which are] speed, creativity, and aggression."

But De Souza rankled some fellow competitors, and a good portion of pro tour fans, by often celebrating his own rides with raised arms, hand claps, and self-amazed facial expressions; opinion was divided as to whether he was just showboating, or trying to elicit a higher score from judges, or both—in any event, by the turn of the decade De Souza had become the world tour's most vilified surfer. De Souza didn't mind. "Some guys say, 'You claim a lot,' but it doesn't worry me," he explained to Stab magazine. "I'm fucking happy man. It's just a show of emotion."

De Souza won new fans in 2011 when, in a Surfer interview, he said he was building a house for his brother and mother. "All the money I  get, I just give to my family. I wins heats to help my family." In 2013, de Souza became the first male Brazilian surfer to win the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.

Prior to 2015, de Souza finished 5th in the final ratings on three occasions, in '09, '11, and '12. In 2014, when he placed 8th, it appeared as if the 27-year-old vet was ready to give way to a younger group of pros, especially fellow Brazilians stars Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo. Indeed, Medina that year became Brazil's first world tour winner.

But de Souza's 2015 world title campaign got off to a fast start, as he posted a 3rd, 2nd and 1st in the opening three events, and from there he led the ratings for much of the year. Going into the season's final contest, the Pipeline Masters, De Souza was rated 3rd, just behind Mick Fanning and fellow Toledo. De Souza wasn't spectacular at Pipeline, but he was tactically perfect, never lost focus, and went on to win both the event and the title. Afterwards, in an interview with Surfer, de Souza offered an amazingly straightforward take on his accomplishment: "The world champion—me, in this case—is not always the best surfer in the world. But I always work to improve my flaws. My life has never been easy; I achieve my goals by fighting for them."