On the 7th June 2009 Air France Flight 447 en route from Rio to Paris crashed into the Atlantic killing all 228 passengers on board.
Those who read the detailed press releases may have come across the story of a Brazilian orthodontist from London who tragically died, aged 35, on his birthday along with his beautiful girlfriend Isis Pinet. What they may not have read or have known was that he was a surfer, one of the best, who touched the lives of so many people around the world in his pursuit of the perfect wave. He represented everything that is special about our sport and although his death was tragic, what will be remembered is his life which was an inspiration to all those who knew and surfed with him.
Dr Jose ‘Rommel’ Souza was born in Rio. A goofy foot, he grew up surfing the beach breaks of Rio and then moved to London, via Paris, in pursuit of his career – an orthodontist.
From the beaches of Rio, Cornwall and Hossegor to the heavy reefs of Hawaii, Fiji and Indonesia, Rommel travelled the world to surf. Most London based surfers check the weekend forecasts for the South West, Rommel would check the entire Atlantic sea-board such was his commitment. Weekend trips to Mundaka, Madeira and Lanzarote were the norm rather than the exception, if the surf was good Rommel would go. As he used to say, as long as he caught just one wave, any trip was worth it.Big drop for the dental doc at Ulus, one of his favourite waves.
His personal surf highlights included surfing 2nd reef Pipeline, Teahupoo, J-Bay, G-land and Cloudbreak, although he never did manage to catch the latter at a decent size! Perhaps one of his most memorable rides was at Uluwatu, on a huge day, he rode the wave so far he had to get a motorbike back from Padang beach.
In an era where UK waves are forever becoming more crowded, he was a shining example of what a committed inland surfer should be. Whether it was his favourite point near Bude, the Southcoast gem that is Porthleven or a quick short-stop flight to Madeira to surf big Jardim Do Mar, his ability in the water and respect for the local surfers meant that he was always welcome.
Rommel’s death has brought much sadness but his life and achievements should be a lesson to us all. So the next time it is cold and onshore and you decide to give it a miss, think again. Or the next time a big swell pushes in and you have the fear just remember that you may not get a chance like this again.
We have lost a true warrior in his passing. The bond established between those who surf runs deep – there are few non surfers who can relate to it. Our community is weaker without him.
‘Paddle Outs’ are occurring around the world this weekend in Devon, New York and Rio.
A testament to a true friend and warrior, he will be sadly missed.Rommel, a big character, well loved in all corners of the globe, tucks into a tiny tubo.