Remembering Jean da Silva
April 5, 2018
I first met Jean da Silva back in 2000. We used to surf the same beach at Prainha, in São Francisco do Sul, and it was around that time that Jean was making a name for himself in the Brazilian surf community. He was winning every contest he surfed in Brazil, becoming an idol to so many young Brazilian surfers. Yet, he always remained humble.
Although I’d run into Jean at contests, and even a few times in Bali (a place we both loved and spent a lot of time at), it wasn’t until 2014 that I started shaping for him. Our mutual friend, Leandro da Silva, whom Jean had known since they were both 13 years old, trained, traveled and surfed contests with Jean. Although Jean already had several sponsors, Leandro suggested that he try my boards.
I have a certain way that I work with athletes; we don’t sign a contract. I don’t even ask them to surf TBS boards exclusively or put stickers on their other boards. They only surf TBS’ if they feel that it works for them, and they are free to surf any other shaper’s boards if those work for them as well. This philosophy keeps me extremely open minded to different shaping perspectives and designs. Many people don’t know this, but prior to becoming a shaper I was a designer by profession.
I loved working with Jean. He was very detailed in his feedback and provided a lot of information to help us dial in his boards. Always attentive, he would spend minutes analyzing the rails along the entire board, as well as the fin positioning. When they were completed, he would praise the weight and finishing of the boards. I guess he looked at me like a mix of scientist and artist.
Over the years, our professional relationship turned into a personal friendship. When he was home and not surfing on the ‘QS, we made time to surf and work on new boards together. He was a constant presence at the factory and would stay at my house for days at a time. He not only became like family to me, but my wife and my daughters, Mariana (6) and Antonia (2), as well. One time while Jean was staying with us, we had an event at the girls’ school. It was a cultural event about children’s music and he went with us and had fun and danced the entire time. My daughters will always remember Jean as their dad’s friend who looked like a student at their school.
When at our house, he made time for everybody. He brought a calming and patient energy into the home and we would spend hours in the kitchen, just talking and cooking. Jean loved to cook and always had a recipe in mind! And while his love for food was always apparent, my wife will remember Jean as a guy that was in love with a girl, and spent much of his time telling us his love stories.
A sudden death impacts everyone. We had plans for 2018 and we were developing and improving a model for him. But, that doesn’t matter anymore. When I first heard of Jean’s passing I asked myself, “Why,” and then remembered that we are not worthy of asking questions. I prefer to think of how lucky I was to meet a guy like Jean.
A memorial paddle out was held in front of his family beach house, in Barra do Sul, a northern city in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. Nearly two hundred of Jean’s family and friends came, despite the rain and forecasted bad weather. We prayed. When it came time to paddle out, the sun peered through the clouds and some waves came our way. Perhaps that was Jean’s way of telling us that everything was going to be ok.
Although Jean earned fame and a Brazilian title during his career, he will always be remembered by his style and class, and mainly for the kind of person that he was. I like to think about all the people he met around the world – even beyond the surf community - and how he touched their lives and was loved by them all. He was a guy that we could all relate to. A guy that had a mission to spread love, smile and make you smile! These memories give me the strength to face his passing and write this story, and the strength to pass on to his family.
- Tiago Bastos Swinka
Tiago Bastos Swinka shapes high performance surfboards for surfers from all over Brazil and South America under his TBS Surfboards label. Learn more about Tiago and his board designs at www.tbssurfboards.com.br