De Souza. (Nanda Ormond)

Theory: This Is Probably Why Some People Still Think Adriano Sucks (When He Doesn’t)

Is Adriano a victim of confirmation bias?

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You read the news lately? Holy smokes is there some heavy going shit happening in the world at the moment. Like, get this, there’s this guy called Trump, and this other thing called the Alt-Right and… Ahhh, I won’t bore you with it, but it’s some crazy stuff, man. It’s no wonder the world of Game of Thrones is such a warm, cosy Sunday night respite. And how lucky are we to have the fantastical world of surfing to retreat into and pretend everything is okay? So lucky!

It’s a time where politics, particularly American politics, has never seemed more divided. And in searching for answers trying to understand why, a term keeps coming up again and again in 2017.

And that’s “Confirmation Bias”.

Put simply, it’s the tendency we all have as human beings to interpret information in a way that supports what we already believe. That once we have a feeling about something, our brain naturally looks for reasons to support that, and ignores anything that might disprove it. And in 2017, again, particularly in politics, it is extremely easy to sift through the internet so that it tells you that you’re right and that everyone else is a giant idiot dumb face with a butt for a face that’s dumb and an idiot, no matter what the topic.

And of course, when we get to thinking of this kind of heavy political stuff, we always, always get to thinking about Adriano De Souza. Right? I do, anyway.

You’ve heard it before: “Adriano? Stinks, mate. Got the worst poo-stance, mate. Claiming, annoying Brazzo, mate.” Etc. But does he actually stink? (No.) Does he have a worse poo-stance than anyone else on tour? (Not really.) Or did he just used to? (Yeah, guess so.)

Let’s go back and take Adriano’s first two career CT wins for example. First up, 2009, in a tiny terrible beach break replacement for Mundaka. It’s not a lot of fun to look at, and that’s not just because its in 240p.

And then the Brazil event in 2011, which featured the infamous quarter-final between him and Owen Wright – floater-gate. In that heat Adriano had one big floater on one wave, and two mediocre turns, a doggy paddle in the whitewater, and a gross claim on another. The then 24 year old Adriano went on to win that event, which lifted him to World No.1 and made him Brazil’s first major threat for a World Title.

Not the greatest, right?

Back on confirmation bias, social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, on bigthink.com, adds that: “Psychologists also refer to this tendency to really latch on to early information about a person as the primacy effect. And basically what that means is the information we learn first about another person disproportionately shapes our understanding of them afterward.”

So if our early information of Adriano DeSouza’s surfing was from above, when he first started winning events surfing in terrible beach breaks with a not pretty, wide legged stance, and celebrating it, we’re still likely to see him as that surfer long after he becomes so much better. Which is why when he won Bells in 2013, despite surfing as well, if not better than 90% of the field, his performance was dismissed. Many people claimed that with Adriano’s win, the old fabled Shane Dorian line, “No kook has ever won at Bells,” was finally broken. It makes you wonder whether or not they’d actually watched the surfing of the event, and if they did, whether they were just picturing floater-gate, Brazil 2011 over what was happening in front of them. 

A similar sentiment was wheeled out when he went ahead and won the World Title in 2015, too.

You could also claim this confirmation bias as to why some of us Australian surf fans go off the chain when other Brazilian surfers like Gabriel Medina or Filipe Toledo throw out a claim after a decent (or not decent) wave, but are not offended at all when a surfer we’ve watched grow up and adore, like Julian Wilson or Mick Fanning, do the same.

Hopefully, for the most part, this is no longer the case, and that most of us surf fans can appreciate the incredible competitive surfing Adriano has done in the past half-decade and just how much he’s improved in the same period. But when someone does write off Adriano for those old, tired reasons, even when he’s coming 6th on the CT in a below par year for the guy so far, well this might be why.

And we can thank the wild and passionate political arguments happening between Trump fans and non-Trump fans on Facebook, we can thank the world falling apart for making it all so clear! What a time!

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Mike Jennings