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2x Surfing World Champion Filipe Toledo on World Titles and How Far He’s Come

Two-time winner of the World Surf League championship (2022 and 2023), Filipe Toledo is undoubtedly one of the world’s best surfers. Born in Ubatuba, São Paulo, Brazil, this surfing overlord is certainly a cut above the rest. A family man, too, this world champ is married to Ananda Marcal and a father of two children.

At the age of 28, the 5′ 9″ surfer spends little time outside of the water. He now lives in San Clemente, California and catches waves on Sharp Eye Surfboards. He recently captured his second world title at Lower Trestles on September 9, 2023. The competitors surfed 5-8-foot wave faces from hurricane swells, and Filipe faced Australian surfer Ethan Ewing in the finals. He won two out of three heats to secure his second world title.

Outdoors.com: Tell me about your outlook on life.

Filipe Toledo: To be honest, I’ve learned a lot, and right now I’m in a position in life where I’m appreciating all the little stuff so much more. I had the opportunity to go in another direction. I mean like going on big TV shows and being kind of like a pop star. I was trying to run away from that and be with my family, enjoy my beach days with my family and friends, and be home and play with my kids. 

I feel like all these little moments that we have with the people that we love, it gives me the fire to go out and surf and compete for them, because I know when I’m back home I’m gonna have such a good time and I’m gonna enjoy this. You know, one day my professional career will end. One day I’m gonna have to stop, and then, am I just gonna start enjoying the little things once I’m done with surfing, or can I find a balance and do both at the same time?

It’s been incredible for me the last few years to really put that in the balance and enjoy time with my family and enjoy the process of being a professional surfer, which is crazy. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of sacrifice, but it’s been so natural. It’s been super fun. I feel like whenever everybody’s connected and in the same vibe or in the same momentum, and everyone’s happy, everything goes perfectly. And that’s what I’m looking for in life right now. I don’t want any stress. I just want to do what I love to do, which is surfing professionally, with respect. And being humble all the time and understanding that there are things that I have to do for my career as well. So I’m just enjoying this whole process and it’s been incredible for me. Life has been amazing so far.

Outdoors.com: Why do you love surfing?

Filipe Toledo: I feel like the connection I feel—the lifestyle that I have with surfing. Where surfing took me, the position that I am [in] right now, that’s the reason I love surfing. It’s funny, I love surfing so much that it’s like, okay, I don’t have any contests right now, I’m in the off-season, what am I going to do to have fun? I’m going to go surf. Surfing on the longboard, the shortboard. I’m always in the water. There’s always a surfboard involved, and there’s always the beach day involving the family. There’s nothing more special.

Outdoors.com: What are three things about you that would surprise us?

Filipe Toledo: I’m actually a good cook. I love just cooking with my wife and the kids and just learning something. It’s pretty special. I always like to wax my boards myself. I don’t let people do it for me. Even if I bring two boards to the beach to try and my dad waxes one of them while I’m surfing and then I come out to change boards and go try a new one, I still have to wax right after him so I’m sure it’s good to go. I don’t know why, but I always have to do that. When I’m competing in a place where I can wear board shorts and not wetsuits, if I make the first heat with really good points and a good high score, I’ll wear the same board shorts the whole event.

Outdoors.com: What is your most memorable competition and why?

Filipe Toledo: That’s a hard one. I have a lot of incredible moments. Of course, the World Title is one of them. Last year at Trestles, with my family, it was my first World Title after 10 years. That was definitely one of the most incredible, unforgettable, and exciting moments I’ve had as a professional surfer.

Outdoors.com: What is your greatest fear?

Filipe Toledo: To be honest, I don’t know. If I was a single man, I would fear not having a family, but I already do have a family. I have my kids, but I fear losing my family. And I’m not saying in a way where we die, not like that, but in a way that I just hate being away from my family. That’s it. I feel that a lot.

Outdoors.com: What things do you think contributed to winning the world title in 2022?

Filipe Toledo: Having fun. Enjoying and understanding the process and really having fun while doing it. I feel like it was the year that I had the most fun. I enjoyed it so much. I was always happy and not putting pressure on anything in my life, and everyone back home was happy. When I was away I was happy and even happier when I was back home. It was just a year of joy, and it’s been kind of similar this year.

Outdoors.com: Tell me about the mental strategies that you use in your surfing.

Filipe Toledo: I don’t use any strategies. I mean, sometimes I have to, but it’s not really my strategy to be like I’m gonna block him here and there, it’s more of a strategy that I’m strong enough in my mind that I can do anything that I want. It gets to a point that I’m so confident that I don’t think about anything else or see that it’s a contest and there are people watching or the guy that I’m surfing against. I’m just focusing like, this is what I’m gonna do, this is what my waves will look like, and this is the score I’m gonna get—and then it gets to a point where I just go. I feel like I prepare my mind a lot to be strong and be ready for anything and to adapt well. I feel like I’m really good at coming out with the positives from everything.

Outdoors.com: Who is your biggest rival and why? 

Filipe Toledo: My biggest rival? That’s me, to be honest. I mean, with all respect, everyone on tour has amazing talent, and every single surfer that’s there, it’s because they deserve to be there, and they do have the talent, and they’re really hard to beat, so I’m never counting anybody out. 

I’m always like I have to be at work because I always have to understand who’s my opponent. So I’m always paying attention to them and making sure I’m ready and not like oh, this is an easy one. It’s never really an easy one. 

Outdoors.com: What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?

Filipe Toledo: It was not really directed to my face, but it was to a friend of mine and the guy didn’t know that he was my friend. A guy said that if I qualified for the tour before him he would quit surfing. So I’m still waiting for him to quit [chuckles]. 

Outdoors.com: Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Filipe Toledo: I don’t know, there are so many idols and incredible people that I [could] invite. But a guy that I wish I knew a little better, and I actually had the opportunity to have conversations with, but really quickly, when I was just a little kid, is Andy Irons. So I feel like it would be pretty insane to have dinner and listen to all the stories and the contests and all the crazy stuff that he went through. He would be a pretty insane guest.

Outdoors.com: Who inspires you and why?

Filipe Toledo: Professionally, Mick Fanning. Of course, he is retired now, but he’s enjoying his time with his family, which is incredible. But when he was in his prime on tour, he was just all in. You know, full-on training and dedication and sacrifice. To block feelings and to go and surf, being away from home for months, I feel like he was one of the guys that inspired me the most to be a professional surfer.

Outdoors.com: What is your craziest surfing story?

Filipe Toledo: I had to sleep underneath one of the event sites one time in France. It was back in the day, I think in the years we did not have Airbnb or anything like that. It was more like a guy that knows somebody that lives there that has a house we can rent. It was difficult, it was not that easy, so we got to France, and the town was packed. Everything was full, and it was just me and my dad, and the whole day we were walking around the town looking for a place to stay. Even the camping was full. And then right behind the event site there was a surf shop, and when we got there we asked the guy he was like, I don’t know, and by night time he goes, I have two sleeping bags that I can get for you guys. Then, worst-case scenario, at least you guys have it and can just go somewhere, even the event site. Then we left our bags inside the surf shop, and he locked it up for us. We only had our personal stuff, like a backpack. So, we went underneath, kind of protected from rain and all that. So, me and my dad, on the first night, slept on the beach in two sleeping bags. But I ended up winning the event, so no regrets on that. That was pretty fun.

Outdoors.com: How long do you think it took until you felt you were really great at surfing?

Filipe Toledo: 10 years. I mean, it’s not like that because I won my World Title, but I feel like when I start winning events here and there, like two events in a year and then three events, that’s when I was like, okay, I’m getting to the level of the guys that I love watching, you know, my idols. When I qualified, Mick was still chasing more titles, Kelly was chasing more titles, Owen was going for a title, so it was pretty hard. It was pretty gnarly. When I got to a point where I was winning events against these guys I was like, okay, now I made it.

Outdoors.com: What advice would you give someone trying to improve their surfing?

Filipe Toledo: Dedication. A lot of training, because surfing is going to get you hurt. It’s not a lie. A lot of sacrifice too, hours in the water and challenging yourself all the time. The beautiful thing about surfing is tomorrow you’re gonna come back and it’s gonna be something totally different. If you already surf and you can stand on a board and just go on a wave, you’re doing amazing already because surfing is really, really hard. Challenging yourself, understanding how the ocean works and where to surf, and being respectful to the ocean, I feel like these are key for someone who wants to improve.

Outdoors.com: What is the most important lesson life has taught you? 

Filipe Toledo: Being humble. I come from a family that, since I was a little kid, my kids’ age, they were always teaching me to be humble and respectful. I always try to treat everybody the same way, the most influential executive to a little kid that comes from the favela in Brazil that just got into surfing, I have the same feeling for both of them. So, being humble and treating people with respect. But of course, I know my place. I know when I can say no or I can be a little hard, but being humble and respectful, it’s being true, being real. It’s what makes sense for me in life.

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