Anne Dos Santos is a bit of a walking contradiction. She was born near the beaches of Rio de Janeiro but didn’t start surfing until she moved to Australia. She has developed a reputation as a standout freesurfer but she’s ranked in the top 50 on the Challenger Series. She’s tiny and petite at 5'4", but she charges huge waves and hectic slabs — and then the next day she’ll paddle out in slop and stomp frontside airs.
Anne was posted up in Hawaii for a month this winter, surfing the Haleiwa Challenger event and hoping for a spot at the Pipe Masters, where she was an alternate. After bumping into her at Waimea, I figured we all needed to get to know this diminutive charger a little better and asked her to tell us a bit about the dichotomy that she calls life.
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“My mum and I moved over to Sydney, Australia, when I was eight years old,” she explains. “I learned how to surf with my Aunty Ananda, and it was awesome to have a girl to look up to growing up. She loves getting barreled and that always inspired me.
“I love being based in Sydney because the surf community is so rich. I grew up on the Northern Beaches, where there were so many amazing surfers to look up to, like Tom Carroll, Layne Beachley, Damien Hardman, and Barton Lynch. Growing up, I had all these surfing legends at my local breaks and it was so inspiring to see what could be done on a wave. We also have a ton of variety — sick beach breaks, slabs, and bombies. It’s the perfect training ground.”
It is at those slabs and bombies where Anne has been turning heads recently, paddling into monsters at hell waves like Deadman’s. She attributes her comfort in heavy waves to her upbringing and is quick to give credit to Aunty Ananda and her influence.
“I think my aunty played a big part in my approach in the water. I grew up watching clips of her getting barreled at Nias, and she helped me with my training, diet, and yoga. She inspired me and also prepared me for heavy breaks, which I think is so cool!
“I didn’t grow up close to the beach. I moved to Freshwater when I was 11, so I wasn’t that comfortable in the ocean at first. It’s pretty funny, actually — I used to be terrified of the ocean! I would paddle in from surfs crying because of the tiniest of wipeouts, but for some reason, the ocean just kept pulling me back. When I was around 14 years old, I started surfing at Dee Why Point and something just clicked for me.
"I wanted to earn respect, and to do that, you have to go if someone calls you into a wave! Once I started going, I fell in love with the feeling of sending it. Now my training really helps with my confidence in gnarlier waves. I work hard out of the water so that when challenging situations come, I know I am prepared for anything.”
Anne is also talented in the smaller stuff, packing barrels and punting airs on a regular basis. She has also been putting in time in the jersey, and has some big aspirations when it comes to a competitive career.
“I love freesurfing, but I also love competing. I think they really complement each other. This year I was able to balance both, which is something I’ve dreamt about doing for a long time. I’ve always wanted to be an all-round surfer.
"I dreamed of getting barreled, getting big waves, doing airs, big carves, and turns. I would also like to become more tactical and precise when competing. This year definitely wasn’t easy — I took some big beatdowns and had some tough heats, but I learned so much from it.
It is so exciting to know that you have room for improvement — it just fuels you to train harder. With enough focus and hard work, hopefully I can one day qualify for the WSL world tour, the big wave tour (if it ever comes back), the Pipe Masters, and the Olympics.”
Those are some pretty lofty aspirations, but Anne has been putting herself in the right places if she hopes to reach her goals. During her month in Hawaii, she focused on Pipe, where she put in a bunch of time, took a mega wipeout, and ended up nabbing a successful barrel ride from the cutthroat crowd.
Then she finished off her Hawaiian residency with a quick side trip to Jaws, where she celebrated Christmas by taking off on a bomb, courtesy of some help from teammate Torrey Meister.
“This trip to Hawaii was insane. I got my first barrel at Pipe, and I hadn’t expected that to happen this trip at all. The lineup is so intense and I started to doubt myself and wonder if I was actually going to be able to get barreled there. I was pretty shocked when I got one. It wasn’t the amazing Pipe barrel I dreamed of, but it was a barrel at Pipe and I was stoked.
Then I went to Jaws with my mate Reef Heazlewood, and we sort of winged it. I didn’t have a pull vest or a big wave leg-rope, but I managed to borrow a board from my mate Ollie Dousset, and then Torrey Meister let me borrow a leg rope. And once we got to Jaws he decided he wasn’t going to surf because it was a bit inconsistent, but he was so kind and decided to come out just to help Reef and me.
"He took off his own pull vest, gave it to me, and said “you’ll need this.” We were really lucky to have Torrey there with us. He shared so much knowledge and was so kind to help us out, and I finally got a wave! And it was a really special session because half the people in the water were girls, and everyone was so friendly and happy.
Once I started going, I fell in love with the feeling of sending it.
“I got to meet a bunch of girls here in Hawaii who have fought hard to have women included in events like the Pipe Masters, and it was epic to see everything coming together for women’s surfing. I’m so thankful for all of the women who came before us, who broke down barriers and inspired our generation. And all the women I saw sending it at Pipe, Jaws, and everywhere this month — I’m so appreciative of them all.”
Anne has been on the road for three months, and after Christmas decided to head back to Oz to spend some time at home. But she won’t be resting for too long. She’s planning to train throughout January, is hoping to do a strike trip to some slabs later in the month, and has the Australian WQS events in February and March. Something tells me we’re only seeing the beginning of Anne Dos Santos. Considering her diverse interests and talents, there’s no telling what she’ll do next.