Want to hit Rio’s fabled beaches? You’ll need a good dose of derring-do to join Brazilian beachgoers with their mahogany tans and liking for microscopic swimwear. Never mind, though. Buy your fil dental (“dental floss”) at a beach-side stall and, after trussing your wobbly bits in a few lengths of string, simply sashay onto the sand as if you own it.
Don’t do anything except remain upright. The only time anyone looks good in skimpy swimwear – even Brazilians – is standing up. Loiter on the ocean’s edge and stare out to sea like a lonely mermaid, or pose at a drinks stand as you slurp coconut water. If you sit down, you’ll be excavating sand from your crevices for days. If you bend over to roll out your beach towel, horrors will ensue.
Not that Brazilians require a towel. Locals rent loungers and parasols on the sand and bring with them only sunscreen, soccer balls and mobile phones on which to play music, so follow suit. A kanga (sarong) doubles as a towel. You should also wear bold, inexpensive beach jewelry. If you’re clanking like a windblown chandelier and scintillating like a rap artist, you’ll blend right in.
The art of Brazilian beach-going isn’t just about the beach. Cavort along the sands and, even if you don’t have it, flaunt it. Join a game of volleyball or futevolei, a soccer-volleyball hybrid. Rollerblade or jog along the promenade. Hit the ubiquitous seaside stalls for barbecued prawns or melted cheese on a stick.
Brazilian beaches are a backyard for the rich and favela-dwelling alike, for people of every shade and every shape, and without a shred of self-consciousness. “Does my bum look big in this?” isn’t a question a Brazilian would ever consider, let alone ask. Go on, let it all hang loose, and be Brazilian for the day.