With the Help of Brazilian Professional Surfer Juliano Uzuelli, a Young Protégé Takes His Skills to the Next Level

Raised in water.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Amber Klinck
  • Photographed by
    Jeff Berting

Giovanni (Gio) DiCarlo has been a little grom-in-the-making since before he could walk. His parents, Taya and Vinnie DiCarlo, have been taking him to the beach since he was a newborn.

“We’d take him down to the pier in the mornings, just to pass the time,” Vinnie says. “He’d sit on the sand and watch the people in the water. You could see him getting excited, and then slowly but surely he’d start to venture out.”

As Gio got older, the beach days got longer. During the summer of 2020, the DiCarlos spent more time in the water than ever. “During COVID we really didn’t have a lot of things to do other than be at the beach,” Vinnie notes. “We’d be there sometimes seven, eight hours a day. Gio would switch from a skimboard to a boogie board to whatever. He just wanted to stay in the water and stay active.”

“The good thing about surfing is the ocean and Mother Nature always rule. You never know what’s going to happen, so you have to create different strategies.”

Before long the 6-year-old was trying to stand on his boogie board, when he caught the attention of another ocean enthusiast. “I see this guy in the summer surfing with a boogie board by himself for hours,” notes professional surfer and surf coach Juliano Uzuelli. “I see he has something—he has potential.”

The DiCarlos had noticed Juliano as well. “I would see him in the mornings coaching kids and adults,” Vinnie says. “He has this ability to work with both older people and younger kids, to be patient but also to push them and drive them to try something new. I just knew he’d be good with Gio.”

Growing up, Juliano was also a water baby. “I’m from a small island in Brazil; my backyard was the beach. The only thing to do was surf,” he says.

When he wasn’t in the water, Juliano was on a skateboard. “I was a national champion in Brazil at 10 years old,” he notes. “I would skate all the time.”

But it was on a surfboard that he felt the most engaged. “The good thing about surfing is the ocean and Mother Nature always rule. You never know what’s going to happen, so you have to create different strategies,” he says. “Surfing is not a sport; it’s a lifestyle.”

In 2016 the 26-year-old Brazilian moved to California. He started in San Diego before eventually landing in the South Bay. The first two years he was here, Juliano was focused on his training—and he did well. He won first place in the South Bay Boardriders Surf Series in both 2018 and 2019.

Surfing has taken him to Florida, Hawaii, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Peru. Today he’s ranked #33 in North America by the World Surf League.

As Juliano’s recognition grew, so did the attention he received from locals. “The community started to notice me a little bit and started asking me if I could coach their kids,” he says.

One of those kids is Kai Kushner, the son of professional surfer and South African native Warren Kushner. “Kai is 15 now, but I started working with him when he was 10 or 11,” Juliano says. “Now he’s Team USA. I’m so proud to tell this because we’ve worked really hard for a long time, and he’s right there.”

Gio, now 8 years old, has been training with Juliano since October 2020. “Three times a week, usually before school around 6 a.m. in very cold water—this kid is tough,” Juliano says.

Every time he paddles out, Gio gets a little bit stronger. But it’s the mental hurdles he overcomes while surfing that translate into everyday life.

“It is so good to see his mood change, because sometimes he will say, ‘I cannot make it; this is not possible,’” Juliano says. “I don’t understand—why is it not possible? And then he turns and he’s asking me if we can stay out for one more hour.”

When asked what he likes about surfing, Gio gets straight to the point. “I just like it,” he says. “Except when I get smashed by big waves.”

In the short time he’s been training, Gio has ranked first overall for his age group at the 2021–2022 South Bay Boardriders Surf Series. “He doesn’t know his potential; he just does it,’ Juliano says.

Gio is inspired by surfers like Kelly Slater and John John Florence. “But my favorite surfer that I’ve ever seen is Kai Lenny. He does aerials on 80-foot waves,” he says.

Like Juliano, when Gio’s not in the water he’s carving up the pavement on his skateboard. His brown hair is more like beige-blond after so many sun-drenched days in the water. He’s come a long way from standing on his boogie board. “Yesterday he rode a 4’8” for the first time, and it was perfect,” Juliano notes.

“Do you think I’m old enough for kitesurfing?” Gio asks his coach.

“Kitesurfing? I think you need to be a little bit stronger right here,” Juliano says pointing to the 8-year-old’s chest. “It’s dangerous, you are too light, the winds can take you.”

Gio pauses to think. “I want to aerial,” he says.

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