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“It’s Enough to Take Your Breath Away”

Bruno Wainer, avid surfer and founder of the film-­distribution company Downtown Filmes, deconstructs Rio’s top three—and bottom one—beach scenes.


Praia do Pepê

“If you’re interested in seeing the most beautiful men and women in Rio, you go here. It’s enough to take your breath away. Unlike Ipanema, you don’t have to fight for a space, but unlike Prainha, you’re still in civilization: You still need a car, but it’s not far from the city center. ­After the beach, the same crowd goes to Balada Mix, a nearby restaurant, for light meals.”

Ipanema

“It’s democratic: All of Rio’s tribes are represented. There’s the surfers at Arpoador; a gay area between Farme de Amoedo and Teixeira de Melo; and a more bohemian crowd at Posto 9. Everybody comes as they are, in a sunga (Speedo), in surf shorts, in a longer bathing suit: You don’t need to fake anything.”

Prainha

“It’s a little surfing beach nestled at the foot of a hill totally covered with virgin forest. You have to have a car to get there. It’s mostly a young crowd: in shape, very good-looking, and wearing board shorts. A man wearing a sunga will feel out of place.”


But What About Copacabana?

Unless you’re looking to pay for sex, says Wainer, sun somewhere else. Copacabana has become the center of the sex-­tourism trade in Rio, with women (and some men) working the sands and the bars across the street, and with strip clubs quite common a few blocks in. It is not entirely in-your-face: The prostitution ranges from overt pay-per-act to “pick up a girlfriend and treat her right for a week,” but it’s all ­potentially dangerous—and definitely seedy.


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