Brazil's Gilmar Santana Taking PBR Canada by Storm with Two Early Wins in 2024

By: Covy Moore  Wednesday, May 22, 2024 @ 1:57 PM

Gilmar Santana won the second PBR Canada event of his career in Waskesiu Lake, Saskatchewan. Photo: Covy Moore/

AIDRIE, Alta. – The past two weeks have seen the emergence of a new talent within the PBR Canada ranks.

Only one month into his venture north of the 49th parallel, Brazil’s Gilmar Santana has skyrocketed from a literal unknown to being ranked No. 4 in the race for the 2024 PBR Canada Championship.

Santana took home the win at the Koye Larsen Memorial PBR in Brooks, Alberta, two weeks ago and followed it up with a strong 3-for-4 performance at the Elk Ridge PBR in Waskesiu, Saskatchewan, this past weekend to earn both gold and a seventh-place finish.  

The 27-year-old bull rider doesn't speak a word of English, but with the help of a translation app, he and travelling partner and countryman Alison Trindade are navigating the sport and media as best as they can.  

From the central Brazilian state of Rondônia, Santana says his love of bull riding was established at a young age.  

“Since I was little, I had a love of bull riding. My parents never liked it because it was very, very risky. We used to take milk from cows and I would hide my training from my parents,” he said.  

“We moved to the city when I was 13, but I already had a rodeo championship. That just made me fall in love with the sport more."

PBR Brazil is a destination for many young bull riders in that country, but the ladder often leads to Canada and eventually the United States. Santana said that the opportunity to come to Canada to ride bulls was an easy decision.  

“Getting here I thought it would take a long time to have a good result,” Santana began. “The bulls here are way different to what we have in Brazil. The bulls in Canada are more honest.”

“Being able to compete in PBR Canada for me was a dream that I never thought I could achieve. I am very happy today.”

Originally planning on aiming at the Pro Rodeo circuit in Canada, Santana said that it makes the most sense to try both, and his recent success will likely dictate his focus moving forward.

“I was planning on competing in Pro Rodeo events, to be able to focus on adapting to the sport in Canada,” Santana said. “I was not 100% sure what I was going to be able to get my card, but I thought if I am here I should enter some of the PBRs. The top cowboys are competing in the PBR and that is where I want to be.”

“I do not want to let any opportunity pass, and if the chance came to compete in the United States, I would definitely take it. I am living with the following motto: ‘One thing at a time.’”

With big productions, pick-your-poison championship rounds and plenty of media and promotional opportunities, Santana said the language barrier has been very difficult, but he sees a lot of people showing the patience to make things work.

“My God, it is a unique experience,” he said. “It is not easy at all, but the cowboys here all seem to be pretty good people. Even though we don’t understand each other, they try to help anyway. I will study more English in the future.”

“It takes a lot of effort to try and communicate, and we just hope that everyone up here has patience with us. We have been asking about how good our bull is. It seems laughter means we have a good bull drawn. Everyone has been good to us, and we are grateful that we have been well received and have people looking out for us.”

With the recent success, Santana said his goal this year will be to qualify for the PBR Canada National Finals.

“If it is the will of God, I will have a good season and be able to make it to the PBR Canada Finals. There is a lot more to go. I intend on dedicating myself to making the PBR Canada Finals. I have been here for about 30 days so far, and I have just been focusing on adapting to life and bull riding here. If it is God’s will, it would be an honour to win the PBR Canada Championship. I will give my best.”

Aside from the language barrier, Santana said that Canada is vastly different from his home country, but admitted he loves it so far.

“I like the country for two reasons. It is very clean, and the climate is nice. This would be a very nice country to live in. This is a country that gives you the opportunity to chase your dreams,” Santana said.

“I have noticed so many farms when I have been driving to events. So many farms. I see a culture that is passionate about bull riding. The young children are already fanatics for bull riding. It is such a friendly community here in Canada."

As for his travelling partner Trindade, Santana said he has struggled just a little bit to get into step with the bulls in Canada, but that he is a massive talent and expects him to see success soon, too.

“We came here with the same goal in mind. He comes from a neighboring city to me, and he is a massive talent. He has struggled just a little bit to adapt to the bulls here. I would bet he gets it figured out here soon,” he said.  “He is only 22 and I think he has a lot of surprises in store for the PBR.”

With Cassio Dias taking home the 2024 PBR World Championship, as well as Rookie of the Year honors, Santana says seeing other Brazilians have quick success simply validates what he is doing right now.  

After being wrecked out at Cowtown Coliseum in the first phase of World Finals, landing him in the hospital, Dias gutted it out to come back one week later to put up a 92.5-point ride on Ricky Vaughn inside AT&T Stadium to clinch the World Championship.

It was one of the grittiest displays of cowboy tough ever seen in professional bull riding.

“Cassio Dias showed what giving your all can do. And he showed he is the best in the world. Seeing him realize a dream inspires me even more to become a World Champion one day.”