The World Surf League (WSL) 2016 Qualifying Series (QS) was one of the toughest seasons in the history of QS. With so much talent in the pool who hoped to get a ticket to the Championship Tour (CT), it was hard to tell which athletes would qualify by the last event of the QS season.
But now that all 2016 QS events are in the books, 7 rookies have made it to the 2017 CT. We introduce to you the 7 incredible surfers who made it to the WSL Men’s CT Rookie Class Of 2017.
#1 Connor O’Leary
23 Years Old
From Cronulla, Australia
O’Leary harnessed his clean, crisp and powerful style in the same Cronulla waves where former World Surfing Champion Mark Occhilupo or more widely known as “Occy” rooted from. Cronulla may not be in the spotlight today like it was decades ago, which could be a reason why O’Leary’s domination of the QS surprised many.
In the 2015 QS season, O’Leary suffered a devastating loss at Sunset beach, bumping him out of the QS Top 10, but he used that loss to continue working harder and emerged the Top Seed of the 2016 QS.
#2 Ethan Ewing
18 Years Old
From North Stradbroke Island, Australia
Ewing grew up in the waves of North Stradbroke Island, a place that has produced humble heroes like Bede Durbidge. Ewing took the QS by Storm in 2016. From being virtually unknown, he ended the year ranking 2nd in the QS rankings.
He was on a tear all year finishing first place in multiple QS1000 events, finishing 2nd place in a QS10,000 event, and 1st place in a QS3000 event. He kept his form all year and maintained good rankings in major QS events which helped him achieve his second place finish for 2016 QS. Coming from rank 257th in 2015 QS, Ewing jumped 255 places up, literally from the unknown to a well-known figure. And he did this at the very young age of 18. He’s surely someone to watch out for in the World Championship Tour.
#3 Frederico Morais
24 Years Old
From Cascais Portugal
Morais propelled to QS rank number 3 after an improbable run in the Hawaiian events with back-to-back second place finishes at Haleiwa and Sunset Beach.
Morais was a consistent threat as a CT wildcard in Portugal, where Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Taj Burrow fell victim to his vicious performance. His wildcard spree landed him in a quarterfinals appearance in Portugal.
This year, he is no longer just a wildcard to a Portuguese event but an official contender in the World Tour’s lineup of elite surfers.
#4 Joan Duru
27 Years Old
From Bayonne, France
Several years ago, Duru almost made it to the CT when he tied for the last qualifying spot, but lost in a count back. This year, he made sure he qualified and secured a safe number four spot in the QS.
Duru is known for his backhand style, which could be lethal in his rookie campaign on tour.
#5 Leonardo Fioravanti
18 Years Old
From Rome, Italy (currently residing in France)
Leo Fioravanti has been residing in France in the past several years, but he traces his roots back to Rome, Italy where his surfing dreams started. In France, he gained mentorship under Stephen Bell, and has been hanging out with Bell’s star student, Kelly Slater.
Leo speaks five languages and proved he is a fast learner. He made a seamless transition from spectator to competitor. This year he appeared in the CT as a wildcard in two events, where he took down 2015 World Champion Adriano de Souza at Margaret River, and beat Kelly slater twice in two different occasions.
#6 Ian Gouveia
25 Years Old
From Recife, Brazil
Ian Gouveia is the son of former CT surfer Fabio Gouveia, the pride of Brazil way before the “Brazilian Storm”. The young Gouveia has today’s advanced surfing moves in his arsenal.
His goofyfoot stance can prove dangerous to his opponents. Gouveia muscled through Round 4 in the Vans World Cup at Sunset beach to secure his dream, and he made it to the 2017 CT by finishing 9th in the QS rankings.
#7 Ezekiel Lau
24 Years Old
From Honolulu, Hawaii
Ezekiel is the last man to make it to the CT. While Zeke ranked number 11 in the QS, his friend Kanoa Igarashi double qualified (both QS and CT qualifications) for the 2017 CT. This left a spot open in the QS qualifications and Zeke was next in line to make it to the CT.
Zeke is known for his power surfing, but his approach was not a great match for the QS Schedule. It took him a little longer to make it to the CT because of his strong power base. But the waves and judges at the elite level are expected to be more receptive to his powerful and authoritative surfing approach.
Seven new faces in the Championship Tour will make 2017 an exciting season for elite surfing, where a mix of veterans and powerhouse rookies will compete in pursuit of greatness. Who will emerge World Champion in 2017? Will it come from the veterans? Or will these rookies turn the tables and dominate the tour? That’s what everyone will watch out for as the 2017 season kicks off.