There’s a real buzz around Leo Fioravanti, the charismatic 18 year old from Italy. He’s currently sat at number one on the WQS leaderboard, almost guaranteeing him qualification onto the WSL next year. Raw talent and a huge amount of backing thrust Leo into the limelight from a young age and a string of WSL wildcards this year have brought him further international recognition and lead many to single him out as Europe’s next world title hope. As such when I caught up with him during the Euro leg of the WQS in France it was hard to get a minute alone with him. Wherever we were small crowds would assemble around us, wanting photo’s and autographs, which is unusual for competitors at low ranked QS events. When we did manage to sit down for a chat, I started by asking him about when he felt this fame really kick in.
LF: Well, Quiksilver have always been pushing me from a young age, it was always myself, Kanoa, Jack Robinson and Mikey Wright. They pushed us a lot, which they’re not really doing with the younger generation now, and I think that got me a lot of media coverage . It started when I was probably 12 or 13 when we did the first trip to G-land and started shooting campaigns for the Young Guns and everything started to grow.
WL: So obviously you’ve got a lot of support here in France and I guess it’s exactly the same in Italy, does having two countries on your shoulders make you feel more pressure?
LF: Well pretty much everywhere I go to compete there’s an Italian on the beach supporting me, so that’s very cool to see and through the internet and social media they all support me so much, in the middle of the night they are all up watching me. But I think its way more in Italy than in France, although we’re European at the end of the day so we’re all together.
WL: Do you feel like your part of the local crew in Hossegor now as well now having lived there for a while?
LF: I mean I know all the local boys around there, but I wouldn’t say Im a local- I feel really good when I’m there because I have my family, it’s my second home pretty much.
WL: This is quite a low ranked event (the WQS Anglet is a QS 1500) and obviously you’ve been doing some CT’s this year, does it feel really different, coming to a smaller comp?
LF: Well I’m actually doing this because I’m trying to take heats as if Im surfing against joel parkinson or mick fanning, I don’t even look who’s in my heat I just think ok it’s Mick or Gabriel and try and surf the best and smartest heats I can and work on things. If I make mistakes its not as important as a prime or a T of course, so it’s really good to train and get some rhythm going.
WL: Did coming from Italy, a place where a lot of people around the world don’t even know has waves, spur you on in competition when you were younger?
LF: Yea that was always a point of mine. Whenever I met people they’d see me surfing and say ‘Ah you surf good, where you from? Australia, America? and I’d say ‘No I’m actually from Italy’ and a lot of people were shocked and not used to seeing a kid surf good from Italy, but you know we have waves, not often, but we have waves, but I started travelling at a young age so I got to surf different waves around the world. But I’m still from Italy and it really shows that no matter where you’re from you can have a career and be on the right path.
WL: As you said you’ve been competing from a young age, you know all through king of the groms and the youth divisions, do you ever get tired of that grind and having to surf shit waves?
LF: Sometimes the shit waves are annoying, and thats why I really want to get on tour, but I mean it’s part of the job, it’s part of the game, and I chose this life and its my dream and whether its pumping or its shitty, it’s our job.
WL: Is your whole career goal to do the comps and be on the CT, or do you have free surfing aspirations as well?
LF: I want to be on tour, I want to be out there battling for a world title with Gabriel, John John, that’s my goal. And of course I want it to be next year but if not I will keep working hard for it and I think I can achieve it. I’ve always been a competitive surfer, but not just a competitive surfer but a competitor in anything, but from a young age, I’ve always chased swells, between comps, to Indo and Fiji. I want to make the most of the world and make sure I’m having fun. If it makes me happy I believe it’s the right thing.
WL: You obviously have a lot of support and a lot of backing from your sponsors and a lot of support from your step Dad with coaching, how important do you feel a lot of backing and a kind of strict coaching programme is in the development of a young surfer if they want to get to the top?
LF: If you have a good group of people around you it’s so much easier, it helps you so much with everything, not only the stress, but also the environment. If you’re just in a happy place the results just come.
WL: And finally, what do you think about surfing in the Olympics?
LF: Well to be an Olympian has always been a dream of mine, since I was a young kid, watching the Olympics and watching the emotions they get from winning a gold medal. To be able to surf in the Olympics in 2020 would definitely be a dream come true, and just thinking about that gold medal- it would be unbelievable, so I’m definitely going to work hard for it.
WL: Thanks Leo and good luck with your qualification bid!