Last week, as the Vans World Cup drew to a close after a long and grinding year, the ten surfers at the top of the WQS leaderboard were handed the golden goose they’ve been chasing since they first pulled on a rashy – a spot on the 2017 WSL dream tour.
These ten spots are populated by six new faces, and four CT surfers who managed to re-qualify via the QS. Here we’ll give a little introduction to each of these newbies, so you can start plotting which you’ll be slotting into your fantasy teams:
For those of us outside the Aussie bubble, Connor seems like he’s come out of nowhere. He’s half Aussie, half Japanese and has only been doing the QS full-time for three years now, which compared to some on this list is hardly any time at all. He almost made the CT last year but fell just short, however he managed to preserve his momentum, securing a string of excellent results this year. As for his surfing, it’s everything you’d expect from a successful Aussie QS surfer in 2016 – smart, precise, powerful, with just the necessary dose of flair. He can grovel when he needs to, and unleash when he doesn’t and we look forward to seeing if O’leary can make as big a mark in the big leagues as he has in the qualifying ones.
Regularly likened to Andy Irons by his contemporaries, Ethan Ewing is already known and celebrated for his electrifying rail game and timeless style. Unlike some of those arriving on tour Ewing grew up surfing top quality beachies, in Northern Aus (in the same town as Bede Durbridge) however he doesn’t struggle in the shitty stuff, as his super speedy qualification (only one full year on the QS) and victory at the US Open attests to. He professes in the above clip that he’s still got a bit to learn in terms of backhand barrel riding – which is obviously a pretty critical skill for a regular foot rider on tour – so whether he’s completely ready for tour now remains to be seen, but at just 17, he’s got plenty of time left to learn.
Frederico hails from the wave drenched coastline of central Portugal, and like Ewing is known for his raw power and strong rail technique. Unlike Ewing and O’leary, Morais has been working towards qualification since 2010 and looked like he was once again going to slip through the net until he pulled out a blistering performance in Hawaii, which now sees him sitting atop the Triple Crown Rankings. Whilst he’s clashed with CT surfers on his home turf in Portugal a few times and has emerged victorious, his performance at The Pipe Masters this week will be the first real test as to whether he can hold his own against the worlds best in big barrels. You can watch a recent clip of Frederico in action here.
We’ve written often of the young Italian who has been taking the surf world by storm for several years now. Fioravanti has been travelling the world since before he hit double digits and despite growing up on a coastline starved of waves of consequence, through extensive travel and his relocation to France, has grown into one of the best big barrel riders in the world. When it comes to Leo, we don’t need to speculate that he can hold his own on the top rung of the competitive ladder, as we’ve already seen him beat the best of them numerous times this year, securing a 5th place finish in Margaret River and beating Slater in France.
Frenchman Joan Duru has also been full-timing on the QS for a gruelling 6 years, and has narrowly missed out on qualification a few times. Duru’s hunger and work ethic are unequivocal. His barrel riding, particularly in tricky, shifting beachies (which tend to crop up at least two or three times on an average CT year) is also right up there with the best of them. Whilst his high-performance surfing is also razor sharp, it will be interesting to see how it fairs against the very best of the world’s small wave surfers. You can learn more about the enigmatic Frenchman in the newest issue of the mag, where we have a full length interview with him.
With a solid, water tight air game which saw him through many of his QS heats this year, Gouveia’s approach mirrors that of many of the super-high performance young Brazilian stormers that have come before him. As such he promises to inject as much excitement into his heats as we’ve become accustomed to seeing from the likes of Medina, Toledo, Ferreira and Ibelli.
Along with these newbies Kanoa Igarashi, Jeremy Flores, Jadson Andre and Jack Freestone are all re-qualifying through the QS, and if any of them do particularly well in the Pipe Masters they could double qualify and open up the door for Zeke Lau, who currently sits at 11th.