Adriano de Souza smiled as he observed the dozens of brand new boards lying on the floor of his hotel room. His 3rd Place finish at the Quiksilver Pro earlier that day hadn't sunk in yet. Instead, he looked like a child on Christmas morning surrounded by new toys, oblivious to whatever else was around him. But don't let the scene fool you. Despite being only 19 years old, the biggest star in Brazilian surfing knows very well what his goals are and what he needs to do to achieve them. Briefly, after sharing the podium with idols Kelly and Taj, Adriano spoke about his impressions on his first event as a WCT surfer.
Were you expecting to make it to the Semis on your first event on the WCT?
Adriano: No, it was a surprise. I think the conditions helped me out a lot. Duranbah was breaking just like my homebreak, Guaruj. Plus I knew the wave well, I had competed there before on the Billabong Junior Championships. That and some luck, of course.
What was your toughest heat in this contest?
Adriano: It was my First Round heat against Trent Munro. When I beat him, I felt I could go far in the event. It was a difficult, contested heat. I was a little nervous, but I managed to be patient and use priority wisely, which I think was what secured me the win.
What still needs improving in your surfing when compared to the rest of the Top 45?
Adriano: I need more power. When I look at Andy or Kelly I see they attack the wave with a lot more power, they apply more pressure. I also have to improve on big arching carves, on drawing better lines on point breaks. It's like I'm on the first floor and these guys are on the 16th. But I'm slowly climbing up the stairs.
And how can you improve then?
Adriano: Traveling and surfing perfect waves. I'm going to New Caledonia and the Mentawais soon. I wanna arrive in Bells surfing better than I am right now.
How different is the WCT from the WQS?
Adriano: Very. Organizers treat you better and you have to surf at your best to make it through heats. You have to be patient and know when to make use of priority. Although Kelly went through the whole thing practically without using it. But then again, Kelly is Kelly.
It seems like there's a million boards in your room. What equipment are you using right now?
Adriano: I use boards from a bunch of guys. I surfed on the Gold Coast with a 5′ 10″ Chilli and a 5′ 9″ Peter Daniels. I have something like 30 boards right now, from guys like Arakawa, Tokoro, Chilli, Darren Handley and Nev. I'm getting some more boards with Greg Webber and Maurice Cole and in the summer I'll be making a few sticks with Al Merrick too. I like to have a lot of boards from all these guys. Each one seems to be magic for a certain type of wave.
Who impressed you the most at the start of the season?
Adriano: The same guys as usual. Kelly and Andy are on another level. And it's not like they're a little ahead of the rest, they pretty much leave everyone far behind. My goal is to one day reach the level they're at right now.
Are you doing any WQS events this year?
Adriano: I plan on doing only three or four 'QSes this year, as my sponsor wants me to do them. But honestly I'm only focused on the WCT. I wanna qualify through the 'CT.
You were criticized for having poor performances at the WQS events in Haleiwa and Sunset last year. How do you see your surfing at these spots?
Adriano: I have a lot to improve on bigger waves. I was so focused on the WCT that I practically surfed only Pipe and Backdoor last year. I never surfed elsewhere. So in my heats I pretty much kooked it out. It was pretty disappointing to have a poor performance at those spots. But I'm training hard. Hopefully one day I'll surf like Kelly or Andy in waves like that.
What was the reaction of your fellow competitors? Where they stoked for you or freaked out?
Adriano: It was great. Everyone was super cool with me!
And how was the crowd?
Adriano: They were going nuts. There were a lot of Brazilians at Duranbah, it felt almost like I was surfing at home. The Aussies too, they were great. I feel like the Gold Coast is like my second home.
How was Slater's performance in the event—did he deserve to win?
Adriano: Definitely, he surfed better than everyone. He surfed super hard, but seemed like he never felt the pressure. That's what I want to learn to do.
Who else impressed you?
Adriano: I think everyone is surfing at an amazing level, but like I said, Kelly and Andy are above the field. Pancho surprised me at Duranbah. The waves were tiny and he was still ripping!