The Rookie Roundup

The 2016 ‘CT season is officially over, and boy, has it been an interesting one. Taj Burrow retired mid-season; Mick Fanning did a half run; regular underdogs like Sebastian Zietz, Matt Wilkinson, and Keanu Asing took home event wins; and for the first time since Andy Irons, a Hawaiian clinched the World Title. It’s been eventful.

But in the background of all this action, hundreds of guys were grinding it out on the Qualifying Series, battling for the coveted top spots on the 'QS rankings so they too could compete on the World Tour. In the end, seven lucky guys claimed those spots, and we caught up with all of them to find out how they got here, what they’re looking forward to most next year, and what surf fans can expect to see from this new crop of rookies come Snapper. -Ashtyn Douglas


Above Photo: Moran

Rookie RoundUp

"This year was different for me. I used to battle just to be on the top 100 on the' QS rankings, but this was the first time I fought to be on the top 10. Everything just connected and went right for me. I felt like I could do my freesurfing in heats and my boards felt really good under my feet. Everyone joked with me saying that I was finally starting to make heats because I recently became a father. Now everyone knows the secret to making the Tour and everyone’s going to have a child in order to win heats [laughs]. I always wanted to be like my dad [Fabio Gouveia, who was on Tour during the '90s], traveling to events and taking my family with me. I used to travel with my dad and watch everyone compete. I remember watching him compete against Kelly. If my dad wasn’t in a heat against him, I was always cheering for Kelly. I’m glad I qualified now since this might be Kelly’s last year, so I’ll get to compete against him, too."
–Ian Gouveia


Above Photo: Ellis, Below Photo: Frieden

Rookie RoundUp

Lau

"It’s been a roller coaster of a winter. I felt like it dragged on as long as it possibly could. Toward the end of the year was really hard. I made the final at the Azores Airline Pro and then I went on a losing streak leading up to Sunset, and I thought, “Oh my god, is this really happening again? I’m going to come this close again?” But then I stepped back and thought maybe I was wanting it a bit too much. I wasn’t enjoying things and everything felt forced. I stepped back and told myself just to have fun, and remind myself why I’m competing. I just brought it back to the roots. Then the finals day of the Pipe Masters was just crazy. I was trying not to think about it or have any expectations. I just left it up to the man above and everything came together. I’m grateful that everything worked out, thanks to Kanoa [laughs]. I’m excited to represent Hawaii next year. Obviously John has done a great job this year, but it’ll be great to be there with him. Everyone is labeling me the new Sunny Garcia, so I guess I have some big shoes to fill. Sunny’s been my hero ever since I can remember, so I’m stoked to follow in his footsteps. This is what I’ve wanted to do for a very long time and this is where I want to be. I can’t wait."
–Zeke Lau


Above Photo: Noyle, Below Photo: Miller

Lau

Ewing

"I’m really excited to make the Tour. I definitely wasn’t expecting it to happen this soon. It was my first full year on the 'QS, but I didn’t feel like I had any pressure on my back. I was just having fun surfing with all these guys who I’d been watching growing up. I haven’t really been to most of the spots on Tour, so I’m excited for most of them. I think Snapper is going to be the best, because it’s the first event of the year and that wave is usually so crowded. I think I have a lot of work to do in big, barreling lefts, but I’m really looking forward to Fiji, too. Everyone says that’s their favorite spot. I definitely need to get a lot stronger and I need to work on not making mistakes. The guys on Tour don’t make many mistakes. If they take off on a wave, they are pretty much always going to finish it."
–Ethan Ewing


Above Photo: Ellis, Below Photo: Moran

Ewing

Duru

"I spent six years on the 'QS, which I think prepared me for the 'CT. I've surfed a lot of good waves, I've done a lot of trips, I'm more focused, and I know how to prepare for contests. But as a rookie, I think it’ll be really hard to requalify for the 'CT. Sometimes even the best surfers have to come back to the QS. So my goal this next year is to requalify and have a good Australian leg to start. I also can’t wait to go to Tahiti, Fiji, and Pipe. To get barreled with only two guys in the water is going to be really insane. It’ll be exciting to surf in France, too–maybe a bit more stressful–but I’ll get to sleep in my bed and compete at home. We don’t have many French guys on Tour right now, so it’ll be nice having two of us next year. Hopefully a few more Frenchmen will qualify, too, so there will be more of us next year and the year after."
–Joan Duru


Above Photo: Moran, Below Photo: Joli

Duru

Morais

"I wasn’t expecting to go from 38th to third place on the 'QS rankings, but I’ve always said if there were a place in which I’d prefer to fight for a spot, it’d be Hawaii. I went there knowing I had a chance, but when I got second at Sunset and secured my spot on Tour, I couldn’t believe it - even my coach Dog [Richard Marash] couldn’t believe it! I achieved my goal of qualifying, but now my training starts from the bottom again. I feel like I need to build on and improve on everything from my power surfing to my barrel-riding skills, the way I surf heats, my progressive surfing, everything. I’ve worked so hard to qualify, and now that I’ve qualified, I need to start all over again. And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m excited to represent Portugal next year. I think everyone at home is really excited. Portuguese people are really passionate, it’s almost like they wanted this more than I did sometimes [laughs]. Many of the guys on Tour now have influenced my surfing and the way I look at surfing. Kelly, Mick, John, Gabriel–everyone on the CT has inspired me to get to where I am today. It’s going to be hard to face guys like Kelly and Mick and Joel, guys I’ve looked up to since I was a kid."
–Frederico Morais


Above Photo: Moran, Below Photo: Moran

Morais

Fioravanti

"I’ve wanted to be on Tour since I started watching videos of Kelly, Mick, and Andy at my home in Italy. I always had the Teahupoo or the France events on repeat. I thought only aliens could qualify for the Tour, only people outside of my world could get there. To be there now is pretty crazy. It doesn’t feel real yet. I think with so many younger guys on Tour next year, it’ll be exciting to watch and be a part of. It’s an interesting time on Tour. The generations are definitely changing. It’s going from the Kelly/Mick/Parko generation to the Gabriel/John John/Julian era, and now hopefully us younger guys will be a part of that. It’ll be exciting to see how much things are going to change. I hope I can inspire younger kids to start surfing in Italy and get parents to put their kids on surfboards. It’s good to have so much support from Italy and I hope to wave that flag as high as possible next year."
–Leo Fioravanti


Above Photo: Moran, Below Photo: Miller

Fioravanti

Oleary

"It feels really good to qualify for next year. Last year, I think I ended up three spots away from making the Tour, which was disappointing, but I think it was a good thing for me to have another year on the 'QS. I didn’t do very well in Hawaii last year and most people who were underneath me didn’t need to do as much as I did to improve their result and it just didn’t work out for me in the end. It hurt, but I got over it pretty quickly. It ended up being more of a confidence thing, to go, 'If I can almost make it this year, I can do it next year.' And this year was a whole different ball game. I made it. Since I’ve come back to Cronulla [Australia], everyone from the old guys to the young guys have come around to have a few beers with me and congratulate me. It was a good way to end the year. Next year, I just want to have as much fun as I can and showcase what I’ve got in good waves. On the 'QS, we end up surfing below-average waves the whole year, so surfing good waves for an entire season will be nice."
–Connor O'Leary


Above Photo: Frieden, Below Photo: Miller

O'Leary