Among the surfing cognoscenti, Portugal's Frederico Morais has been on the radar for a while. There was his giant-killing turn as a wildcard at the Rip Curl Pro Portugal in 2015, followed by a few clutch performances in places from Martinique to Haleiwa.
But Morais, who has been quietly working his way up the Qualifying Series ranks for the past few years, stepped into surfing's spotlight last month when he steamrolled the field at Vans Triple Crown and skyrocketed up the Qualifying Series (QS) rankings. His success there not only put him center stage, but qualified him for the 2017 Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour.
While making the elite CT is the goal for every surfer grinding it out on the QS, for Morais, and his country, the achievement is particularly meaningful. He's only the second Portuguese surfer ever to make the CT, picking up where former CT surfer Tiago Pires left off. When Morais returned home from the Hawaiian contests, his family, friends, fans, and Moche --- his sponsor, were ready with a hero's welcome.
For Kikas, as Morais is known among fans, the surprise celebration at Lisbon Airport was a moving moment, in which he hugged family members and well-wishers with cameras rolling. For his fans, however, the welcome home party was the peak of the Frederico fever that had been slowly building throughout the Triple Crown contests, growing with every lip-smack, hack and heat win.
Still, amid all the fanfare and joyful tears, the best part, perhaps, may be that this is just the beginning. Catch Kikas among the elite field when the men kick off their 2017 season on the Gold Coast in March.