NewsLeonardo Fioravanti

European Pride Soaring Thanks to Rookie Trio

In the mid 2000s a surge of European surf talent swept onto the elite Championship Tour (CT), threatening a major sea change in Tour demographics. As the 2009 Tour began, six European surfers from four different countries set off to conquer the seven seas, buoyed by a wave of optimism not seen since the days of the great navigators. But since that year of promise, it's been been eight long seasons since a European rookie arrived on the men's CT, pulled on a competition jersey and paddled out to do battle against the best of the best.

Frederico Morais placed second in Heat 3 of Round One of the Billabong Pipe Masters at Pipeine, Oahu, Hawaii. Frederico Morais made a remarkable late-season push to secure his spot on the 2017 Championship Tour. WSL / Damien Poullenot

But finally, the wait is over.

This year, a potent triumvirate of European rookies -- consisting of a Frenchman, Joan Duru; an Italian, Leonardo Fioravanti; and a Portuguese, Frederico Morais -- will lead their continent's professional surfing renaissance. All three will all look to bring old-continent flavors to what's promising up to be a stacked new world order.

So who are they?

Joan Duru winning Heat 11 of Round Three at the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, Hawaii today. The French public urge 'Allez les bleus!' (Come on Blues!) at their national sports teams. Duru will be looking to perform whatever color singlet he's wearing. WSL / Kelly Cestari

Joan Duru
The 27-year-old grew up in Ondres, SW France, an uncelebrated town between the resorts of Hossegor and Biarritz. Some hard yards on the Qualifying Series have seen him grow from occasional enfant terrible to an experienced pro with a wise head on his shoulders. Often hailed in Euro surfing's inner sanctum as the most technically gifted on the continent, on land Duru is much harder to read. A man of few words, his public persona is somewhere between poker face and wholly unfazed.

How Did He Get Here?
A runner-up in Ballito, a Quarters in Cascais and a Semis at the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, each of those QS10,000 contests paid serious qualification dividends.

Strengths:
Well-rounded in true renaissance man fashion, Joan will believe he can hold his own with anyone on Tour in any condition.

Duru On Point at Haleiwa
1:03
The Frenchman just jumped to No. 2 on the QS by tearing his way into the Semifinals at Haleiwa.
Leonardo Fioravanti won Heat 6 of Round Three at the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, Hawaii today. All smiles on land, out in the water Fioravanti is strictly business WSL / Kelly Cestari

Leo Fioravanti
The headlines read that 19-year-old Fioravanti is Italy's first Championship Tour surfer, although he'll soon have spent as much of his life living in SW France as his native Eternal City of Rome. Groomed for greatness since a micro grom, Leo's rise has been something of a perfect storm of natural talent, sponsor nurturing and family support (his stepdad, Stephen "Belly" Bell is Quik's team manager, Slater's go-to guy on Tour for years, and also happens to own the finest surfboard factory in Europe). An effervescent extrovert Leo's happy-go-lucky approach translates to a confident performer who relishes competition.

How Did He Get Here?
Leo roared out of the gates in 2016 with back-to-back Finals in Australia, that early season consistency affording him the chance to surf the season with points already on the board.

Strengths:
An incredible support network and positive mindset. Napoleon allegedly said he'd "rather have a general who is lucky than good." Leo appears to be both.

Apprentice 2 - Master 0
1:37
The battle between the Quiksilver Pro wildcard and the 11-time World Champ got heavier when Leo took over the lead with a 6.33.
Frederico Morais placed second in Heat 3 of Round One of the Billabong Pipe Masters at Pipeine, Oahu, Hawaii. With an impressive collection of celebrity scalps from his wildcard appearances, Morais will have scant regard for rank and reputation as he looks to make his mark on Tour WSL / Damien Poullenot

Frederico Morais
The current leader of a deep Portuguese talent pool, 24-year-old Frederico Morais hails from the salubrious Lisbon beach district of Cascais. With elite sporting pedigree in his blood (his father, Nuno, played rugby for Portugal), Frederico was protégé of the country' first CT surfer, Tiago Pires, and a product of arguably Europe's finest stretch of surfing coastline. As Portugal finds itself ever more prominent in global competitive surfing, hosting CT, Qualifying Series (QS) and Big Wave Tour (BWT) events -- not to mention producing its fair share of Big Wave Awards nominations, it has now found a new flag-bearer to carry the hopes and dreams of a surf mad nation.

How Did He Get Here?
With perfect drama of a Sunset Beach Hail Mary, Morais made his way into the Top 10 at the last gasp after making the Final at Haleiwa.

Strengths:
Power and corner crew. Coach Richard "Dog" Marsh is a canny, tenacious character who will help Frederico squeeze every last drop of opportunity out of every single heat.

Morais builds a head of steam at Haleiwa
0:55
The Portuguese dark horse continues to climb the Qualifying Series leaderboard in the Semifinals.
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