For the seven rookies competing today at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, each heat represented the realization of a dream. The CT has been their sole goal, their only aim. If the destination has been the same however, each surfer has taken a different route to be able to sit in the Snapper Rocks lineup with just two others.
Joan Duru's path has probably been the longest. Aged 27, and with seven years experience on the Qualifying Series behind him, the Frenchman made sure his opening heat contained no regrets. His backside surfing, one of his big strengths, was electric as he posted two eight point rides. It took the intimate local knowledge of Joel Parkinson to take him down, yet Duru's heat score of 16.40 was the highest losing total of the day. He'll now face last year's Rookie of the Year Ciao Ibelli in Round Two.
At the other end of the spectrum, 18-year-old Ethan Ewing qualified for the CT in his very first year on the QS. However any thoughts that the World Junior Champion's inexperience could hold him back were dispelled on his very first wave as a CT surfer. In 10 seconds, and with three searing forehand turns, it was immediately clear he has what it takes to make a big impact. A 9.10 was an appropriate return for the sheer aggression shown, and even if he couldn't back it up to overcome an electric Owen Wright, it was still a big statement.
Elsewhere the other rookies found the sharp edge where dreams meet reality. The goofyfooters Connor O'Leary and Ian Gouviea struggled to find the waves needed to get their backside into any rhythm. Ezekiel Lau didn't show any nerves, but couldn't find the fifth gear needed when up against a rampaging Gabriel Medina. The same could be said for his traveling partner Leo Fioravanti. Leo made history as the first Italian to ever compete at the highest level of surfing, and looked both competent and composed. It wasn't enough to lay a punch on Julian Wilson though and his chance to log a first CT win will come against Italo Ferreira in Round Two.
That left Frederico Morais as the only rookie to post a win. The naturalfooter's win was based on a simple foundation of sticking to a heat plan and surfing to his strengths. He sat wide of the rocks, used his priority skillfully and then unleashed his trademark forehand hacks. "He did a three turn combo in the most critical section of the wave," Head Judge Richie Porte said on the late wave that secured him victory. "The variety wasn't there, but the power was, and that's what netted him the 6.97 he needed."
Morais now gets a round off, and more importantly has the combination of tension release and confidence that comes with a first CT win. His fellow rookies will now be searching for that same feeling in Round Two.