With half of Round Three completed of the Quiksilver Pro, three of the rookies remain in the competition. Frederico Morais is still there, virtue of his first round win, and now has a date with Kelly Slater in Round Three. It's the big leagues all right and that should be a fascinating clash featuring two very different approaches. Morais' big rail turns and competitive composure will contrast the small board, all round wizardry of the greatest surfer of all time. It's worth noting that Morais has beaten Slater in a CT, all be it on home soil in Portugal as a wildcard.
The two other rookies left standing are goofyies Conor O'Leary and Ian Gouveia. Arguably the least known of all the new faces, O'Leary has half of hometown of Cronulla on the beach at Snapper lending vocal support. In his Round Two heat against Kanoa Igarashi he gave them plenty to cheer about. He did leave it until 90 seconds to go, but surfed with aggression and maturity to nail the score. "I was relaxed with five minutes to go, as I had priority, and knew a wave would come," he said afterwards. "It was just a matter of trusting my talent."
Ian Gouveia also unleashed his vertical backhand to get past the dangerous Josh Kerr. Having competed and surfed with his next opponent, Gabriel Medina, since they were kids, he'll know the scale of the task he has in Round Three. On the flipside, it is Medina that has often shown how to succeed on your backside at Snapper.
Ezekiel Lau also scored his first CT victory, a Round Two win over the dangerous Filipe Toledo, and then was involved in the best heat of the day against Jordy Smith. If there was ever a reminder of the jump in class that the CT represents, it was scoring a perfect 10 in a heat, and still losing. Lau scored the perfect score for the best barrel of the day, and even with a back up 7, left enough room for Jordy Smith to muscle through. Still Lau can leave the Gold Coast happy with his performance. He has a maiden heat win and the knowledge that he can push the very best.
Elsewhere the early Rookie standouts Joan Duru, Leo Fioravanti and Ethan Ewing couldn't turn their form into winning heat totals. Fioravanti can at least hold his hand up, there's not a lot you can do when your opponent lands a 540 that's already a contender for the maneuver of the year.
Ewing again showed the elements of style, flow and speed that make him such a refreshing presence on Tour. In both his heats he has nailed a score in the excellent range, but failed to back it up. When that happens, you sense a run of heat wins isn't far off. Duru was perhaps a little too patient, and it was last year's rookie of the wear Ciao Ibelli, who used his extra time spent on the bank to take advantage.
So four rookies down out of seven is probably a par score for the first event of the year. Crucially none of them have looked daunted by the task, and many showed flashes of why this class is considered one of the strongest in recent history.