NewsConnor O'Leary

Rankings Aside, Street Credit Is Up for Rookies

It's an unspoken truth about the WSL Championship Tour that the move from Qualifying Series to Championship Tour (CT) is less like a step up and more like a leap forward. The level of talent and quality runs deep from top to bottom, from Round One onward, every surfer knows how to win. There are no easy heats, no easy draws, no walkthroughs.

Connor O'Leary's North Point Assault
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O'Leary plants a clean line in the barrel during Round One Heat 7 against Ian Gouveia and Owen Wright, earning a 6.33.

While it's much too early to start looking at trends, so far the 2017 CT rookie class has struggled somewhat for results, but it's not for lack of form or effort. With the notable exception of Connor O'Leary's outstanding Quarterfinal finish at the Quik Pro last month at Snapper Rocks, no other rookie has advanced past Round Three and there are no rookies left standing at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro.

However, there have been strong bursts of brilliance that have not gone unnoticed during their bouts with outstanding competition, including:

Zeke Lau's perfect 10 at Snapper in a Round Three loss to Jordy Smith

Zeke Lau Perfect 10
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The Hawaiian rookie pulled a massive upset, and scored a perfect 10 in his CT debut.

Ian Gouveia's Round One heat win at North Point

Ian Gouveia
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The second-generation surf star from Brazil pulled a huge Round One upset.

Ethan Ewing's 9.10 at Snapper on his very first wave as a CT competitor during the Quik Pro

Ethan Ewing
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The rookie grabs everyone's attention with a career-opening score of a 9.10.

Joan Duru's 16.40-point loss to Parko at Quik Pro in Round One

Joan Duru of France placed second in Heat 10 of Round One of the Drug Aware Pro, Margaret River. Joan Duru WSL / Ed Sloane

With two events now under their belts, O'Leary, Gouveia and Lau look to have settled in after shaky starts in the early stages at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Beginning at Bells, they'll look to consolidate behind what they've learned so far and build going forward.

Frederico Morais and Duru are rookies in name alone. Their experience and maturity will serve them well in the coming events. Up next, the long, open walls of Bells Beach (and possibly the steeper Winkipop bowl) are well-suited to the former's layback hack and the latter's backhand hooks.

Rookie Frederico Morais of Portugal was eliminated after placing second in Heat 8 in Round Two of the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro at Main Break, Western Australia. Frederico Morais WSL / Ed Sloane

Surprisingly, rookie sensations Leonardo Fioravanti and Ethan Ewing's struggles have been the most glaring. After looking like giant-killers last season, the pressure to produce week in and week out may be weighing on the youngsters. They've clearly got the talent, but they'll need to loosen their grip and re-find the fun.

Leonardo Fioravanti before his Round One heat of the Drug Aware Pro, Margaret River. Leo Fioravanti WSL / Ed Sloane

Yet, even with early season disappointment and struggle, all the rookies can fall back on another athletic truth for some consolation when times are tough: If the effort's there, the results will come.

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