On Day One of the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach all seven rookies failed to land a punch on the event's highest seeds. The Australian leg has, on the whole, been fairly difficult for the Class of '17. The only real breakthrough performance came from Connor O'Leary on the Gold Coast, with a fifth place. Contrastingly some of the more hyped surfers, guys like Leo Fioravanti, Joan Duru and Ethan Ewing, have yet to win a heat.
Unfortunately Bells Beach tends to be one of the more challenging locations on tour for the rookies. No set on the Bells Bowl breaks the same and identical looking waves can offer huge variance in scoring potential. So it takes serious time to gain wave IQ out there, the one commodity the rookies can't trade in.
Adding to that was the move from the Bells Bowl to Winkipop during the day. While only 300 yards from Bells, the faster Winki walls call for a drop in board volume and a very different approach. The rookies who had been spending most of their freesurfing time feeling out the Bowl had to add another adjustment to a busy to do list.
Not that there wasn't flashes of brilliance and moments of pure quality. Ethan Ewing again posted a wave in the excellent range, but couldn't back it up. This has been the issue that has held him back so far this year and he went down to Michel Bourez.
"I hadn't surfed against Ethan or Connor, but I've been watching them surf and have been impressed," Bourez said after his win. "Ethan is clearly the next big thing from Australia and Connor has one of the best backhands on tour, so I never let my guard down."
Ewing's reward is a match up with Mick Fanning, probably Round Two's most anticipated heat, while O'Leary faces off against Jadson Andre. That draw shows just how difficult it is for these young guys, as they feel their way around the CT whilst coming up against some of the legends of the sport.
Frederico Morais was again consistent and his background in the Portuguese pointbreaks should make his learning curve at Bells a little flatter. He was out maneuvered though by Ace Buchan and Joel Parkinson. Those two have a combined 25 years of CT experience at Bells, another stat that illustrates the scale of the challenge that the rookies face.
Zeke Lau and Joan Duru also each posted one solid wave, but couldn't parlay that into a solid heat total. Their potential and talent is evident, but the CT heat craft is not quite there yet. Leo Fioravanti's heat craft, however, is one of his strongest assets, yet he still had a debut on the Bells Bowl that he would prefer to forget. Perhaps slightly crocked by an ankle injury, the Italian now needs to defeat the dangerous Sebastian Zietz to secure his first CT win and salvage something from a disappointing Australian leg.
For Leo, and all the rookies, Round Two now provides another chance to prove themselves on surfing's biggest stage. The task is enormous, luckily, so is their talent. If Round One was a graveyard, Round Two can still offer redemption.