NewsRip Curl Pro Bells BeachEzekiel Lau

Rookies Finally Bust Through at Rip Curl Pro

Heading into the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, stop No. 3 on the Championship Tour, the jury was still out on the WSL's 2017 rookie class. It wasn't a huge sample size, but Connor O'Leary's Quarterfinal appearance at Snapper Rocks was the pinnacle of success for a crew of seven surfers making their first lap around the Dream Tour.

Rookie Ezekiel Lau of Hawaii will surf Round Five after incurring an interference call in the dying seconds of Heat 2 of Round Four at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in 6 - 8 foot conditions at Bells Beach. Zeke Lau's Semifinal finish sent him rocketing up the Jeep leaderboard, to No. 11, which puts him at the top of his rookie class. WSL / Ed Sloane

Meanwhile, Ethan Ewing and Leo Fioravanti, two of 2016's biggest sensations, are still searching for their first CT heat wins, despite surfing well enough to drop some jaws: Ewing posted a 9.10 on his opening ride at Snapper Rocks. Fioravanti has had multiple total heat scores in excellent range (north of 16 points). These are hardly signs of them being in over their heads.

In between it's been a mixed bag for the Tour's other four rookies, Ian Gouveia, Joan Duru, Ezekiel Lau and Frederico Morais...That is, until Bells.

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. Bells is a perfect fit for Frederico Morais' big carving brush strokes, and he knew it. WSL / Matt Dunbar

Morais and Lau, the two big regularfooters of the batch, smashed all expectations at the Rip Curl Pro. Lau emphatically announced his plans for sticking around on the CT with an appearance in the Semifinals. His journey there included two early round wins over the electric Filipe Toledo, and a crucial Round Three triumph over world No. 5 Kolohe Andino.

Zeke Lau: Born for This
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With his powerful brand of surfing and genuine aloha spirit Zeke Lau is a welcome addition to the Championship Tour.

Morais won his first CT heat at Snapper, then lost to Kelly Slater in Round Three. He finished a disappointing 25th at Margaret River -- a wave many thought suited his surfing to a tee. But in Round Three at the Bells Bowl, Morais waved his Portuguese flag in an epic clash against Gabriel Medina.

Rookie Frederico Morais of Portugal advanced to Round Three after winning Heat 9 of Round Two at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Morais puts his huge frame to work with every turn. WSL / Jack Barripp

Morais flipped the script on Medina, using his opponent's favorite set of opening priority tactics against him. As tense as things got he never wavered, and his stubbornness broke the Brazilian's will, leading to his win. His 5th place finish vaulted him into a rankings tie with Mick Fanning and Michel Bourez at No. 19. That's pretty good company.

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