The weekend after Labor Day comes with time-appropriate advice regarding decorum and prudence, for those receptive to those kind of things. One relates to the fact that it is now too late for the wearing of white clothing. The other pertains to it being too early for the celebration of WSL Men's Championship Tour qualification.
Cautionary tales of QS surfers prematurely popping qualification champagne this time of year, not making another heat for the rest of the year, only to look on, aghast, as they find themselves leapfrogged at Sunset in late November, are occasionally uttered in hushed tones as the worst-case scenario.
So when Adriano de Souza captioned a screengrab of the Azores Airlines Pro 2017 webcast featuring Yago Dora draped in the Brazilian flag yesterday on Instagram with the caption, Welcome to the 2018 WCT, it was not an official announcement. The 2014 World Champ had not taken on the role of legendary Tour number-cruncher Al Hunt, and yet was echoing both the sentiment, and the surely sound arithmetic of those in the know, that Yago's place was all but assured. His 19,600 points is a decent chunk north of the usual 19,000 point threshold. (Hawaii's Ezekiel Lau qualified last year with 18,750 points, but that cutoff number is fluid, and moves around each year.)
This week's QS 6,000 win in the mid-Atlantic for the much-fêted goofyfooter resonated more on social media than many other wins, especially among the Brazilian Storm tour crew, who were quick to hail the coronation of yet another prodigious talent. Fraternity, national pride and supporting the next crop, sure. But Yago brings something extra to further the South American superpower's standing on Tour -- not only the ability to make heats, but a frontier-straddling freesurf credibility of rare standing.
A couple of hours after the podium, back at his temporary residence about to play soccer with the deep-rolling Brazilian QS contingent, we pinned down Yago to find out where his head was at, and among other things, if he was suffering from expectation fatigue.
WSL: How are you feeling, having just won your second QS 6,000 of 2017?
I'm feeling amazing right now. Last year I was thinking ‘Ok, next year I gotta win a QS, at least… and I've won two 6,000s so far with more events to go. It feels pretty unreal to go from like 47th on the rankings, to No. 2 right now, I'm so stoked.
It sounds like some of the Brazilian CT crew, De Souza, Toledo and others, are all welcoming you to the Tour?
Yeah, it's crazy. I can't wait to be on Tour with everyone, join all those guys. I think it's gonna be a really fun year. I kinda already had a taste of it in Rio this year, and it felt amazing. There's a really cool crew of great surfers and I'm psyched to be joining them.
How does this change your approach? Is it hard to not let it?
I haven't had official confirmation yet, but I think I've got enough points. The thing is, I'm not done yet at all. I've got plenty more work to do, I can't afford to be thinking I'm there already and slow down. No way. I want to keep the rhythm going and keep trying to get results.
So what's changed this year? What clicked?
I think this year my whole focus was on trying to qualify, everything I did was aimed at the next comp. From having the right boards to everything else in my preparation, it's all been about trying to make the Tour, one hundred percent, no distractions.
You gained a rep as a clip guy before you were known as a competitor. Have you made many adjustments?
Some heats you need to surf a little bit differently, not all of them but just on certain occasions, in certain conditions you need to adapt, to surf differently from a freesurf. Then other times, it just feels like freesurfing, it really depends on the heat you're in. But it's not freesurfing, for sure, it's all about going out and getting two scores, no matter what. You do what you have to do.
Do you ever feel the expectation to go out and punt every heat? Does it add a bit of pressure?
That's the weird thing. It's really hard for me to get scores on turns, because everyone's expecting me to do big airs... all the time. I do feel that. But sometimes you just need to do turns. So that's kind of a hard thing for me to figure out, it's weird.
Victim of your own success, so to speak?
Yeah, kind of. Something like that.
What's next? We're guessing with a 10,000 coming up in Cascais, you've got your sights on that?
For sure. I'm cruising in Europe for a bit now, filming some stuff, trying to put out a video from Europe. That'd be pretty cool to nail a clip from here. Then we have the 10,000 in Cascais of course, and I'll definitely be looking for another result there before going back to Brazil.