When Italo Ferreira stroked into an oily Guincho righthander with 30 seconds remaining in the Final of the EDP Billabong Pro Cascais, it looked like he'd timed another successful Portugal mission to perfection.
After all, the Brazilian had previous experience in this wave-ravaged part of the European coast. It was back at Cascais in 2014 that he cemented his reputation as one of the brightest emerging talents in surfing. That year, he continually attacked the six-to-eight foot closeouts with such reckless ability, it was almost frightening. When one such end move resulted in six stitches to the heel, he simply taped it up and continued the assault, bagging a result that secured his CT qualification for 2015.
That rookie CT year, in 2016, he finished second in Peniche and his backside rotation in the Final still stands as one of the biggest seen in competition. That result helped him to an incredible end-of-year finish as the World No. 7, one of the best freshman years in recent history.
So this morning, when he paddled into his final wave of the event, anything was possible. You'll know now that the backside air-reverse he fought to complete wasn't enough to secure the win over Zeke Lau. It was valiant, sure, but it handed Italo a second runner-up finish in Portugal.
The 8000 points, however, vaulted him 80 places up to 17th on the QS rankings in this, his only second QS event of the year. As he sits on the CT bubble as the World No. 23, this points haul could be vital. However, as crucial as those points may turn out to be, it was the performance that might be the real catalyst for a huge finish to 2017.
After missing three CT events due to an injury sustained just after the Quik Pro Gold Coast, the last 12 days have shown he is finally back to the form before the frontal ligaments were shorn from his ankle. While he started out slow here in Cascais, failing to win any of his initial four-man heats, he quickly built momentum. His turns became crisper, his airs more ambitious, his tuberiding on point. His speed, the core of his whole act, returned to his pre-injury levels, and that allowed his progressive surfing to stand out.
That he fell just short in the Final will, obviously, hurt. However, the confidence gained should be a massive boost. With the French beach breaks and more Portugal sandbanks housing the next two CT events, Ferreira looks as dangerous as he's been since Snapper.