After grinding on the Qualifying Series (QS) for 12 years, Santa Catarina local Willian Cardoso finally qualified for the 2018 Championship Tour (CT) at the end of the year. This last stretch might have been the toughest. In 2017, he lost his major sponsor, and was forced to sell his car and other belongings to keep his qualification dreams alive.
Luckily, his long road was worth it: He'd had a good run in 2017, earning some solid results at a couple of points-rich contests, which put him close to the qualification cutoff line at year's end (on the men's QS, only the top 10 at the end of the year make it to the CT) -- but not quite close enough. By the time the QS got to the final events of the year, in Hawaii, he was still a handful of points shy of making the cut. So when he advanced out of Round Three at November's Hawaiian Pro, defeating Sebastian Zietz, Cam Richards and Vasco Ribeiro in the process, he had officially crossed the points threshold, achieving his life-long dream. His ascent quickly became one of the feel-good stories of the year.
"It's not been easy, I've been in this moment before, needed a result and it never came," said Cardoso in a tearful post-heat interview. "After 12 years on the QS I lost my sponsor. But I have really good people behind me and I finally made it. I'm so stoked."
Despite Cardoso's long journey to the CT, he's no stranger to competing against the world's best. He's been an injury replacement twice before and had a breakout moment in 2013, when he defeated Kelly Slater at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Over the years, he's become known for his raw power and go-for-broke mentality.
Perhaps even more importantly, however, Cardoso turns 32 Thursday, February 8. This year, he has even more to celebrate.
With the Australian leg of the CT kicking off in a few weeks, you can catch Willian Cardoso's first event of the Championship Tour live at Facebook and WorldSurfLeague.com during the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, starting March 11.