Large, passionate and power-hungry, this Brazilian spirit animal is adored by his peers for his dogged determination. There’s only one stat you need to know to grasp the core of his character: he battled for twelve years in the Qualifying Series arena before finally making the Championship Tour cut. Yes, that’s longer than anyone in history, so it’s pretty obvious why he’s pro surfing’s new poster boy for never giving up on your dreams. His hopes began just north of Florianópolis, Brazil, where he learned to keep his speed in some of the country’s mushier point breaks. Mind you, that’s no easy feat for a man built like a brick house. Most of Cardoso’s tonnage is stuffed into his tree-trunk legs, yet his largesse doesn’t slow him in the least. No matter the condition his ability to transfer high levels of momentum into massive plumes of spray is uncanny. Mind you, Willian can go to the air— and he does— but he definitely prefers the wave face, where his power hacks are unrivaled. He’s proven that on the global stage before, most notably in 2013, in perfect 6-foot surf at Bells Beach, where surfing as an injury wildcard at the Rip Curl Pro he carved Kelly Slater to pieces in Round Three. The confidence one gains during that kind of win doesn’t ever go away, and Willian celebrated his first CT event win in Uluwatu, Bali in 2018. He’s been around long enough to know that his commanding brand of surfing will fit well with the waves found on the elite level.