- WSL / Kelly Cestari

At the start of the 2015 season, many surf fans expected a Brazilian to lead the Jeep rankings throughout the year. Seven events and four Top 5 finishes later, Adriano de Souza (BRA) finds himself living up to those expectations heading into Stop No. 8 the Hurley Pro at Trestles.

See More From Hurley Pro: Break Breakdown, Trailer, Heritage Heat, Wildcards

However, after a 13th-place finish in Tahiti that shortened his lead in the yellow-jersey chase, De Souza must focus on solid end-of-season results. He recently discussed post-injury success, his strategy for Trestles and what's in store for the future of Brazilian surfing.

De Souza Solidifies His Lead
Since edging out John John Florence in the Final at Margaret River, De Souza has kept his place on top of the Jeep Leaderboard.

How was both your end of last year and the beginning of this year? Did you expect to have so much success, even after a very serious injury?
The end of the year was very complicated. It was not easy to watch Gabriel Medina (BRA) be crowned the World Champion from my house. First, because I wanted to be the first Brazilian champion and I knew I was on the right track, and second, because I was not there to give him a big hug and congratulate him for the amazing title he just won for our country. But I had to stop and do a lot of physiotherapy and training to come back stronger for the next year.

After all that happened it gave me more strength to compete in the beginning of 2015. Thank God that everything I planned worked out and I am in this final race -- four events to the end of the year -- fighting for the World Title. I started the year really well, better than I expected, but I guess I felt the pressure a bit and had certain difficulty to maintain that balance. But in God's Will, I will surf as I want and know in these last four events because I want to have a shot for my always dreamt World Title.

Do you still feel a pain on your knee?
Thank God my knee is 100 percent. I am not afraid of doing any turns or anything. Actually, if you didn't even remind me that I had this injury I wouldn't even think about it.

De Souza's Mind-Blowing Drop
Adriano de Souza did not have the Jeep Leader yellow jersey heading into the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. But with waves like this, he's had it since.

This year a lot of athletes got hurt and couldn't compete in one or more events. Last year you got injured three or four times. Did you have any injuries this year that you had to be worried about?
No…fortunately I have been very healthy for the whole year and hopefully I will be like this until the end of the year as well.

Going back to the beginning of the year, we heard that you almost didn't compete in Australia because of visa issues. Did you ever fear for your 2015 season?
About the issues with the visa, I really believed for a week or two that I was not going to Australia. It was very hard to explain and try to be forgiven for a mistake that I made -- staying in Australia longer then my visa was permitted. The truth was that I had the visa, but I didn't know how long it lasted. I applied for my visa with my schedule of events and places I was going to be at. But I guess I never stayed longer than three months in the past and last year I did.

But thank God, on the day that I was supposed to fly to Australia and had to decide if I needed to cancel the ticket, The Australian Embassy approved my visa. By the way, they were always very nice to me. Thank you guys for helping me out. So I packed my bags and my quiver, and flew on the same day to Australia. I felt like it was the best gift I could have received and maybe it was the reason I was so inspired to compete in Australia this year and get three great results.

Heat Replay: See De Souza Take Down Fanning On Gold Coast
De Souza dominated the first event of the year, taking down Mick Fanning, C.J. Hobgood and more on his way to a third-place finish.

Did you know that the rankings leader's yellow jersey has been with a Brazilian athlete for 15 events in a row? Do you think this is good for Brazil, and also for you?
It is nice for Brazil to be leading the Tour and keeping a history with the yellow jersey and great results. But for the surfer and athletes in general, to be in first place or not during the year will not make a difference if you don't win at the end. So what is the most important thing for me right now is to arrive in Pipeline with a chance to be the World Champion. If I'm in the Top 5 with a great chance I will be happy. To be leading right now is good, but not everything, if you understand what I am saying. What really matters, and what I want as well, is to have my name in first place after Pipeline.

De Souza Dialed In at Trestles
De Souza made it to the Quarterfinals at Lowers in 2014. He'll be looking to repeat waves like this to hang on to the yellow jersey in 2015.

Four events to finish the Tour. Which one of them would be your strength? And your weakness?
I do believe all the events will be extremely hard. Besides the natural pressure, all the athletes are surfing really well. I do believe I'm surfing really well too and with a good pace so it is good. All those events I already had some good results in the past. Trestles I already got a third place, Portugal I already won, and in France I already got a third place as well.

I know this doesn't mean anything, but it can push me harder knowing that I can do well on those events. If I can get good results on the next three events I will arrive in Pipeline with a great chance to be the World Champion. But to compete is not as easy as it is to speak, so I hope to do well and achieve my goal.

De Souza Takes Down Slater At Supertubos
With Portugal only three stops away, De Souza will look to replicate the win he had there in 2011 and solidify his current lead on the Jeep Leaderboard race.

To finish, lets talk about the future of Brazil on the Championship Tour. Do you see any good athletes appearing in the near future to be either the next Adriano or Gabriel?
It's very hard to say nowadays who will be the next Brazilian superstar. Brazil is loaded with talent and everyday I hear about a kid that is surfing like no one else. It's amazing and very good for Brazilian surfing. But today I do believe we have two guys that are very young and very talented, who are already in the CT.

Toledo's Talent at Lowers
Toledo impressed the crowd when he opted left and threw a huge air-reverse at the 2014 Hurley Pro. Sitting at No. 4 on the rankings, he has a good chance to advance up the Jeep Leaderboard at Lowers.

Filipe Toledo could be the World Champion this year, and if not, he can be one of the next ones as well. He is surfing really well. Gabriel is also another one that cannot be left out of the list. He surfs really well and also is getting his confidence back and for sure is one of the favorites to win other World Titles. So I do believe Brazilian surfing will be concentrated in those two surfers as the talent of Brazil for the next five years.

Catch De Souza and the rest of the world's best surfers when they hit the water at this year's Hurley Pro at Trestles beginning September 9. Watch all the action LIVE here and on the WSL App.

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