The name Leonardo Fioravanti has a historic ring to it, but this Leo isn't a painter, actor, sculptor, or inventor...he's an 18-year-old pro surfer from Rome currently on a reign of tearing. Having just eliminated two legends in Western Australia: 11-time World Champ Kelly Slater and reigning World Champ Adriano de Souza, he's also got his sights squarely set on a more permanent slot on the CT, currently leading the QS rankings and looking to become the first of his countrymen to qualify for the Championship Tour.
Yes, Fioravanti's Roman roots make him a bit of an anomaly, but he's no stranger to the world's best surfers. Certainly not anymore. We caught up with Leo to see how he's handling his new-found fame.
WSL: You've known Slater for a while through Belly. What was it like taking him down in a heat?
Leonardo Fioravanti: Since I was 11 I started traveling with Quik and I stayed with Kelly a bunch of times at various events on the Tour. It was always a dream of mine to say I had a heat against Kelly Slater. I can't believe I actually beat him. It still feels unreal. He's always been my hero and he still is my idol. I've always looked up to him and I will always look up to him.
WSL: In the very next round you took down the reigning World Champ, Adriano de Souza. How did that feel as a wildcard?
Fioravanti: It feels amazing. It feels great to be here and know that I can compete against these guys and I'm at the level to surf against them. It gives me a lot of confidence for my career and for what's coming ahead.
WSL: You're currently leading the QS. Where do you go next?
Fioravanti: I'm taking this confidence back to the QS and will compete for the full year there. And hopefully I'll be able to finish in the Top 10 and be here next year, from the first event at Snapper and earn my spot here [at Margies] next year! It would mean everything for me to be the first Italian on Tour. To represent my country would mean the world.
WSL: How have you felt bouncing back from injury? Do you think about it at all when you surf?
Fioravanti: Sometimes when the waves are solid I think about it. But when I'm on the wave, I'm not thinking about it. I'm just trying to have fun and surf my best. It's giving me zero trouble at the moment.
WSL: What's the hardest part about maintaining momentum?
Fioravanti: I don't think there is a specific hard part. You have to stay focused and make smart decisions. Surf smart, surf strong. And if I check all those boxes it should go my way by the end of the year.
WSL: As a wildcard, is the pressure off here?
Fioravanti: For sure. When I was out there against Adriano I was telling myself that I have nothing to lose, he has everything to lose. If I lose, I'm enjoying the moment. I'm not going for a World Title or trying to stay on Tour. I'm just trying to enjoy the experience and enjoy the moment.
WSL: A couple of the rookies have mentioned being starstruck in their first couple heats against the legends. Did you feel that way?
Fioravanti: I felt like that in my first heat, I didn't know what to expect. But now I've got a bit of confidence and I'm getting the scores that I'm getting and I deserve to be here and I'm making the most of it.