One of the biggest surprises of the 2016 Qualifying Series has been the rise of Italian Leonardo Fioravanti. The 18-year old went on a charm offensive while ripping his way to the top of the QS rankings and torching several of the world's best as a CT wildcard.
Though he's slipped to No. 5 on the QS, Fioravanti has already locked a spot on the 2017 Samsung Galaxy World Championship Tour, and he won't be the only fresh European face on Tour next year, because one of the hidden headlines of 2016 is there's serious depth coming from that bench.
The quiet rise of Joan Duru is another big surprise. After a solid performance at the Hawaiian Pro the Frenchman has climbed to No. 2 on the QS, locking his spot on next year's Tour.
And there might be more backup coming, because Portugal's powerhouse Frederico Morais just jumped to No. 10 on the QS after making the Final at Haleiwa, and Marc Lacomare, another Frenchman, is out there knocking at No. 21.
Morais is no stranger to big results in Hawaii. In 2013, the man from Portugal won the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing "Rookie of the Year" award, mainly on the back of a 4th place finish at the World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach. For the last week, it would have been easy to argue that outside of World Champ John John Florence, he's been the form surfer of the event.
With an upright, powerful style he's been well coached by local Rainos Hayes and another Aussie legend, Richard "Dog" Marsh. He gave Florence everything he had in the Final, losing by the smallest of margins on a count back. Now sitting No. 10 (climbing 18 spots) on the WSL QS rankings, a good result at the World Cup could seal an unexpected spot on next year's elite tour.
The Frenchman, Lacomare, has been a fixture on the QS tour for the past few years, but has never been able to mix his strong results in Europe with other stops on tour. He was on a roll at Haleiwa until he ran into that John John Florence guy in the Semifinal, winning every heat he surfed with a good eye for waves and a mean backside hook.
Lacomare has a much tougher road to haul. But the Frenchman's powerful backhand approach, with its sweet, fading bottom turn, is well suited to Sunset's reef-churning walls. His heavy-footed snaps throw buckets of spray, too, which helps impress judges sitting on a scaffold tower a quarter-mile away.
He, too, has a strong support team. In his corner sits longtime WSL CT surfer Jake Paterson, a man who's no stranger to the relative nuances of Sunset Beach. Lacomare rocketed up 31 spots to No. 21 on the QS rankings in a single event, which is astounding, but he'll need to repeat the feat at Sunset to have a real shot at the Big Show.