- WSL / Kelly Cestari
- WSL / Kelly Cestari

If 2016 proved anything, it's that there's a massive amount of talent coming up throughout pro surfing's ranks. In fact, several new faces emerged this year. Here are five surfers who made the biggest competitive leaps over the course of 12 months, making strong cases for the most improved surfer of the year.

Ethan Ewing (AUS) Ethan Ewing - WSL / Jackson Van Kirk

Ethan Ewing
North Stradbroke's Ethan Ewing finished 2015 with a Qualifying Series ranking of 257. While identified as a junior surfer with tremendous potential, having just turned 17, it was thought that his potential could take a few years to realize. Ewing then started the Australasian Junior Tour with an incredible four straight victories. He then took that form to the QS, winning a QS3000 in Costa Rica, making the quarters in Ballito and securing his Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour spot with a runner-up finish at the US Open. He capped off his year with impressive results at Haleiwa and Sunset, a Triple Crown Rookie of The Year Award, and a 2nd place finish on the QS. That's not improvement, that intergalactic advancement.

Ethan Ewing placed second in Heat 13 of Round Three at the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, Hawaii today. Ethan Ewing at the Hawaiian Pro. His trajectory has been explosive. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

Griffin Colapinto
While the 17-year-old had been earmarked for big things since a young age, few, including Colapinto himself, could have foreseen his rapid ascent through the ranks. The naturalfooter started last year ranked 147 on the QS and had the goal of cracking the top 100 and securing himself a start in the QS10000-rated events. A result at home in California at the US Open kickstarted his year, and a third place in Brazil, followed by a 9th at Haleiwa, saw him rocket up to 32 on the QS.

Colapinto's late charge in Hawaii.
The San Clemente standout throws his board beyond vertical to secure a huge last-minute score.

Samuel Pupo
To see 16-year-old Samuel Pupo tackle man-sized Haleiwa with all the experience of a veteran at the Hawaiian Pro was to realize the dramatic improvement he has achieved in a year. The younger brother of CT surfer Miguel Pupo, Samuel counted good results in the Azores, Haleiwa and Sunset. In doing so he jumped 214 places, to 64th on the QS rankings, and confirmed that he is one of the sport's future stars.

Samuel Pupo Samuel Pupo has had a breakthrough year. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

Ian Gouveia
The Brazilian goofyfooter was less of a surprise than others on the list, courtesy of his age (24) and his name (being the son of Fabio Gouveia, the legendary Brazilian surfer). And until Europe, his surfing had reflected his last year, finishing with a QS ranking of 93. Three finals in five weeks, including a victory in the Azores Pro, changed that, and Gouveia marched up into qualification. He'd found a way to channel his electric freesurfing into the competitive realm, and with that dramatic improvement he earned himself a golden ticket to the big leagues.

Gouveia spinning to win in the Azores.
Brazil's Ian Gouveia flies and completes a full-rotation for a 9.47, the day's highest score.

Macy Callaghan
Macy Callaghan's rise through the ranks mirrored that of Ethan Ewing. Early in the year the stylish naturalfooter went one better than Ewing taking out five of the eight Junior Qualifying Series events. Despite being only 15, she then hit the QS, registering two 5th places on the way to an end-of-year 15th in the rankings, a jump from No. 78 in 2015. With a better seed and more experience, you'd expect that rapid trajectory to continue all the way to the top in 2017.

Macy Callaghan (AUS) Callaghan swoops down the line, and up the rankings. - WSL / Kurt Steinmetz
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