It's an unspoken truth about the WSL Championship Tour that the move from Qualifying Series to Championship Tour (CT) is less like a step up and more like a leap forward. The level of talent and quality runs deep from top to bottom, from Round One onward, every surfer knows how to win. There are no easy heats, no easy draws, no walkthroughs.
While it's much too early to start looking at trends, so far the 2017 CT rookie class has struggled somewhat for results, but it's not for lack of form or effort. With the notable exception of Connor O'Leary's outstanding Quarterfinal finish at the Quik Pro last month at Snapper Rocks, no other rookie has advanced past Round Three and there are no rookies left standing at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro.
However, there have been strong bursts of brilliance that have not gone unnoticed during their bouts with outstanding competition, including:
Zeke Lau's perfect 10 at Snapper in a Round Three loss to Jordy Smith
Ian Gouveia's Round One heat win at North Point
Ethan Ewing's 9.10 at Snapper on his very first wave as a CT competitor during the Quik Pro
Joan Duru's 16.40-point loss to Parko at Quik Pro in Round One
With two events now under their belts, O'Leary, Gouveia and Lau look to have settled in after shaky starts in the early stages at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Beginning at Bells, they'll look to consolidate behind what they've learned so far and build going forward.
Frederico Morais and Duru are rookies in name alone. Their experience and maturity will serve them well in the coming events. Up next, the long, open walls of Bells Beach (and possibly the steeper Winkipop bowl) are well-suited to the former's layback hack and the latter's backhand hooks.
Surprisingly, rookie sensations Leonardo Fioravanti and Ethan Ewing's struggles have been the most glaring. After looking like giant-killers last season, the pressure to produce week in and week out may be weighing on the youngsters. They've clearly got the talent, but they'll need to loosen their grip and re-find the fun.
Yet, even with early season disappointment and struggle, all the rookies can fall back on another athletic truth for some consolation when times are tough: If the effort's there, the results will come.