Twelve heats surfed, zero heats won. That's the uncomfortable stat behind the starts to the Championship Tour (CT) for Ethan Ewing and Leonardo Fioravanti. Going into the year the two teenagers were perhaps the most hyped of all the rookies. Their age, their talent, their mature style and their successful competitive years in 2016 had combined to create a huge buzz of expectation.
However while the other rookies have all won at least one heat, and Frederico Morais and Zeke Lau have achieved Quarterfinals and better, Ewing and Fioravanti are yet to get off the mark. Going into the Oi Rio Pro the need for a single heat win has started to become crucial. They need to get the monkey off their backs in Brazil.
Luckily for the rookies this shouldn't be too difficult a task. At various stages of the season they have shown just why they are seen as two of surfing's brightest stars. At Bells, for example, Leo was extremely unlucky to lose to Sebastian Zietz in Round Two after posting a 16.84 heat total.
"He is still building momentum, but as a rookie there is lot of pressure," said his coach Jake Paterson after the loss. "We just kept the feedback positive. He surfed a great heat and was a little confused how he lost it. For now though, it's just about positive reinforcement. It will happen soon for him."
It was a similar scenario in Margaret River for the Italian. "In Western Australia I was feeling confident and I felt I did everything right in the heat, got some good scores and was happy with my surfing," Leo said after his Round Two loss. "Look, Parko surfed great and even though I lost, I'm happy with the performances. It didn't go the way I want, but I'm going to keep my head up."
"He's a little weapon out here and especially in good waves," Parkinson acknowledged afterwards of Fioravanti. "I knew it was going to be tough as he's a great competitor." It wasn't the first time that the rookie's peers, including legends of the sport, had shown their respect for the teenagers. It doesn't compensate for a heat loss, but it has to be great for their confidence.
"Ethan is my favorite surfer at the moment," Mick Fanning said after defeating the World Junior Champion at Bells. "I love watching him surf and he's such a great kid. I knew I had to throw everything at it." Ewing hasn't quite posted the solid heat totals that Fioravanti has, but he has shown he can post individual wave scores in the excellent range at will.
Rookie errors are called that for a reason and he's often failed to find a back up, been let down by wave choice and made completion errors. On the flip side, his freesurfing has been electric in the warm-up sessions at all the locations, which is still one of the better barometers of competitive success.
The Oi Rio Pro now offers the chance for the rookies to stake their claim. The beachbreaks will suit both their styles and give them more opportunity for their progressive airs, which is a big strength for both surfers. A heat win is coming, it's only a matter of time. You sense that if they get one, a few more might come at Saquarema.
"It's disappointing, for sure, but I'm surfing against the best surfers in the world on the CT and learning all the time," Ewing said after his loss at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. "Now though I'll go home, regroup, and get ready for Brazil. I've never been there before and I can't wait." Neither can we.