There are seven fresh-faced rookies ready to make their debut as full-time Championship Tour (CT) stars in 2018. Each has a unique set of skills that has enabled them to get on surfing's biggest stage. But what powers are likely to see them make an impact? Let's drill into the rookie class.
Griffin Colapinto: Triple Crown Chops
"The goal by the time I turned 19 was to be qualified for the CT," Griffin Colapinto said after securing his Championship Tour spot at Haleiwa. He celebrated by making another Final at Sunset, and a Quarterfinal finish in the Pipe Invitational, which ultimately iced him a Vans Triple Crown win. Colapinto is the first Californian to ever win the prestigious crown, and he did it surfing in only two of three main events. The San Clemente star isn't bad in the little stuff either, as backed by his Qualifying Series (QS) championship. That said, for most rookies Hawaii is a step into the unknown. For Colapinto, it's the scene of an early career triumph.
Jesse Mendes: True Grit
Jesse Mendes has come close to qualifying in 2016 and 2014 and, in seven years on the Qualifying Series has been a perennial performer. He's considered a model professional, with many coaches pointing to him as an example of preparation, heat management and competitive drive. Of course, natural, clean rail style and big-air game doesn't hurt either. The years on the QS have hardened his resolve and added experience to these natural talents. He's now ready for an instant impact.
Wade Carmichael: Love of the Game
"I don't know the ins and outs of everyone's story," Wade Carmichael recently told the WSL, "but I'm pretty happy with mine." That was before Carmichael came third in the Vans World Cup at Sunset and cemented his place in the Top 10 on the Qualifying Series. When he arrives on the CT as a rookie in 2018, Carmichael will bring some old-school power and a complete, no-nonsense approach to the CT. His main driver is his love of surfing, rather than a love of the trappings. Give him a wave with any type of push and he'll strike fear among the bigger names on Tour.
Tomas Hermes: Perpetual Motion
At 30, Tomas Hermes is a testament to what endless positivity and belief can achieve when you never give up on a dream. The beachbreaks are his obvious strength, suiting his perpetual- motion style of surfing, but his tenacity comes into play at any of the heavier reefbreaks. With his wife, coach, filmer and best friend Ana by his side, and the support of the Brazilian CT family, no one will be working harder and moving faster to keep the spot he fought so long to get.
Yago Dora: The X Factor
This past season reached its peak Yago Dora moment when the 22-year old Brazilian defeated Mick Fanning, Gabriel Medina and John John Florence on the way to a Semifinal finish at May's Oi Rio Pro. With his electric aerial act, long rail turns and love of the barrel, he probably packs the most excitement of all the rookies. How that might be diluted by the pressures of the CT remains to be seen, but having seen a glimpse in Saquarema, there is no doubt his surfing belongs on the biggest stage.
Willian Cardoso: Raw Power
Willian Cardoso has flirted with the CT for the last eight years and has twice been an injury replacement. In 2013 he famously defeated Kelly Slater at the Rip Curl Pro Bells on the way to a Quarterfinal finish. None of the other rookies can boast an unbeaten record against the 11-time World Champ. A sponsor once described him as "a loud, crazy, madman who dances well and prepares fish in a salt, garlic, lime reduction," but it is power and timing that should make the most impact in 2018.
Michael Rodrigues: Mystique
A strong Europe leg set up Michael Rodrigues' CT qualification, even if a poor run in Hawaii meant he had to rely on another Kanoa Igarashi double-qualifying act at Pipeline. In Spain and the Azores, the smooth naturalfooter was at his best, mixing explosive turns and huge airs -- a modus operandi that he'll bring to the CT. Relatively quiet and still learning English, the surfing world hasn't heard a lot about M-Rod. Come 2018, that's all about to change.