Believing: Frederico Morais
The Portuguese powerhouse was one of the biggest surprises of 2017, and he's just getting started.

Portugal is a small surfing nation, but its been punching above its weight class in recent years. The monster waves of Nazaré are now a global phenomenon, and the punchy pits of Supertubos are getting more and more attention as a result. Not surprisingly, this exposed stretch of Atlantic coast is home to numerous talented surfers, and these days Frederico Morais -- or "Kikas," to his fans -- is the one carrying the torch.

Morais burst onto the 2017 Championship Tour (CT) thanks to an incredible late-season surge up the Qualifying Series (QS) rankings in 2016. He entered the final leg of the series, in Hawaii, ranked No. 46 -- too low to be considered a long-shot qualifier. But Morais was somehow brimming with belief, and he had decent reason to feel confident. He performs well in the big and powerful stuff. In fact, he won the Vans Triple Crown Rookie of the Year award back in 2013. And sure enough, he proved that was no fluke, earning back-to-back runner-up finishes at Haleiwa and Sunset Beach. Those results shot him all the way up to No. 3 on the QS, and won him a slot on the 2017 Championship Tour.

Rookie Frederico Morais of Portugal has advanced to the first final of his career at the Corona Open J-Bay after defeating 2015 World Champion Gabriel Medina of Brazil in Semifinal Heat 1 in overhead conditions at Supertubes, Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. Morais' authoritative approach served him well during his rookie season on the Championship Tour. He finished the year impressivly, ranked No. 14 on the Jeep Leaderboard. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

During his rookie season Morais continued to impress. While high-profile rookies struggled, he stood out early, nabbing a 5th place at Bells Beach and an even more impressive runner-up finish at the Corona Open J-Bay. He ended the season ranked No. 14, only 50 points shy of fellow rookie Connor O'Leary, who nabbed the Rookie of the Year honor.

While he made quite an impact last year, he maintains all the trappings of a hidden threat. Frederico thrives in the shadows. Growing up in Portugal, he was pretty far removed from the epicenter of European surfing power in France. But while he's spent much of his career outside the limelight, he spent a good chunk of last year turning doubters into believers. Frederico Morais is ready for prime time.

Frederico Morais of Portugal won his Round Two heat at the Rip Curl Pro, Bells Beach. Frederico advanced to the Quarterfinals during his first appearance at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach. - WSL / Ed Sloane

Catch Kikas live on the WSL starting February 19 at the Burton Automotive Pro, and on the WSL and Facebook when the CT season kicks off March 11, at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast.

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