WSL Championship Tour (CT) rookie Tomas Hermes has been grinding away on the Qualifying Series (QS) for over a decade. Standing at just five-foot-five, the Brazilian 31-year-old's style has been compared to that of Tom Carroll, the former Australian World Champion, for his small stature mixed and powerful approach.
More than anything, however, Hermes' arrival on the 2018 CT is a testament to what can be accomplished with hard work and unfaltering determination. Hermes has come close to qualifying for the Championship Tour a few times -- most recently in 2016, when he finished just outside the qualification cutoff (at No. 18) after being sidelined by an injury. But it wasn't until this last year that he finally made it over the line, thanks to a fifth-place finish at the Hawaiian Pro.
"I stopped and I couldn't say a word... it's hard to explain," Hermes said after learning about his CT qualification. "I still don't believe it. There is a lot of emotion. It felt like I had dropped 10 tons off my shoulders. I was so light."
Still, Hermes' road to the CT was not an easy one. Despite some early success in regional contests in Brazil, his surfing career almost didn't happen.
At 15, Hermes said, "I stopped surfing for two years. My surfboard broke, and I only had one. At the time a surfboard was really expensive for my family. So I lost interest in the sport."
Fortunately, before his pro-surfing dreams faded completely, Hermes got a little help from a (wealthy) friend. "A friend of mine had the idea to support a young guy," said Hermes. "He made me new surfboards, put me back into competition. It was because of him that I started [video] editing. He showed me what a computer was. First time he showed me I was editing for eight hours without stopping. So it was practically that I had a friendly push to help me be here where I am today."
From there, the then-18-year-old was competing on the amateur tour in Santa Catarina, one of the southern states in Brazil. After that he earned a spot on the Junior and ISA world tour and eventually started competing on the QS. This past August, he had a runner-up finish at the Vans US Open of Surfing Men's QS, proving to himself that he could qualify, and setting the rest of his year in motion. Joining Hermes on Tour will be fellow Brazilians Jesse Mendes, Yago Dora, Willian Cardoso and Michael Rodrigues, making the Brazilian storm stronger than ever this year.
Hermes' wife, Ana, has also been a huge support system for him, traveling on the tour when she can. The two met over 13 years ago, prior to the Brazilian's surf career taking off. Ana now films and edits much of Hermes' surf footage.
"She loves to film and photograph like me," said Hermes. "Not the type of woman that likes to be on the sand getting tan. My best friend is my wife. Last year we did the full tour together -- to travel with her is like going everywhere in the world, without leaving home."
Congratulations, Tomas, and happy 31st birthday.
Watch Tomas Hermes make his rookie debut in the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast starting March 11 at worldsurfleague.com.