Scanning the Seeding Round of the Margaret River Pro, it was no surprise to see Italo Ferreira, Filipe Toledo and Gabriel Medina clumped together as the three of the best performers of the day. Surfing in back-to-back heats, the Brazilians all logged total heat scores above 14, the only male surfers apart from Jordy Smith to do so.
Dominating a day of professional surfing is perhaps no surprise when these are three of the best Brazilian surfers of all time. This wasn't the first time they have done it -- and it won't be the last. Born only 16 months apart, the have been friends first and rivals second, since they were teenagers. Now though they are all gunning for the sport's biggest prize.
In many ways they have followed in the footsteps of Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson and Dean Morrison. The so called 'Cooly Kids' burst onto the scene a decade before the Brazilians and were the last batch of mates to shake the foundations of the sport.
"Without Joel and Dean I would have never had the career I had," Fanning told the WSL. "We helped each other as mates, but more importantly we pushed each other in the water. I see Gabe, Filipe and Italo doing the same. They may not have come from the same beach like we did, and they sure do bigger airs, but they are tight knit and the competition feels the same."
If we were to push this comparison, it would be Medina in the Fanning role -- the first to really knuckle down and channel his athleticism towards two World Titles. Toledo is more like Parko with a natural, wild talent that may take a little more time to bend to the constraints of a World Title. That leaves Ferreira in the Dingo role as a late developer with a mix of unpredictable energy whose potential is limitless.
All three being young with potentially years ahead of them on Tour, the Brazilian trio could be on track to surpass the achievements of the Australians. Last year they were all in World Title contention heading into Pipe and ended up occupying three of the top four CT rankings. When Medina claimed his second World Title he was still 25. The scope for improvement for each surfer is scarily vast.
"Congratulations Medina as 2x World Champion and congratulations Toledo for the incredible year," posted Ferreira after that win. "I feel very proud to be part of this generation. You pull me to the max and make me better every day. Thank you for raising the sport."
Clearly inspired, Ferreira duly went and won the first CT of 2019. They all then marched into Keramas with Medina the lowest ranked as the World No. 5. It was only the early exits by Medina and Ferreira that slightly checked their domination.
"I feel bummed for guys like Italo and Gabriel because we are always super close and we cheer for each other," Toledo said after those losses in Bali. "But when it comes to the World Title, it's a game. And for me now it's game on."
Toledo would eventually fall in the Quarterfinals in Keramas, but all three are still very much in the game. Having watched, freesurfed and competed with each other since they were 10 years old, no one knows each others' strengths and weaknesses better. To win a World Title, they understand all too well that they will have to overcome each other to achieve it.
For now though, the impressive performances in the Seeding Round at the Margaret River Pro means they should steer clear of one another for a few more rounds at least. Until then, they'll be running their own race, whilst backing their mates in theirs. Of course there can only be one winner. Increasingly there is a very good chance that winner will be either Medina, Toledo or Ferreira.