With 12 minutes remaining in his quarterfinal heat, it looked liked Frederico Morais' epic run at the 2017 J-Bay Open was done. Surfing against the current World Champion John John Florence, the then-rookie needed a combination of 18.58 heat total to claw his way back from elimination.
Despite the heat situation, Morais had every reason to be satisfied. He'd already defeated J-Bay legend Mick Fanning and a fifth place in his rookie year was very much a keeper result.
He'd also proven his ability to perform under pressure to both himself and the world. Earlier in the year at Bells, he'd engaged in a start-of-the-heat paddle battle with Gabriel Medina, a feat akin to a mouse trying to eat an eagle. He'd won both the paddle battle, and the heat, on the way to the Quarterfinal finish.
The year before in Hawaii he'd made back-to-back Finals at Haleiwa and Sunset to storm from nowhere to the top of the Qualifying Series rankings and into Championship Tour qualification.
In the Quarterfinal with Florence he would again need to draw on that ability to hit new heights when it mattered the most.
At the 10-minute mark Morais dismantled a J-Bay set wave for a 9.77 to climb, emphatically, out of the combination situation. Then with two minutes to go, he dropped half-a-dozen signature hammers to score a perfect 10. It was an incredible comeback against the world's best surfer -- who was then in the form of his life.
Morais took that confidence into the Semifinal, where he put in a flawless display of power surfing to take out Medina. That took his World Champion scalp tally at J-Bay to three. In the Final he played no small part in pushing Filipe Toledo to what became one of the Brazilian's career defining performances. Morais fell short by less 0.30 of a point of victory, but it had been one of the more memorable rookie performances in recent history.
"I will always remember that week at J-Bay tor the rest of my life," Morais told the WSL when we asked him to rewind and reflect on that performance. "I mean, how could you forget it? They were some of the best waves of my life. There was big sharks, perfect 10s and that was when I established a connection with the wave and the people of J-Bay."