With the start of the Championship Tour set to kick off in Hawaii in December, we're taking a look at eight of the toughest competitors on Tour. To be the best you gotta beat the best, and these are the dreaded heat draws.

Until he ran the table and won the Pipe Masters and World Title in one well fell swoop in 2019, Italo Ferreira had largely escaped the glare of North Shore criticism. Few ever considered the high-flying Brazilian to be much of a threat on the North Shore. But like everything he's accomplished in his illustrious career, he proved all the doubters and skeptics wrong.

Ferreira's boundless enthusiasm and willingness to pour every ounce of his energy into a task saw him go from learning to surf on the foam lid of a cooler box at home in Baía Formosa to securing a World Title with a win at firing Pipeline.

And now that he's the defending champ? It appears that he's about to tap into a whole new gear. Considering how hot he already runs, that's a scary proposition.

One Of Most Progressive Surfers Ever On Tour Is A Pipeline Heavyweight
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The people's champ, Italo Ferreira has proved all doubters wrong, combining progression and power to become a Pipe Master.

Ferreira landed on the Championship Tour in 2015 with a spellbinding aerial attack and vicious rail game. His rookie year he forced people to take notice, making the Quarterfinals in Fiji and Tahiti. No slouch when it's big and powerful, ultimately it was his high-energy, highly entertaining approach at locations such as Rio that really made him stand out. No one was particularly surprised when he finished the year with a 13th at Pipe.

In fact, besides a 5th place finish in 2017, Ferreira's found himself with a 13th-place result in every Pipe Masters he's surfed. Until, of course, 2019, when he beat Gabriel Medina in a fierce Final to secure a Pipe win and a World Title.

Through the shear force of his enthusiasm Ferreira found a way to make Pipeline a strength, winning a Final many expected him to lose, against a natural Pipe surfer (not to mention Pipe Master) in Medina.

OAHU, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 19: World Title contender Italo Ferreira of Brazil wins the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters after winning the final at Pipeline on December 19, 2019 in Oahu, United States. (Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL via Getty Images) For Ferreira, the World Title and Pipe Masters victory was an accomplishment of pure heart. - WSL / Ed Sloane

If there's hard work to be done, Ferreira's going to do it with a smile -- for as long as it takes to win. That's the Italo way: If everyone else is working hard, he'll work harder, and if people count him out, that's just fuel in a burning desire to prove the naysayers wrong.

Like former World Champ Adriano de Souza before him, he knew Pipe was a weak spot, so he turned up earlier than anyone else, installed himself in the Billabong house in front of Pipeline and surfed it all day, every day for more than a month. He also enlisted the help of big-wave pioneer Shane Dorian, who in turn helped get Pipe legend Jamie O'Brien on Team Italo.

Not every elite athlete can recognize their shortcomings with such forthrightness, and even fewer are capable of sending themselves back to the drawing board and putting in some remedial work with such an intensity that somehow a weakness is quickly turned into a strength.

OAHU, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 19: Italo Ferreira of Brazil advances to the quarterfinals of the 2019 Billabong Pipe Masters after winning Heat 1 of Round 4 at Pipeline on December 19, 2019 in Oahu, United States. (Photo by Tony Heff/WSL via Getty Images) In the pit or soaring above it, Ferreira enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the most exciting surfers on Tour. - WSL / Tony Heff

Importantly though, this wasn't a one-off. Ferreira is now a World Champion and a Pipe Master. And during the recent Countdown Series events in Europe, he said he was once again planning on heading to Hawaii earlier than everyone else so that he could immerse himself in the heavy water of the North Shore.

He's on top of the world as one of the most adored World Champions in recent memory, the proverbial people's champ, and still won't kick back and enjoy the view -- just like how he put hot clip after hot clip out during the extended offseason, instead of enjoying a well-earned break.

Someone that talented, who is also never satisfied? Well, that's someone you'll never be able to count out...

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