We've outlined how Leonardo Fioravanti and Mikey Wright will be vying for the Injury Wildcard spot on the Championship Tour at the Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask. The pair will engage in a best-of-three heat showdown -- potentially decided over a single day, to see who will be competing on the CT in 2021.
It's a fascinating sub-plot to the Pipe Masters, and made even more intriguing by their vastly different characters. Those differences were hilariously, and visually, represented by this recent post by Leo's shaper Christian Bradley.
As you can see, on the surface at least, this is not just a clash of two rarely gifted surfers, but also a clash of cultures. In the blue corner you have the multi-lingual, Gucci-sponsored Italian, who is at home on the Milan fashion runways as he is at heaving Backdoor.
In the red corner comes Mikey Wright; the mullet-sporting, beer-drinking Australian who counts hunting and dismembering animals as a way to wind down. He makes no bones about living a life stripped backed to its basics, while surfing as hard and fast as physics permit.
However Instagram posts aside, once you dig a little deeper, past the roll neck sweaters and bloodied hunting knives, we can actually find a lot more similarities than you think. After all the pair are both good friends and great rivals, having shared the same sponsor Quiksilver for all their surfing lives.
Both have also suffered potentially career-threatening injuries at Pipe, which indirectly or directly have led them to being in this surf-off position. Mikey injured his back at the Volcom Pipe Pro in 2018. This injury, further aggravated at Bells and then Margaret River was what ended up seeing him step away from the Tour in 2019. Leo broke his back in the Volcom Pipe Pro in 2015 and returned to the CT in 2019 only for a shoulder injury to derail his campaign.
Both have fought hard to return to full fitness and stake their claim for a full-time CT berth. The pair have also earned their stripes at Pipeline, rising through surfing's hardest pecking order through a dedication to the wave and sheer talent. They are also two of the most dynamic and technically gifted young surfers we have on Tour.
And when they enter the water at Pipe for the surf-off, whether they wear a three-piece suit or a tank top becomes irrelevant. With the biggest prize of their careers on the line, it will be a case of the best Pipe surfer wins. It should be one of the highlights of the event.