With Snapper one week away, it’s time we turn out attention to the new kids on the block.
Ah yes, a new season is upon us. The Quik Pro is one week away. Some competitors have already sampled the Superbank, while others have warmed up on the QS in Newcastle and Sydney. If you’re a rookie, it’s an exciting and nerve-racking moment in your career. So much hope, so much expectation.
But the big question is always, how will they perform? Will they rock the established surfers to their core? looking back over the past few seasons I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Our South African correspondent, Craig Jarvis put it so eloquently when he predicted how 2015 rookies Matt Banting and Keanu Asing would fare making the transition to the big leagues, “They could kill it on the world tour, or the world tour could kill them.”
And history shows at the first event of the season the rookies are lambs to the slaughter.
In 2015 Banting was rolled in round 3 while Keanu (#HeartOverHeight) couldn’t get past round 2 along with NZ’s Ricardo Christie. The highest ranked rookies were Brazilians, Italo Ferreira and Wiggolly Dantas, who’s run was cut short at round 5.
2016 was a similar story. Not one rookie made it past round 5. Caio Ibelli, Kanoa Igarashi and Conner Coffin remain on the CT. Meanwhile, Callinan, Cathels, and Ribeiro are back on the QS. The only other exception for 2016 was the performance of wildcard injury replacement, Stu Kennedy, who fought his way to the semi-finals.
Out of the entire 2017 rookie class, only Connor O’Leary made it to the quarters. Everyone else (Zeke Lau, Ian Gouveia, Frederico Morais, Ethan Ewing, Leo Fioravanti, and Joan Duru) were snuffed out by round 3.
From now until the first horn sounds to kick-off the season at Snapper Rocks, the WSL rookies are going to get a royal hyping. But as Public Enemy keep telling us, don’t believe it.
Anyway, let’s meet the 2018 Rookie Class and you can decide for yourself.
The heavyweight of the pack is Willian Cardoso, 31 years old and hailing from Santa Catarina, Brazil. He’s had a couple of wildcard spots previously on the CT. His best performance coming at Bells in 2013 when he iced Kelly Slater. He can surf small waves really well for such a big unit. Would you bet on big Willy?
Another of the 30+ club, and another Brazilian making his debut is 30-year-old, Tomas Hermes, also from Santa Catarina, Brazil. Tomas is a 5-foot nothing light-footed natural footer who is an excitement machine. If it’s wind-blown and high tide he could have an advantage.
Wade Carmichael is the sole Australian that made the cut in 2018. A poor reflection on the state of Australian surfing say some, particularly given Caveman Carmichael’s vintage at 29 years old. But, the Central Coast lead-foot could do a Stu Kennedy and surprise everyone if he can unleash that raw power and not be overwhelmed by competing on the world stage.
Another ageing pro that that finally secured a spot on the CT is 32-year-old Pat Gudauskas. The San Clemente natural footer has come close to qualifying for what feels like a decade. Hopefully getting his moment in the sun will inspire the American to go big.
Now for the young guns.
Jesse Mendes, 24, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who qualified for the CT without breaking a sweat has been heralded as a major threat. But having not seen enough of his surfing to comment other than his heat against Jordy Smith last year at Margs the jury is still out.
Now someone I’m torn about… Yago Dora. The 21-year-old freesurfer from Florianopolis, Brazil came out of nowhere to qualify for the CT after making good on a couple of wildcards. The only chinks in his armor seem to lie in the fact he’s yet to show what he can offer at the heavier tour stops. He’s stylish, can punt with the best of them and is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I pray he doesn’t neuter his approach for the CT and goes ham and eggs at Snapper.
Are you sick of the Brazilians? Get used to them, they’re here to stay, and so might be the little-known Michael Rodrigues. 22 years old, again from Florianopolis, Brazil. I had no idea how this kid surfed but after digging through his Instagram he clearly rips. Another high-flyer with a serious aerial act.
Now for America’s choosen one, 19-year-old, Griffin Colapinto from San Clemente, California. Remember when Kolohe Andino was heralded as the USA’s next world champion? Well, let’s hope the same fate doesn’t apply to Griffin. He secured the Vans Triple Crown in Hawaii, cementing his legitimacy on Tour before even putting on a jersey. Whether he’s over-awed by the occasion at Snapper remains to be seen, but Giff may just be the realest threat of all the rookies.
The shortest surfer on Tour rejoins the ranks after falling off in 2016. Hawaii’s Keanu Asing finds himself back in the big show. What he brings to table in 2018 will be interesting to see. As much as I love a fighter, hopefully this time he drops the #HeartOverHeight from his vernacular.
With Tropical Cyclone Gita in the rear view, let’s hope that it doesn’t cast a shadow over the first event of the 2018 and the WSL catch a break with a desirable forecast. We might like to moan about their handling of the sport, but they can always guarantee we will be watching.