Earlier this week Portuguese rookie Frederico Morais stormed his way to a quarter finals finish at Bells, putting him at the head of the Euro-rookie pack and firmly in the race for Rookie Of The Year.
Frederico’s blend of raw power surfing and calculated flair saw him dispense with Miguel Pupo in round two, before facing up against the blistering backside attack of former world champ Gabriel Medina. In a scenario reminiscent of that which saw him break his way onto the world tour at the end of last year, Frederico was left needing a mid range score in the dying minutes. Morais appeared steadfast as ever in the face of mounting pressure, picking off a smaller wave and meticulously working it for every ounce of scoring potential, allowing him to snatch victory in the final minute by a mere .37 of a point.
The rookie then power surfed his way past Seabass in round 5, before just coming up short against eventual runner up Caio Ibelli in the quarters.
A few weeks ago, as Frederico was packing up his boards and preparing to fly from Margies to Bells, we caught up with him in the airy conservatory of his WA residence to talk about his qualification, becoming a power specialist, how to deal with early round losses, and the potential for a new era of european competitive success.
WL: Starting with your qualification, that was a big watershed moment in your life, but did it lead to any significant changes to your mindset or approach towards competing?
FM: No, it didn’t really change anything, my methods of working and training stayed the same, nothing really changed besides the boards. I started ordering boards for different places, and barrels, because you don’t get that on the QS, but besides that, everything kind of stayed the same.
WL: Was there any part of you before that moment that thought you might not qualify?
FM: You never know. You believe, and you want to qualify, but deep down there’s always that fear of not achieving your dream, your goal, your passion. Going to Hawaii I knew it was going to be really hard, but that there was small chance and I believed in it and was sure of what I wanted.
WL: What’s surprised you the most so far on the World Tour?
FM: Nothing has really surprised me, because I’ve done three events in Portugal, so a lot of the stuff I was already used to. I guess when you’re watching at home you say ‘Awh he could have done that turn there’, you know, you kind of criticise those guys, but when you’re out there competing with them thats when you realise how good they are and how hard it is to be on tour and get scores.
WL: And does the CT feel more friendly or more competitive than the QS?
FM: I think with the QS and CT, it’s really competitive, everyone says ‘hi’ and they shake hands after the heat, but everyone knows their job and our job is to win. At the end of the day it’s a job like any other job and you can congratulate your opponent after the heat and be friends, but for that 30 minutes you’re there to win.
WL: And how do you deal with coming out of the competition earlier than you might want to?
FM: Its hard, you’ve just got to look at it and try and learn and make the most of it, which sometimes is really hard because you want to win every comp. But you can’t get down, because if you start thinking negative and tripping because you lost, that’s even worse.
WL: And do you watch back the heats that you lose and really try and analyse them? Or do you say that’s done now and put it behind you?
FM: You fully analyse the heat and go back and try and see where you under-surfed the wave or over-surfed the wave, or a wave you missed, or a priority mistake you did. You fully look at everything so you make sure it’s not going to happen again.
WL: Is it hard sticking around in the place where you’ve just lost the comp?
FM: Yea sometimes it’s hard. I reckon the two days after you don’t even want to go near the comp, because you’re so pissed and so frustrated. But it’s my first year so I need to surf the breaks and get to know the places so next year when I come here I’m used to it and it all feels more friendly. That’s a job as well; trying to get to know the places so when you come you’ve got everything sorted. So that’s why we stayed here in west Aus, because there’s heaps of waves and I had boards to try. Ryan [Callinan] came out here as well and we went to the gym with Adam [Trypas] as well, and it was a great week to prepare for Bells.
WL: So this is the first year for seven years that multiple European guys have qualified at the same time- do you think now this is the start of something new for European surfing or was it just a lucky year?
FM: Hopefully, I think we have really good surfers in Europe, Joan [Duru] surfs amazing and Leo [Fiorvanti] is super talented and really competitive, but then we’ve got heaps of surfers, like Marc Lacomare, Ramzi Boukham, Vasco [Ribiero], who I think fully have the potential to qualify and be here. I just feel like it’s hard because for Ryan [Callinan] and those guys, they’ve got Mick, Julian, Joel, who are always pushing them, where as the only guy representing us was Jeremy [Flores], so for us it always looks harder. Hopefully with us qualifying now it’s going to give more hope and more hunger for other Europeans to qualify, because I think the surfing is there. On the QS everyone surfs really good, but you just have to surf that 1% difference and then you’re in. You’ve just got to really want it and have that desire to qualify to make the difference, otherwise you’ll just be another guy grinding.
WL: Are there any areas where European surfing in general could improve, that might lead to more of presence on the World Tour?
FM: I think all of the surfers from Europe, if you put them on the world tour waves, they would be a lot better than if you put them on the QS waves. Because we have point breaks and big barrels in Europe, so if you put all those guys in really good waves their surfing is going to look amazing. The toughest conditions for us is are the QS waves, the half a foot waves, windy waves. In big powerful waves, everyone does good- like in Hawaii Marc made the final, Ramzi, Vasco, Leo they all did really well. But like I said it’s a matter of work and if you want it you’ll get through it. We all have that power surfing base, some of us do more airs or less airs and some of us are better in barrels, but the base is the same.
WL: So how do you think surfers develop into power specialists? Apart from the waves you surf when you’re growing up, do you remember making a concious decision that you wanted your carves to be the strongest part of your surfing?
FM: Yea, since a young age I’ve been working on my carves, thinking about how I can push it harder, how I can put more rail in the water, how I can do a tighter arc. I’ve always had a big goal of having a big powerful carve, and I’m still working on it.
WL: You’re travelling with Richard Dog Marsh, can you tell us about how that relationship works?
FM: I’ve been travelling with Dog for 6 years now, and he’s been such a big help with my surfing and the work side. He’s really made a big difference in my career, and now days Dog is a friend, and almost like a father to us, and he’s our coach. We have a really good relationship, we understand each other we respect each other, sometimes we argue, but I really like the way he works and it really suits me. He’s really straight, he tells you what you’ve got to hear even if it hurts, and it’s good to have someone by your side like that.
WL: Do you think theres been a shift over the last few years away from just raw talent being enough to people really having to work their way on tour?
FM: Yea, I think raw talent nowadays is not enough. You can see it in the fact Adriano [De Souza] won a world title, he’s an amazing surfer but he’s not the most naturally talented surfer, but he won the world title and and he deserved it. That year he was the best surfer in the world. Every comp he got there a week early and was just grinding and working really hard and really focussed and that’s what makes a difference- the work, because there are so many talented guys, but sometimes that bit of work is missing.
WL: And I guess that work has to start pretty young, what age do you think you have to start thinking of surfing as something you have to work on and not just something you are doing for fun if you want to make it?
FM: Yea, it’s a really hard question, because you can always start late, but if you start younger its going to work better I guess, but sometimes you don’t have the tools to start very young.
WL: Do you think it takes some of the fun out of it when you shift your mindset to thinking ‘if I want to make the tour I have to think of this as work’?
FM: It just depends on the fun you’re looking for, if you’re looking for the fun of having a surf and then going and drinking some beers, then obviously it takes away from that fun. But if you want to have the fun of winning comps and making heats and achieving results then no, it doesn’t take the fun away. At the end of the day you can do both, you can have fun going free surfing and enjoying it with your friends and you can work really hard and get good results and have fun doing that as well.
WL: Thanks Frederico, good luck with the rest of your year.