When we think about Italy, we mostly think about Dolce Vita, cinema or food… but not particularly surf! However, since a few years now, Leonardo Fioravanti, some guy born in Rome, is becoming a subject of conversation. Until now on the QS, the gifted man just qualified for the first time on the CT and is beginning his season in Australia in a few days. Surfagram had the pleasure to meet him in January in Paris. He’s a young charming man, comfortable with himself, who talked with us about his ambitions for the 2017 season!

Surfagram: Last year, still on the QS, you stated during a WSL interview that as a wildcard, you could surf without pressure against opponents who, themselves, counted more on results. For this new season, roles are reversed; you are now a part of the elites. How have you prepared yourself and what do you imagine lies ahead for your first full season on the CT?
Leo Fioravanti: I’m still gonna try to do this without pressure. I begin this year on the QS circuit first, just like last year, with the objective to have two good results and have way less pressure. But for me, I see it as my first year on the CT, I give myself time. I will try to learn as much as possible while enjoying it. I’m going to travel all over the world, in incredible places, with my friends and my team. I feel ready and, if I’m focused enough, I think I can have good results. It will be a great year!

So you confirm that you will participate in both tours, in parallel, this year?
Yes, I do. I hope that after the Australia and Brazil events I’ll have good enough results so that I can only think about CT and not both tours. But you never know what can happen, so I will take part in the QS too.

Some surfers have a routine before the beginning of each event. Do you have a routine as well?
Yes, it’s true that everybody has their own routine. Personally, I don’t like getting up early. So I don’t surf on the morning before an event, so that I stay calm and chilled. Unless there are incredible waves of course! I also organize my day according to the actual event program. I know at what time I must eat, when I have to do my stretching and warm ups. At this level, everybody has a routine and it allows us to get into the water more confidently, as well to be more concentrated on our surf and not on anything else.

The European level is really high and I hope there will be many more surfers in the next years.

This year, several European surfers have qualified for the CT (Joan Duru and Frederico Morais). Do you see it as the return of what has been called the Euroforce?
It’s really great to see so many Europeans qualifying! The European level is really high and I hope there will be many more surfers in the next years. Today, we are a good team and I am sure we will all surf very well and follow in the steps of Jérémy (Flores).

This year, the level in the Top 34 seems even higher than in previous years. Do you have a prediction for the crown?
It’s easy for me to say… John John (Florence) and Gabriel (Medina) of course. In my opinion they are the two strongest surfers. And if Mick (Fanning) decides to participate on the tour this year, he will be very difficult to beat as well. His surf is still incredible. There is also Kelly (Slater) who wants to win the world title. If he comes back with the right equipment, good boards and strong mental power… he will be very dangerous.

Let’s hope for his sake that he won’t surf against you, you defeated him twice during your two last confrontations!
(Laughs) No, it would be fun! Rather the opposite, I hope to be in this situation… because if this is his last year, I want to surf against Kelly in as many series as possible! No matter if I win or lose against him, the important thing is that I gain experience!

Before the interview, you said that you had already travelled a lot and had surfed in a lot of spots (like Fiji last year). Do you think it is an advantage compared to other rookies this season?
Yes, I think it is a huge advantage. I surfed all of the CT spots and I know very well the different places and their waves. For most of them, I actually already surfed there 3 or 4 times. It brings me confidence. However, the level is so high and strong that even if some surfers don’t know the spot yet, all they need is just a wave, some good manoeuvers, and some talent, and that can make a difference.

Speaking of rookies. Last year there was one on the CT you know very well. We are talking about Kanoa Igarashi! We remember seeing both of you, as kids, climbing on the roof of the podium to watch the trophy ceremony of the QuikPro France (5 or 6 years ago). What do you think of his first season on the CT and more particularly of his Pipe Master final?
It was incredible to see what he did at Pipe! Even more surprising because he is mostly known for performing on small waves. It was impressive to follow him at this event. We were all together, we pushed him a lot and he managed to find in himself the resources he needed to reach the final. I really thought he was going to win it. He was on fire! It was really beautiful to look at and it gave me energy and motivation for the season to come. If he can go to the Pipe final, I have the feeling that I can too. It will be incredible to travel and surf on the CT together.

In reality, Zeke is more like a teddy bear! – Leo about Ezekiel Lau

Do you have some stories to tell us about your team mates at Quiksilver? Like Kanoa, Zeke Lau or Kelly Slater from back in the day?
Zeke, for example, looks like an intimidating Hawaiian, with all his tattoos. But the reality is that he is more like a teddy bear! (Laughs) He is so nice and always positive! It was really cool to travel with him those last two years. Having a team like this pushes us to surf better. If you are surrounded by your parents, your trainer and your friends, you definitely will surf better. That’s my case, we move forward together. It’s important.

In your opinion, who is the hardest surfer to defeat on a man on man?
I think Gabriel (Medina) and Adriano (de Souza) are certainly the two most complicated to surf against. They never give up: Right from the beginning of the heats, to have the priority, and until the end, to win… Against them, you know it’s not over until the last second.

As you already know, Surfagram is launching the new version of the website and now provides a lot of statistics about CT surfers with personalized profiles. Are you interested in that kind of data? Could it help you analyze your surf?
For the moment, it’s the beginning of my CT carrier, I know exactly my stats. But in 3 or 4 years, I hope after several years on the CT, it will be very interesting to pay more attention to such data. For example, if I see I have never won a Round 4, it will show me directly where to improve!

Thank you Leo and good luck for your first season on the Championship Tour!

This article has been written in collaboration with Vincent Martin from Planète Surf. Find out more articles, in French, at surf.blogs.sudouest.fr.