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Frederico Morais: Portugal surfer on career ups and downs in the WSL and the next generation

The 30-year-old speaks to Olympics.com about his struggles this season and how he plans to bounce back, as well as the upcoming generation of Portuguese surfers.

4 min By ZK Goh with Ash Tulloch | Created 22 September 2022
Frederico Morais of Portugal at the World Surfing Games ISA 2022.
(Picture by Ben Reed)

It's been a difficult year for surferFrederico Morais – and he'll be the first to admit it.

The Portuguese has struggled since a successful 2021 was derailed by him testing positive for Covid before surfing's Olympic Games debut at Tokyo 2020, and has fallen off the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) despite ranking in the top 10 last season.

Speaking to Olympics.com's Ash Tulloch at the ISA World Surfing Games in Huntington Beach, California, the 30-year-old said the structure of this season, which featured a cut on the WSL CT after the year's fifth event at Margaret River, Australia, was "a really tough one" for him to take.

"(In) 2021 I finished top ten, the best year of my career, and then the next year I'm falling off on the fifth stop of the tour," Morais said.

"It's a really tricky one because you're kind of counting on all the stops and then there's a cut on the fifth stop. Sometimes you go bad at the start of the year, then you kind of make it up on the second half of the year, so there is no room for mistake."

Frederico Morais on bouncing back from disappointment

The native of Cascais has been here before.

"It's really challenging because it's like you're living the best years of your life and then it's over and you got to do it all over again," Morais said of falling out of the top tier.

"I've done it twice. I qualified my first time in 2016. Then in 2019, I re-qualify it again, and hopefully now in 2022, I'll re-qualify again."

However, the realities of no longer competing on the CT and instead being on the second-tier tour have hit home.

"Being on the world tour and then being on the Challenger Series, it's literally two completely different tours in terms of waves, in terms of sponsors, in terms of image and marketing and just obviously money-wise.

"You really need to adapt yourself, your whole structure, who you're counting on, all your expenses. And sometimes that's not easy at all."

How Frederico Morais overcomes doubts

Mental health remains an important topic in sport, and surfing is no exception. "I've been working with a sports psychologist since I'm 16, 17," Morais acknowledged.

"I guess it's almost like a mentor these days. It's someone I speak (to) openly. I'm not ashamed of telling anything, any fears, any stuff."

And does it show? Yes, according to Morais.

"If it's waves, if it's nerves before a hit, or if it's why I lost, why I didn't. So it's someone where I can completely trust and open so we can figure out how I can better my performance. And it's pretty good. It makes a huge difference in my career."

The next generation of Portuguese surfers

At the ISA World Surfing Games, Morais is with his countrymen and women representing Portugal in an attempt to win a qualifying spot for the Olympic Games Paris 2024, with the surfing competition due to be held on the Teahupo‘o wave in Tahiti.

As one of the few top-level surfers on the WSL, Morais is hopeful that the next generation is ready to step up.

"There's support. We have a lot of events in Portugal," he said.

"We have really good waves in Portugal. Obviously, our surfing there is really recent compared to Australia, America, Brazil. So we're still developing a lot of intel and in terms of coaches and even athletes and all the methods."

But it will not be a quick process, Morais acknowledged. "You know, just little things, that takes time.

"But we definitely have really good coaches, we have really good upcoming kids.

"So I think it's just a matter of time that you'll see some other kid doing the QS (qualifying series) and, you know, doing the CT (Championship Tour) as well."

What's next for Frederico Morais

Morais has his sights firmly set on Paris 2024 after missing out on Tokyo due to his positive Covid test.

But more pressing at hand is attempting to get back onto the WSL CT.

"I guess we're doing it for the dream," he explained. "It's every surfer's dream to be on the tour. It's still my dream. And I feel like I still have a lot to give."

And with Portugal's upcoming talents on his radar, Morais wants to play a role in bringing the next generation through.

"I don't want them to be another Frederico Morais. I want them to have their own career. But if I can help in any way, or if I can inspire them in any way, then my mission is accomplished."

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