These five surfers may have missed the praise and some of the glory during the Australian leg of the Championship Tour (CT), but their surfing, and their attitude, deserve recognition.
Adriano de Souza
It might be a stretch to call a World Champion an unsung hero, but Adriano de Souza's surfing over the Australian leg hasn't scored the accolades it deserved. This is partly due to Adriano achieving consistent, rather than breakout, results. However, throughout the three events he consistently posted heat totals in the excellent range and showed the flair and focus that underpinned his World Title Campaign in 2015. In doing so he has crept up to No. 4 on the Jeep Leaderboard, and now lurks dangerously just under the radar. Owen Wright, John John Florence and Jordy Smith may have grabbed the headlines, but ADS again proved his class.
Malia Manuel started the competitive year with a win at the Girls Make Your Move Women's Pro and was in the best form of her career. The ever-smiling Hawaiian might give the impression that she lacks a fierce competitive spirit, but you don't stay at the top of surfing for half a decade without inner steel and an immense will to win. That was best shown when she tore an MCL in her knee halfway through her Round Four heat at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, yet continued to surf through the pain and win her heat. The injury meant she had to withdraw from the Quarterfinals and the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, but it showed Manuel will do what ever it takes to win.
If it wasn't for the incredible comeback of Owen Wright, Bede's journey from a potential career-ending broken pelvis back to the CT may have drawn more attention. However it also might be doing a disservice to Durbidge to only asterisk his surfing in the light of his remarkable recovery. He wants his surfing to stand on its own, and at times throughout the Australian leg he has proved he still belongs at this level. The best example was his Round Two win at Bells over Stu Kennedy where his trademark power, aggression and huge spray were operating at Peak Durbidge.
In 2016, just a few days before the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, Lakey Peterson broke her left ankle surfing near home. It was the first major injury, and setback, in her career. She returned later in the year to compete in the last five CT events, but never scaled the heights that she had pre-injury. Her performance at Snapper in 2017, however, blew away any of the lingering scars, mental or physical, and it took an on-fire Stephanie Gilmore to take her down. She bookended that performance with a Semifinal finish at Bells and again showed just surf fans what had been missing in her absence in 2016. She may not have won an event, but both her surfing and her resilience should be applauded.
It had to be surfing's greatest wildcard story in living memory. Victorian surfer Glyndyn Ringrose had spent a single year on the CT and had surfed his last event at the Pipe Masters in 2000. The closest he had been to a CT heat since then was as part of the water safety teams at events in Fiji and at Bells. However, after a decade of trying, he won the Rip Curl Pro Trials and got another shot at the big time. At the age of 44 it was a testament to both his ability and his fitness that he didn't look out of place among the world's top 34, even if a Round Two loss to eventual winner Jordy Smith ended the dream. For a week, though, Ringrose was at the heart of a surfing fairytale.