Of all the heat wins over the course of the Billabong Pro Tahiti, it could be Ethan Ewing's victory over Filipe Toledo in Round Two that might have the most long-term implications.
It was the 19-year-old's first-ever Championship Tour win in what was his 14th heat of the year. Until that heat Ewing had been the only surfer to fail to win a CT heat in 2017. The losses were stacking up, moving in inverse proportion to his confidence. He was looking to be in real danger of joining Ricky Basnett and Raoni Monteiro in a select group of surfers who had gone through an entire CT season without a win.
"I've been really hard on myself and there's been weeks when I've been really down after a bad result," he admitted in Tahiti. It was a glimpse into the psyche of a young man who was understandably struggling with a six-month run of failure.
It hadn't helped that his form last year had been so electric. Over on the Junior and Qualifying Series he was winning heats for fun. After a totally dominant performance to win the World Junior Championships, many saw him as a real rookie threat on the CT and down the line, perhaps even as a prospective World Title contender.
The cracks, however, started to show relatively early. During the Australian leg he managed at least one score in the excellent range in each event, but struggled to find any decent back up scores. After Australia, the performances deteriorated even further. The excellent scores dried up, making a back-up wave redundant. Coming up against the top seeds he was failing to put any pressure on his opponents during his heats. As all his fellow rookies managed to post at least one solid performance, Ewing was left winless and looked increasingly incapable of turning it around.
That was until Tahiti, when finally a few things started to change. "I kinda felt in my heat with Filipe that it was going my way," he said. "It was one of the weirdest heats of my life. He didn't catch a wave for at least 10 minutes and there was a lot of luck involved. For the first time this year it felt like the luck went my way."
Now a single heat win is not something Ewing was prepared to take as some massive transformation. The overwhelming sense was relief, rather than celebration. In the very next heat he incurred a loss to Matt Wilkinson, even if he did surf a smart heat.
On the flip side, though, is that Ewing can now go to Trestles with a completely different mindset. On paper it was always the wave on Tour that best suited his style of surfing and where he might be able to provide his biggest point of difference. To travel there now without having to deal with the issue of winning his first-ever heat should be liberating. If he can surf with a little more freedom and regain some of the form he had in 2016, more heat wins will come. It might be a little late to save this season, but the confidence could be crucial in paving the way for what should be a long career.
"That Round Two has been getting me all year, and just to get a win under my belt is so good for my confidence," he said. "I'm just really, really happy. This could be a turning point."