Unlocked: Leonardo Fioravanti's Stab Edit Of The Year Entry  - Stab Mag

Unlocked: Leonardo Fioravanti’s Stab Edit Of The Year Entry 

Watch ‘The Cut’ now, and baffle at the quality of both the waves and the surfing.

features // Oct 4, 2022
Words by Brendan Buckley
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Leonardo Fioravanti is a very professional surfer. 

If he wants to surf his best on the CT, he’ll train his ass off. 

If he wants to explore other ways of creating value for himself and his sponsors, he’ll start a vlog. 

If he wants to give back to the core surf community, he’ll hoard all the footage from one of the best sessions of his life, go on another trip to back it up with more A+ clips, produce a Stab Edit Of The Year entry, make some merch, and tour the edit hoping to inspire the next generation — just like Andy Irons did for Leo when he visited his hometown on a surf movie tour many years ago. 

The 24-year-old, who speaks five languages, knows what he’s doing. 

His SEOTY entry is called The Cut — because not making the WSL’s mid-year cut allowed him to chase waves and reconnect with surfing in a way he hadn’t done since qualifying for the CT in 2016 at the age of 18.  

Watch now. And read Leo’s thoughts on the edit, the state of the WSL, the Olympics, the importance of looking after the next generation, and more below. 

STAB: To start, tell us about your edit. 

LEONARDO FIORAVANTI: I’ve been working on my YouTube channel and trying to stay active with it. All that stuff is obviously trending, right? Sometimes jumping on the trend is the right thing to do in your career at a certain moment. And people like Nathan Florence do such a great job at it, but it’s really time-consuming — especially when you have other aspects of your career, which is my case. So this year, it felt like a good moment to start thinking about banking clips and working on a bigger project.

My inspiration started in Portugal. I just had a couple of shit losses back to back on the tour. I had a few weeks free, and we ended up scoring some incredible waves. I had one of the most perfect sessions I’ve ever had in my life. It was eight foot, offshore, and insane for about five hours. It’ll remember it the rest of my life. I was with Kanoa and I think I made 12 to 15 crazy barrels. All the locals were saying it was the best day in 10 years.

What are the chances for me, with the schedule that I have, to be there at that exact moment in time? It was so special that when I came out of the water, I knew I couldn’t just make a vlog out of it. I needed to do something special. 

Then we went to Australia for the tour and I didn’t make the cut. That’s where the name comes from. Basically, the whole point is that there’s always a bright side when bad things happen. I’m a professional athlete in every way — I work out, I train, I wanna be the best surfer and the best version of myself. I was super pissed after not making the cut, and I just needed to blow off some steam and go somewhere to surf my brains out. So, we went to Yo-Yo’s and got some really high-performance waves, which is what I wanted. I was really stoked about my level of surfing in those conditions.

Then we went to the Mentawais for a solid swell. That was another moment that really hit me — just scoring four days of perfect barrels in boardshorts with friends. It was a dream trip. I was like, “All right, I guess I didn’t make the cut, but how can I be sad right now?”

I think you need balance in life. I realized that maybe in those first five events this year, I wasn’t having enough fun. Rolling into a perfect HT’s barrel made me realize that everything is ok. Competing is what I love to do, but I’ve grown up chasing swells, and I should definitely do it more often.

Yeah, that’s the type of wave you commit to memory. Frame: The Cut

Can you talk about your motivation to do premieres and give back to the community? 

Yeah! I loved what Kolohe did for his movie, ‘Reckless Isolation.’ He was giving back to the younger generation and showing them how cool professional surfing is. Some people think we just do it for the money — but really, we just fucking love surfing. I want to give that passion to the new generation.

So, I’m gonna do two premieres. One will be at Ocean Surf in Italy, which is where I started surfing. It’s a surf club started by two brothers, who knows how many years ago, and they’re the core of Italian surfing. I would love to bring the whole Italian/Roman surfing community together and share an incredible night. I want all the surf schools around this area to bring the kids and get them inspired.  

I remember Andy Irons and Dave Rastovich came to Ocean Surf when I was eight years old. They came on a bus, and they did a movie premiere at my beach. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe it. I’m not saying I’m Andy, but I’d still love to give back what I can to the new generation. We remember moments from our childhood as if it was yesterday, you know?

The second time I met Andy was at Trestles. I was 10 years old then. I was with Jeremy Flores and he introduced me to Andy. He said, “Hey, this is Leo” and Andy looks at me and goes, “Yeah, I know who you are. You’re that little Italian surfer.” I could not believe that Andy knew who I was. I remember that moment as if I had it on video.

Hopefully, in years from now, I’ll meet a kid that came to my premiere and fell in love with surfing. I want to have that impact on someone. 

Merch and all! Photo: @tuttologicsurf

You signed the petition asking the WSL to get rid of the mid-year cut when everything was popping off at Bells. Can you talk about what it was like living through that moment as a CT surfer? 

That was definitely not the best moment in professional surfing. When surfers want something different to the League, there’s obviously a misunderstanding. Regarding the cut, it’s simple — most of us think that the world tour is not a half tour. It’s a world tour, and it shouldn’t matter if some surfers are better in the first half of the year or in the back half of the year. 

Maybe the events after the cut suit some surfers better than the ones before, or maybe some surfers were injured for a few events. It just doesn’t seem right. Imagine you fought your whole life on the Challenger Series, with the prize money so low that you were losing money, and finally, you qualified for the world tour. Then five months later, you have to go back to the CS. A lot of surfers on that tour have to work other jobs just to fund their travel to compete.

But in the end, we had a good conversation with Erik Logan, and we all shared our feelings. I hope that it’s good for the future of surfing. It is what it is. 

I had a bad year, and I blame myself for it. I don’t blame the cut. I didn’t perform how I wanted to. But if we can positively impact the future of CT for the next generations, I think getting together and talking about other possibilities is the right move. The vibe during those events was stressful. I paddled out one morning, and Tatiana Weston-Webb, who is the surfer’s representative, was crying because of how intense it was. She wanted to do everything she could for all of the surfers. I straight up told her, “You’re battling for a world title. It’s so cool that you’re taking this so seriously, but you have to focus on yourself as well.” It’s not normal for there to be that much pressure on everyone when they should be focused on surfing their best. 

More tubes = less stress. Simple, but it’s true. Frame: The Cut

Another big part of the new system is the redesigned Challenger Series. How is the vibe there different from the CT? And do you feel it’s different from QS Prime events in the old system? 

I mean, the only difference is that there are fewer CT surfers doing them, which automatically means the level is lower. I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but people aren’t pushing as hard because the CT surfers aren’t there.

Snapper was such a sick event. To be able to do a CS at Snapper, everybody was so motivated to compete. My emotions were pretty low after the cut — we had three days to reset between Margie’s and Snapper, which was pretty heavy. But the fact that it was Snapper made things a lot better. If we were going straight to Manly, I think it would’ve had a very different feeling. Because other than Snapper, in terms of event venues, I don’t see much of a change with the new tour. 

I think the vibe on the CS is very similar to the CT. The Brazilians stick with each other, the French stick with each other, the San Clemente boys travel together, and all the South Africans are together. It’s all very similar in a way. It’s a friendly vibe, and it’s really cool. 

As someone who has competed in both the Olympics and on the CT, which would you rather win? 

For me, the world title is the ultimate goal. But, saying that, winning a gold medal would make me way more of a hero in Italy than a world title would. Obviously, they’re both goals, but the Olympics would mean so much for Italian surfing. I have incredible support from the Italian surfing Federation and from Italy. 

Leo earned =9th place at surfing’s first Olympics. It was a placing he shared with John John Florence, among others. Photo: Sean Evans/ISA

Is it fair to say that, on a personal level, you’d want to win the world title more but on a professional level, an Olympic win would be better for your career? 

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I grew up as a professional surfer and nothing beats winning a world title. That’s the hardest thing in surfing. It always will be. If the Olympics had ten events, then of course it would be the same level. But the Olympics is just one shot. It’s one of those moments where you hope that you will be on fire, you know? There are some days that every surfer has where you feel like nobody can beat you. That things are just going your way. I think you have to be in that moment to win the Olympics.

You qualified in 2016 at the age of 18. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned since then?

First, the surfing level is improving every single day. Everybody’s pushing it so hard. For me, getting through the QS felt very easy. Then I got on tour in 2017, and I got absolutely smoked. That was when I learned how high the level was. 

Another thing is experience. Every year, whether you win or lose, whether you fall off tour or you qualify, you gain experience. You gain knowledge. Something that the new generation has to know is that surfing is constantly evolving. You have to keep working on yourself and keep improving in every possible way if you wanna stay at the top level. It’s non-stop. 

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any surfer?

Figure it out. It’s harder than you think.


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