The New Normal: Leonardo Fioravanti On Visa Woes, Slater’s Board Choice And Learning New Airs
Or: How to possibly get stuck in Australia.
2020 got off to a good start for Leonardo Fioravanti.
After injuring his shoulder at The Box, Leo missed half of the 2019 CT season. At the end of the year, a complicated wildcard situation led the WSL to a novel solution: He and Mikey Wright would both compete in the first three events, and whoever finished higher in the rankings would stay on the tour full-time. Leo, whom we will not refer to as a stallion, was feeling good and started the year with the biggest win of his career at the Sydney Surf Pro.
Then Coronavirus happened. And his home nation was hit notoriously hard. And the CT got canceled for the foreseeable future. And so he rented a house in Byron Bay and completed a puzzle, because that’s just what you do now.
Please, allow him to elaborate.
Stab: Where are you riding this out?
I had an apartment booked for the Gold Coast comp, so I decided to take advantage of that and stay there for a few weeks. I ended up scoring pumping waves. When that was finished, I decided a change-up would be nice so I rented a house in Byron for all of April into May. I’m with my girlfriend, so it’s been nice here.
Have you been surfing?
I have, but I’m trying to be careful. The more we stay home, the less we spread the virus. So I’ve only been leaving the house to go in the water or to the supermarket. I feel a little guilty for surfing considering the situation in Europe, but it is my job and I’m in a place where it’s OK. I feel really lucky about that. I’ve been in freesurf mode, which has felt good. I’m not worried about finishing my waves and I’ve been trying new things.
Yeah? What have you been trying?
You know those alley-oops with a grab? Julian Wilson does them really well; Josh Kerr does too. I made a little one and came close on a bigger one that I would have been stoked on. They’re really fun.
What’s the trick to getting them?
I think it’s about finding the right section and being able to use the transition like in skateboarding. I’ve been trying to work on my surfing on every level, though. Not just airs.
Have you been riding your normal boards around Byron?
It’s funny, I surfed with Kelly the other day and he asked me, “Are you getting bored of riding the same boards all the time?” I was like, “What do you mean? You did that for like 30 years and got as good as you could get on that type of board.”
I still have so many more things to figure out before I could get bored on a normal shortboard. That’s what motivates me.
Was it hard going into this year, winning a major event and then having to switch gears?
I was so excited to compete this year. After being injured last year and having six months out of the water, the offseason didn’t matter to me. Most surfers are excited to relax, but I already had so much time at home. I wanted to keep training and surfing, so that’s what I did.
Then I got my first ever win at a 10,000 [The Sydney Surf Pro] in March and I was feeling so good. The same day I won, we got told that Snapper was canceled. It was a pretty big shock, but I decided to just focus on things day by day and not worry about what’s next. That’s why I chose to stay here in Australia. It’s probably the best country I could be in right now.
What else have you been doing?
I have a personal trainer who gives me programs throughout the year. Training can be tricky during a normal year because of how many events we have and how unpredictable the windows are. You don’t want to be sore during a comp window. Now that I don’t have to worry about that, I’ve been able to be more consistent with training and work on different things.
How are you killing the rest of your time?
I’m trying to be as positive as possible during a tough time in the world. Today, my girlfriend and I finished a puzzle. It was probably the first time I’ve done that since I was five. I’ve also been reading that book Snowing In Bali, which has been fun. And playing cards, Scrabble, watching Netflix, all that. I’ve even been doing some yoga for the first time. It’s fun to try things I haven’t tried before.
Italy has been hit really hard. Do you know anyone who was affected by it?
No, fortunately. There have been 30-something cases in my town, but nobody super close to me has had it. My family is lucky to be in the central part of Italy — the north got really smashed. It’s still dangerous, though. My Grandma hasn’t left home in 30 days now. She actually loves watching surfing, so she’s been watching all the videos. She even has an Instagram and has been replying to all my stories. [laughs]
Were you addicted to news when things were getting bad over there?
When it first happened, all I did was check the news. I’ve been trying to avoid that lately and just check it out once a day to know what’s going on. And I speak to my family every day, making sure everyone is OK.
When is your visa up in Australia?
Right now, I’m allowed to stay until the end of May. My girlfriend is from the North Shore, so I was thinking about riding this out in Hawaii, but I have an ESTA problem in the US. In 2015, when I broke my back and had to be in the hospital, I ended overstaying my visa by like 12 hours. I’ve been to the US a bunch of times since then, but it somehow didn’t show up on the system until earlier this year. It’s crazy. I had no idea.
In February, I was going to Hawaii and they pulled me up at the border about it. They weren’t even going to let me in, but then they ended up allowing it. I was on parole and they had to hold my passport while I was there. They said if you’re not back in ten days to pick it up, you’ll never be able to come back to the USA.
If you overstay once, you’re not eligible for the ESTA anymore. So I’ve had to apply for a different visa. I’m sure I’ll get accepted, but it’s going to take a little bit of time.
Crazy. So you don’t know your next move?
If I go back to Europe in May, they probably wouldn’t let my girlfriend in. So we might just have to apply to extend our visas here. We’re kind of on standby, but the whole world is on standby. I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens.
Yes, we will. Who is the last person you would want to be quarantined with?
Maybe someone with the virus. That makes sense, right?
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