With over a decade of professional surfing experience, no one would call Frederico Morais a newcomer to the sport. However, the Portuguese surf star did not begin garnering international attention until the end of the 2016 season.
Back-to-back second place finishes in the heavy surf of Sunset and Haleiwa beach in Hawaii quickly took him from No. 46 to 3rd place in the qualifying series, earning him a spot on the 2017 championship tour.
Since that day, Frederico has developed a huge presence in his home country and can even be found sharing billboards and TV spots with compatriot and football legend Cristiano Ronaldo.
Here are the things to know about the 29-year-old, who is known as Kikas, and became the first surfer provisionally qualified to represent Portugal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021.
Morais from Cascais
Morais’s story starts just outside of Lisbon in the small seaside town of Cascais. Although the Portuguese coastline is now considered one of the top surfing destinations in Europe, the sport was only just arriving in the country during his childhood.
Frederico was drawn to the new sport from an early age. As he puts it “Me and my dad kind of started this adventure because it was really new for him as well.
"He had no idea about surfing, he literally bought a wetsuit for him, he bought some fins as well and I basically just grabbed a boogie board when I was around five or six, ”he said to the International Surfing Association.
“Obviously back then surfing was really small in Portugal, to find the gear to start surfing was a bit hard. Everyone was surprised that there was a young kind trying to surf, and especially with his dad behind trying to help him.” - Frederico Morais
A mix of sporting influences for Frederico Morais
Unlike many of his fellow professional surfers, Frederico didn’t grow up in a surfing family and his approach in the water comes from adapted training from a mix of different sports.
“Obviously this whole thing started with my dad, he’s a physiotherapist. So he had no clue about surfing but what he knew about was sports," Morais shared
"He got me into boxing so I had better coordination. He got me into gymnastics so my mobility would be better. He found all these things that he thought could help me improve quicker, and would make me a better surfer.”
Beyond his technique, Morais draws inspiration and mental toughness from his uncle, the former coach of the Portuguese national rugby team. In his own words, “a lot comes with the values that my family have, and I think a lot of them come from rugby as a sport. It’s got that culture of just not giving up and just pushing forward and fighting back. But at the same being respectful.”
The dream of a Morais in the Olympics
After an unseen injury cost Frederico his spot in the WSL World Championship Tour for 2019, he knew he had to find a new way to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
So, in the fall of 2019 he made his way to Japan for the ISA World Surfing Games with a big task. “To secure a spot for Portugal you had to be the best European in the ISAs, and there’s a lot of good surfers.”
When Morais reflects back now he can see that he was, “in a good mind space, and it just went from there.”
Over the next week, which was captured by the Olympic Channel originals series 'Road to Tokyo: Surfing - The Qualifier Stories', he not only cemented himself as the top surfer from Europe, but also earned his qualification to represent Portugal in the Olympic Games.
When he got the news of his qualification, Frederico was not just over the moon for himself but for the aspirations of his family before him.
“My father and my uncle always said that one of their dreams was to be in an Olympic event, and well they weren’t, but I’ll be in one, and there is going to be Morais, my last name, which is also my father and my uncle’s name there and we all feel proud of it.”
The future for Kikas
Halfway through a new World Championship tour, and with his first Olympic Games looming on the horizon, Morais’ focus remains on being adaptable, working hard, and paving the way for the next generation of Portuguese surfers.
“It’s such a challenging time it’s almost like riding a wave. You can’t think about what you are going to do, you just have to do what the wave gives you. I think nothing in life is easy, you’ve got to work for it.
"There’s going to be ups and downs, but at the end of the day it’s not even about the results, if it’s you can make someone happy, if you can inspire someone. I think that’s the end goal of a good and happy career” - Frederico Morais