Ethan Ewing is poised to make a remarkable recovery from multiple back fractures as one of four Australians vying for world surfing titles in California.
The Queenslander fractured his L3 and L4 vertebrae in a Teahupo'o wipeout ahead of the Tahiti Pro early last month.
His absence from that event dropped him from second to third in the Championship Tour standings and left Ewing scrambling to be fit for the WSL Finals at Lower Trestles.
But the Stradbroke Island talent will chase a maiden title, looking sharp in pre-event sessions with retired Australian great Mick Fanning to emphatically prove his fitness.
"I definitely didn't think I was going to be here," Ewing said ahead of the tournament window opening on Friday night (AEST).
"I was really worried about making a full recovery but just had a really good team around me and been getting lots of support.
"He (Fanning) could still be in the finals with a shot at the title.
"He keeps me pretty humble and it's good to have that support and someone to surf with."
Compatriot Jack Robinson won the Tahiti Pro to secure his spot in the final five, sneaking into fifth after a year also impacted by injury.
"It's in me now from what I've been through this year ... just let it shine," he said of his mantra to 'let the light in'.
NSW 20-year-old Molly Picklum is the women's fourth seed while Tyler Wright will shoot for a third world title after finishing the regular season in second place, narrowly behind five-time champion Carissa Moore.
Wright won back-to-back titles in 2016-17 before a harsh bout of the flu led to a diagnoses of post-viral syndrome, a painful form of chronic fatigue that left her bedridden and without answers for more than a year.
"It's the first year I've completed since 2017 and to put a full year together has taken a lot of work," she said.
"It was something I didn't know if I wanted to do again, but it's a beautiful opportunity to be here."
Swell from Hurricane Jova has added another factor to the mix at the reliable break, with forecasters predicting day two or three of the window as a likely launch point.
The top-five shootout will see the fourth and fifth-ranked surfers face off in a sudden-death heat, the victor moving on to face the third seed.
That continues until the final round against the top seed, with a best-of-three battle to decide the champion.