He might not be reinventing the cutback, but Wilko brings his own unique flavour to surfing.
Matt Wilkinson: The Hero Surfing Deserves
This is definitely not a tennis tour.
It’s 2017. You’re a professional surfer — a player in the CT’s Title Race, no less. You just won your first event of the year and now you stand, overwhelmed by emotion, on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Time feels slow as you watch Strider Wasilewski leave a sunscreen stain on his microphone before he pushes it towards your face.
“What are you going to do now?” He says, with somehow more syllables than required.
You know you’re on a live webcast. You know that professional surfing, in 2017, is for some reason supposed to be professional. You know that half the people watching want you to fuck up so they can make fun of you on the internet.
A. Go back home and figure out my boards for the next event.
B. Work hard and build on this momentum.
C. Get to the next stop early to train.
D. Just take it heat by heat and see what the rest of the year brings.
E. I’m going to go drink beer. What else do you do? because you are Matt Wilkinson and you are the hero that surfing deserves.
There’s nothing particularly heroic about drinking beer on Namotu — unless you try to kayak out to Cloudbreak in the dead of night in a mission that is 10 percent Eddie Aikau and 90 percent skull dragger, like a certain pro surfer did years ago — but there is something special about Wilko.
Surfing-wise, he’s not going to re-invent the Dane. Wilko’s as sharp as they come and can make a wave look good, anywhere, at any point in time, and be flashy while doing it — but his flavour of surfing isn’t going to lead us into any new territory.
His value comes from elsewhere.
For a while, surfing was plagued by a system where the top five guys were the top five guys and everybody else got a couple grand and an Osiris sponsorship for showing up. It probably sold a lot of boardshorts, but it also made a couple dozen people consistently wonder what the fuck to do after Round 3 was over. That’s been changing in the last few years, thankfully. This year is a different animal though. It’s fair to say that the stationery top five is officially dead.
Wilko’s partially responsible for that, and he’s doing it his way. The way that tastes like a cold beer and sounds like a contagious laugh. The fun way. And who knows where it will take him?
He is the current ratings leader. And he can win more events. Maybe John’s rut continues and this is Willy’s year. In a few months, he could be standing on a podium in Portugal, wearing a Ninja Turtle wetsuit, taking in the emotion of his first World Title, telling the kind people of Peniche that he is going to drink all their cherished Douro wine later. The fact that this is a legitimate possibility makes surfing great (again).
Because even after all these years, it's still not a tennis tour.