Matt Wilkinson Wins Second Consecutive World Tour Event (Bells!)
“I dunno if I ever truly believed I’d do it.”
Matt Wilkinson has become the first goofyfooter since Mark Occhilupo 17 years ago to win the Rip Curl Pro, Bells Beach, and in the process opening up a massive 10,800-point lead over the rest of the field heading into the third stop of the year, the Margaret River Pro.
“I feel like in the last couple of years goofyfooters have changed from doing the same turn all the way down the line and, it’s worked against some people, but once you’re up against Joel or Mick on a big open right point all the goofies seem to get smoked,” he said following the win. “I think we’ve all made up new turns and learned how to put variety into backhand snaps. I think it’s great for surfing.”
His biggest challenge came first against stylish Brazilian goofyfooter Wiggolly Dantas. Both surfers struggled to find their rhythm in the warbley, super-sized Bells conditions. Wilko’s backside attack spluttered in the opening stages before finding its mark in a frenetic last minute exchange with Wiggolly. Wilko dropped a 7.43 on his last wave with an opening hook, big hit-to-air-drop and a critical closeout smash. He then built throughout the day, compiling a mammoth 17.27 heat total to leave Brazilian backside powerball Italo Ferreira in combo-land in the semis. He returned to the competitors area after to be greeted by semifinalist and longtime mentor, Mick Fanning. The senior Rip Curl team member gave his teammate some encouragement before he headed out.
“He just gave me a big hug and said congrats,” said Wilko afterwards. “He’s always been there for me. Ever since I qualified he’s been the older figure that you go to for support and he’s unbelievable, he’s the best surfer out here for sure.”
It worked; Wilko put on a backside clinic against South African Jordy Smith in the final. A 9.2 to open, featuring a long run of linked hooks, belts and a closeout float, was backed up with an 8.17, to leave Jordy once more in combination situation. The South African never broke it, leaving Wilko to cruise to an easy victory.
“Ringing the bell has always been a dream of mine,” he said afterwards. “I dunno if I ever truly believed I’d do it.”
Asked about the massive lead he’s opened up, Wilko said it was Kelly Slater who first pointed out the possibility.
“He said it to me in the competitors area and I was like, it’s round three, dude, settle down,” he laughed, adding: “To win here is unbelievable and to have a big lead is something I never expected. I’ve got a lot of work to do, it’s so early in the year, there’s a lot of tricky waves and good surfers on tour trying to steal this off me.”
After seven years on tour, a number of which he spent hovering near the relegation zone, Wilko has struck one of the richest and most unexpected veins of form in memory. He puts it all down to a renewed sense of professionalism and work ethic.
“Every time I miss a surf session I make sure I do training session to make up for it,” he said. “In the the off-time I get as much fitness done as I can and just try and keep the balance between working hard and staying as happy as I can.”
It might have taken him a while to get here, but that depends who you ask. For Wilko, there’s no better time to be peaking than the present.
“Obviously I’ve been working a lot harder than I had. You never really feel like you’re not living up to your potential, you feel like you’re doing whatever you’re doing in your life at that point.
“I feel unreal, I’ve been working a lot harder than I ever have. I know that I could probably have done this earlier, but this feels like a pretty good time to me.”
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Final Results:
1 – Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 17.37
2 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.16
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 17.27 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.40
SF 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.17 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.90
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.30 def. Nat Young (USA) 12.33
QF 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.26 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 12.00
QF 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.90 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 16.17
QF 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 17.77 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 17.26
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach Remaining Round 5 Results:
Heat 3: Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.50 def. Davey Cathels (AUS) 6.33
Heat 4: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.80 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 16.33
2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Top 5:
1. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 20,000 pts
2. Conner Coffin (USA) 9,200 pts
3. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 8,500 pts
3. Kolohe Andino (USA) 8,500 pts
5. Mick Fanning (AUS) 8,250 pts
5. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 8,250 pts
5. Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 8,250 pts
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