Stab Magazine | Matty Wilko's Battle To Keep His Jeep Leader Title Alive

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Matty Wilko’s Battle To Keep His Jeep Leader Title Alive

For now… A blow by blow account of Tahiti’s most crucial round two heat. 

news // Aug 22, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thirty minutes before his make-or-break round two heat, Wilko’s boat got stuck on the beach. After a morning surf check with Glenn “Micro” Hall they popped in and grabbed a few things before the comp started, the had tide shifted just enough to get their boat stuck. It was only a temporary issue as a few local Tahitians, Micro and Wilko were able to push it off the ground, but in no way, shape or form was the WSL ratings leader amused.

After his loss to Bruno Santos yesterday, Wilko found himself squared up against lethal wildcard Hira Teriinatoofa in the opening heat of round two. Everybody showed up early to watch. John John Florence floated in the background on his ski. Gabriel Medina, who’d been out warming up, sat in the water. To keep his yellow jersey, this was a must win for Matt.

Given the lully, smallish conditions, the affair was promised to be rich in tension. Micro sat in the water as Wilko’s caddy. Michel Bourez worked the backup board for Hira. And, Davey Cathels and Ace Buchan made up the peanut gallery.

Wilko opened first with a funky combination of turns and tubes. The judges threw him a five. It was never going to go into his final scoreline, but Hall smiled.

“Here we go,” he grinned at Michel.

Then the ocean went flat, the boys sat, and the tension grew. Both surfers held their position on the west bowl. At the 23-minute mark, a two-wave set pulsed. Wilko took the first one, Hira the second. Wilko went to turns, Hira pulled into a quick barrel and kicked out early the steal away priority. Hira got the better of the exchange with a 5.10, while Wilko got a 4.50.

Mirco shrugged his shoulders and tugged at his scalp; Wilko paddled by and he barked instructions at him. The stress was starting to build.

“Paddle, paddle, paddle!” yelled Michel as Hira beelined it back out to the lineup.

At the 15-minute mark, another two-wave exchange went down. Again, Wilko drew first blood, this time getting the better of the two waves by a tenth of a point. A fierce paddle battle ensued by both surfers to try and control priority. By the time they hit the lineup, Wilko looked gassed. With a little more than 10 minutes remaining he held to the lead by .17.

“This is getting gnarly,” chided Ace.

After a slowish start, the intensity picked up. Hira bagged a 7.07 to momentarily take the lead. But Hira bogged the wrap around turn on the exit and Wilko quickly countered with a well-surfed 8.00.

A few minutes later, holding down priority, a gem swung Hira’s wave. A deep, wide-open barrel, followed by a fluid wrap, and then it was up to the judges.

Leaning in towards Michel, Micro said, “That was the biggest wave of the heat right there.”

“I don’t know if he’ll get the score?” queried Ace.

The score dropped, a 7.07. It wasn’t quite enough. In the dying minutes, Wilko played stout defense and held on for the win.

“Can we still be friends?” Michel joked with Micro.

Wilko didn’t celebrate. It was clear he knew he dodged a big bullet and knew there was still a lot of work to do. All John John has to do is finish a couple spots better than Wilko here in Tahiti, and he’ll take over the yellow jersey. Wilko will now have a rematch with Bruno. For what this contest may be lacking in surf, it’s not short on drama.


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