Stab Magazine | Micro Hall is coaching Matt Wilkinson (and surfing against him!)
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Micro Hall is coaching Matt Wilkinson (and surfing against him!)

Words by Elliot Struck Glenn ‘Micro’ Hall is currently ranked 28th on the Samsung Galaxy World Tour. Matt Wilkinson is ranked 14th. Which is all rather straightforward, besides the fact that Micro is Wilko’s coach. Micro’s a blue-collar competitor. Nine-point rides are unicorns in the Oz-Irishman’s world, but he’ll bank two 6.5s most days of […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Words by Elliot Struck

Glenn ‘Micro’ Hall is currently ranked 28th on the Samsung Galaxy World Tour. Matt Wilkinson is ranked 14th. Which is all rather straightforward, besides the fact that Micro is Wilko’s coach.

Micro’s a blue-collar competitor. Nine-point rides are unicorns in the Oz-Irishman’s world, but he’ll bank two 6.5s most days of the week. His competitive game relies on strategic savviness, experience his biggest asset. The 34-year-old has spent most of his two years on tour in the danger zone (he’s finished 34th and 33rd). He also scorpioned himself on a Fijian reef mid-heat in 2013 and clawed his way back to form. If there’s one thing no one can accuse Mr Hall of, it’s being easily rattled.

Then we have Wilko, who owns one of the tour’s best backside finners and is the only man to have ever rollerbladed into the competitor’s area before a heat. The 27-year-old has spent his first five years on tour hovering around an early 20th ranking. Ask most and they’ll tell you he hasn’t realised his potential yet – Kelly Slater expressed feels that Wilko was one of his favourite on tour when the goofyfooter first qualified, but Wilko’s ability to take tour life seriously has been a slow progression. Obviously no one wants a robot, but there’s a reason why those who keep outta trouble own the best results (with exceptions i.e. every pro surfer in the 90s).

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If all Wilko learns from Micro is how to be a gritty competitor, it’s cash well-spent. How to go 12 o’clock is a bonus. Photo: WSL/KC

And so in 2015, it comes to be that the most famous client of Micro’s Surf Academy is Matt Wilkinson. “We’ve been traveling a lot together,” Micro told the WSL. “We’ve been good friends forever since we grew up in the same area so we already had the relationship. We know each other so it wasn’t like trying to find someone new in his corner, but finding that awkward balance between being friends and having a coaching relationship. Wilko had a reality check since he almost fell off Tour a couple years and he knows he’s a lot better than that and obviously I do too. I had a little chat with him and told him, “Hey, you’re better than that.” He thought it was probably a good time to change his ways.”

The World Tour is the highest possible echelon of surfing. Only 34 people every year make it there. To battle through the highly unglamorous qualifying series to get to the Dream Tour is far from a cakewalk. Which is why it’s so hard to fathom a surfer going through this process and realising their dream, only to then be coaching a fellow World Tour surfer. Micro is an over-achiever, no doubt. And, he gets something personally beneficial from coaching: “It keeps my mind on the game. When the coaching came around I felt like I was benefitting from it as well. I look at things a bit closer because I’ve got someone else I’m giving the info to. It’s a weird way to be but it’s kinda of how it’s turned out. When I’m thinking of things for Wilko I’m also thinking about them for myself.”

Micro_Coach_Wilko_Matt_Main

Mr Wilkinson beat his coach in his first J-Bay heat. Photo: WSL/KC

But there’s also the cash side of things. “When I don’t have a sponsor it helps me get by financially,” Micro told the WSL. Coaches generally make somewhere between $80k and $150k on tour. Throw travel expenses in the mix and having someone to keep you tuned up becomes expensive. Word is that Wilko has a mentor budget through Rip Curl which he uses to help cover travel and accommodation expenses for Micro. This is philanthropic on Wilko’s behalf, since Micro’s presence at each event is guaranteed regardless. And the extra cash no doubt suits Micro just fine. I even wonder if an event-winning Wilko would gift Micro the industry-standard $10k coach bonus. Anyway, on paper, the partnership is harmonious. But, the fact remains that they’re still gonna have to surf against each other. Which they did, in the opening round of J-Bay. And Micro lost. “We’re both going into a role where you kind of have to wing it along the way and one thing I said was that we’re going to stay good mates to the end of it all,” Micro told WSL of the dynamic. I also can’t help wondering how Micro compartmentalises his roles; Paddling out, does he think, “Ok, I have to beat Kelly Slater in this heat, but I also have to beat the guy who regularly deposits cash into my account.” That can’t be good for a heat strategy.

So, what kinda things does Micro teach Wilko about? “As a professional surfer, one thing I’m really big on is balance,” Micro told the WSL. “If you’re going too far with the training every day and get too serious you might lose the fun in it and if you’re having too much fun you’re not going to do all the little things and you’re not going to achieve as high as you can. The other thing is to surround yourself with good people. You’re on the road a big chunk of the year so if you’re uncomfortable with the people you’re with you’re going to end up counting down the days until you can go home. What we do, you have to adapt to being on the road. Over the years I’ve seen guys either with a crew that’s going to bring them down, or they’re miserable on tour and it’s just a downward spiral from there.”

And there’s plenty more advice where that came from, with nothing held back. As Micro assured the WSL, he’s keeping no secrets from the guy who’s helping fund his tour campaign. “I can’t have someone paying me and then not tell them everything.”

Photo: WSL/Stephen Robertson

Coaching benefits aren’t visible overnight. Keep an eye on Wilko as the year develops. Photo: WSL/Stephen Robertson

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