Stab Magazine | Wilko’s Saviour and the Mick Fanning Effect

Watch 'Wildcard: The Moana Jones-Wong Story'


Wilko’s Saviour and the Mick Fanning Effect

The consequence of point poachers for those in the Title race.

news // Aug 2, 2016
Words by Shaun Fisher
Reading Time: 3 minutes

So you’re John Florence, you stand tall and shake your blonde curls as you stick your fifth technical air reverse of the competition. For the first time in your surfing career, the yellow jersey seems in reach. It’s at your fingertips. This is your most consistent season yet, you are on your game, finally answering the calls for ‘the world’s best surfer’ to actually become the legitimised, official world’s best surfer.

Then Mick comes in. The man who defeated a shark and paddled back out. The best righthand rail surfer in the game. Two perfectly timed set waves, a high 9 and a 7.7, and you are left scrambling for the leftovers, knowing that the jersey won’t yet be yours. Though, it isn’t Mick’s either. In 2016 it will never be Mick’s, because he doesn’t even want it this year. He is just requalifying.

Mick isn’t the first guy to poach CT events to requalify – in 2009 Andy Irons took a break and only surfed in a few events. In the end, however, he had to ask for a wildcard entry. In 2013 Kelly did the same, winning Fiji, Pipe and Snapper and skipping most of the rest. While this is a perfectly legitimate tactic, and not many surfers on tour are capable or confident enough to go into an event knowing that they must win to stay out of the Q grind, or can steal a wildcard spot that someone else might legitimately need (er, uh, Owen, Bede), it raises the question – how does this affect the Title?

Wilko is thrilled. Second and third round knock-outs have caused some turbulence in his title lead and Gabs and John are hungry, freakishly talented, and pulling closer. But the jersey remains Wilko’s. In fact, he has now been clad in gold through every event of the first half of the season, a feat unmatched since Kelly was dominating the circuit. And while Wilko has a shot at taking out Tahiti with that goofyfoot edge, and running seven straight contests on top, in J-Bay, Mick saved him.

Wilko J Bay

Wilko, still numero uno. WSL/Kelly Cestari

“World Titles aren’t the biggest thing for me anymore,” admitted a redeemed Mr Fanning after tackling his fears and winning in South Africa. This means he will continue to disrupt the rankings and make or break title aspirations for the foreseeable future because every time a surfer chooses to requalify instead of campaign, they affect those truly hunting for the big win.

This year, more than ever, we’ve seen surfers skipping select events – namely the Oi Pro, which Mick, Kelly, Taj and Kai all missed for various ‘personal reasons’. They felt comfortable that they would requalify without the sacrificed points, and are content watching the title race from the sidelines. This may seem like a perfectly reasonable choice, because a break from the rigorous schedule of the tour is always nice, maybe even deserved, but as spectators we deserve to see the world’s best compete with the world’s best, not a ruptured amalgamation of those who bother to show up.


John, winning, feels right. Just like Rio. WSL/Daniel Smorigo

So can the WSL force the surfers to compete? They are formal employees of the League, taking home a healthy cheque for even a second round loss, and generally (in my experience) those who don’t show up to work don’t keep their jobs. But this is surfing, we’re relaxed here, competitors high-five and hang out and party after heats. And while there’s a plethora of legitimate reasons for surfers to pull out of events, whether it’s family crises or injury, or both (you’re an absolute boss Mick), one can’t help but wonder what the full extent of surfers taking advantage of the WSL’s relaxed system would look like, and the effect that it might have on the future of the sport. 

In the meantime, when competitors choose to poach events to requalify instead of competing, and win, wherever there is a defeated John John there will be a rejoicing Wilko, and a dissatisfied spectator begging to watch Mick fighting them both for the trophy.


Mick wins, John claps, title race remains stationary. WSL/Kirstin


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent


Unlocked: ‘Nozvid’ In All Its Glory

Two years and $100K later.

Dec 8, 2022

How To Watch The Vans Pipe Masters

With less than 24 hours to go, we've put together a complete list of rules…

Dec 7, 2022

Watch: Stab’s Best Wetsuits of 2023

Our quest to objectively establish the best men's suit, women's suit, and booties out of…

Dec 7, 2022

Eithan Osborne Belongs On The 2003 World Tour

But he's gotten an invite to the 2022 Vans Pipe Masters, so we caught up…

Dec 7, 2022


“I Could Do Reels And Surf Two Foot Beachies And Hoard Cash But That’s Moral Suicide”

Noa Deane’s thoughts on money, media, airs in glassy waves and more.

Dec 7, 2022

Wildcard: The Moana Jones-Wong Story

The rise and rise of Mrs. Pipeline.

Dec 6, 2022

Watch: Torrey Meister’s Gunslinging SEOTY Entry

"Bull-riding is such a great warmup for surfing big waves."

Dec 6, 2022

Guess Who Else Just Got Invited To The Vans Pipe Masters

3 more withdrawals, and 3 more exciting replacements.

Dec 6, 2022


‘Buying Double Cheeseburgers, Acting Like He’s Hit Some Sections Today’

RAGE 400 drops ft Noz, Chun, Creed, Vinny, Jel, Wado + others!

Dec 5, 2022

What’s Happening To Orange County’s Sand, And Is It Worsening The Waves At Lowers?

Read this to upgrade your understanding of your local beach break and coastal environment.

Dec 5, 2022

Here Are The 15 People Who Qualified For The 2023 CT

After seven events and much groveling, 10 men and 5 women will officially be CT…

Dec 3, 2022

An Ode To Aussie Chick Pros From The Nineties 

A celebration of stoicism, resilience, grit, core lordship, and unconditional love.

Dec 3, 2022

Update: John John Flushes Everyone Down The Haleiwa Toilet Bowl

And the CT qualifications for 2023 are set.

Dec 3, 2022


Riaru Ito Is Cooler Than His Cucumber Garden

Meet our passion pick for the Vans Pipe Masters.

Dec 2, 2022

5 New Surfers Confirmed For The Vans Pipe Masters

Who's out, who's in?

Dec 2, 2022

Unlocked: Kael Walsh, Rolo Montes, And Al Cleland Jr In ‘Saturn’

Quik’s new 20-minute surf film is so good you’ll want to burn a DVD of…

Dec 2, 2022

How Surfers Get Paid, Episode 4

The energy drinks are here. They’ve got millions of dollars, and they want your head.

Dec 2, 2022

‘Saturn’ Orbits Into Southern California

Quiksilver's newest film made landfall in Encinitas, and we were there to document the occasion.

Dec 1, 2022