Matt Wilkinson surfs to victory at Fiji Pro
16 June 2017
SURFING: Australian sufer Matt Wilkinson has won the Outerknown Fiji Pro, Stop No. 5 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), after an action-packed Finals Day that saw the world’s best surfers battle in pumping waves at Cloudbreak.
Wilkinson’s win comes after a hard-fought Final against 2017 CT Rookie Connor O’Leary (AUS), and triumphs over 2017 World Title contenders Michel Bourez (PYF) and Julian Wilson (AUS).
The Australian came into Fiji determined to take the win after earning a runner-up finish to 2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) at this event last year.
Wilkinson’s incredible 2016 season saw him win the opening two events and finish the year in fifth place. Today’s win not only marks Wilkinson’s third CT victory, but sees him lead the elite World Title race heading into the next event.
“We’ve had an awesome week that started with pumping waves and then had some lay days,” said Wilkinson.
“If you were going to have lay days anywhere, this is the place to do it. Happiness translates to results.”
Wilkinson will now sport the coveted yellow Jeep Leader Jersey with 26,750 points on the leaderboard. His win advances him past former frontrunner and reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW), as well as Jordy Smith (ZAF), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Owen Wright (AUS).
“I am so stoked,” continued Wilkinson. “It definitely feels good to pick up momentum rather than to have the yellow Jeep Jersey to lose. Now I have it to keep. Thanks to everyone - all my support crew and everyone that has helped me.”
An exciting Final saw both surfers post excellent-range scores in the opening ten minutes. The rookie took a slight edge thanks to his 6.50 back-up score and went on to build his advantage with a 7.37. Wilkinson battled through the rest of the 40 minute bout to turn the heat and with two minutes remaining his persistence paid off and an 8.03 was enough to earn him victory.
Today’s result sees O’Leary move up from 15th to 7th on the Jeep Leaderboard and secure his place firmly inside the Top 10.
The impressive performance from the young Australian sees him leading the 2017 WSL Rookie of the Year race and become the only rookie to make a final this year.
O’Leary won through every heat en route to the Final and defeated 2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS), fellow rookie Joan Duru (FRA) and 11X WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) before meeting Wilkinson in the Final.
“It was such a good final back-and-forth and I’m really glad we put on such a good show for everyone,” said O’Leary.
“Wilkinson’s a legend. He got second here last year so he really deserves the win - he’s been ripping. I’m going to do some training and then head to Ballito and J-Bay.”