Wilkinson wins 2017 WSL Outerknown Fiji Pro
Wilkinson gets results
"We've had an awesome week that started with pumping waves," said Matt Wilkinson from atop the winner's stand at the Fiji Pro. Claiming his first victory of the 2017, the savvy Australian goofy-footer was able to fend off a hungry pack of veterans and newcomers to take the top spot on the WSL's World Championship Tour rankings. "Happiness translates to results," he added.
"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."
Well deserved spot in the final
For world tour rookie Conner O'Leary, a spot in the final was well deserved. Nobody would have expected him to be there at the start of the contest, but because of his performance, he's legitimized his spot on tour. "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."
Tube riding clinic
One of the in-form surfers of the contest, Tahiti's Michel Bourez, put on a tube riding clinic. He was eventually beat by Wilkinson in the semifinals, but it was as close as they come. "It's a weird feeling because he got that wave with like 20 seconds to go," said Bourez. "He [Wilkinson] just got it at the end so good on him. I'm just super happy to be here -- it's pumping, there are barrels and it's a beautiful day. I wish I made the Final but at the end of the day I had fun."
Hands of the underdogs
This year, Kelly Slater's company, Outerknown, sponsored the contest. Unfortunately the oldest surfer on tour, Slater, lost to an upstart rookie, O'Leary, in Round 3, thus setting the tone for day full of upsets. "I sat most of the heat waiting for a 4.00, but it's a tricky day. Youve seen other experienced guys that you'd expect to win out here losing. It's been total decimation of the top seeds and it's played into the hands of the underdogs," said Slater.
Kelly Slater holds court during the opening kava ceremony on Tavarua. As part of the Fijian tradition, visitors bring gifts to say thanks and the local village welcomes them in with open arms.
Threading the needle
France's Joan Duru is one of the most underrated tube riders in the world. He showed everyone what he's capable of as he threaded the needle into the quarterfinals. One of the biggest results of his career, he'll have plenty of confidence as he looks to make a greater impression on tour.
Plenty to think about
John John Florence, always understated but always traveling in style. He lost early in the contest, then lost the ratings lead to Matt Wilkinson. He'll have plenty to think about in the weeks to come.
Clipped by the lip
In his first contest back since injuring his ankle, Brazilian Italo Ferreira had a good thing going through the quarterfinals. He got clipped by Julian Wilson (and the lip) in the quarterfinals, but overall it was a good result.
Fishing for a good time
Conner Coffin is a big fan of The Allman Brothers Band. There's a bootleg of the band from 1978 called "Fishing For A Good Time." That pretty much sums up life on Tavarua for Coffin and his cohorts.
Julian Wilson launches off the bottom and into the quarterfinals. Losing by less than a point to Wilkinson, it was a positive result for Wilson but stung nevertheless.
Listen to your mom
"My mom always tells me that I surf better on my backhand so I was just thinking about what my mom always says and trying to hit the lip as hard as I could, and it paid off," said Italy's Leonardo Fioravanti. He made it through into the quarters.
The Tavarua island staff. "Thanks for making this place so special and such a joy to return to year after year. They're like family," said photographer Tom Servais.