The Wilko Dilemma

Chris Mauro

Matt Wilkinson's astonishing rise to the top of the ratings this year caught everyone by surprise. Dive deep into his career numbers and you'll find absolutely nothing that would indicate such an impressive breakout. During his first six years on tour his average rank was No. 21, as he struggled to stay on the Championship Tour.

But this is a brand new Wilko in 2016.

Can Matt Wilkinson keep his incredible 2016 run going in Tahiti? The WSL desk team debates.

Thanks to his coach, Glenn Hall, Wilko's adopted a new mindset, and he's successfully broken his old pattern of merely surviving. Now he's thriving, and enjoying his place at the top of the rankings. But he's got plenty of threats looming. John John Florence and Gabriel Medina are set to give him a run for the World Title, and every indication is the No. 2 ranked Florence and No. 3 ranked Medina will make a pretty solid charge in Tahiti. According to the stats they're two of the most dominant players in history out there.

Matt Wilkinson placed second in the final of the Fiji Pro. With the help of his coach Glenn Hall, Matt Wilkinson will be trying hard to keep his dream season going in Tahiti. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

In his four appearances at Teahupo'o, John John Florence, for example, has an average heat score (AHS) of 16.58, which is higher than everyone including Kelly Slater and his 16.17 average (though Kelly's is over 15 events). Medina, meanwhile, isn't that far behind at 15.73, which puts him at No. 3 all time based on surfers with multiple appearances.

Matt Wilkinson Matt Wilkinson's past Teahupo'o performances, like all others, should be ignored if you're trying to predict what he'll do this year. - WSL / Kirstin

By contrast, Matt Wilkinson's AHS at the Billabong Pro Tahiti is 11.23. He's not even the Top 30.

Another key indicator worth examining is each surfer's round per event average (REA). In this category Medina leads the pack at Teahupo'o, averaging 6.25 heats surfed in his four appearances. John John, who's also surfed the event four times, has an average of 5.5 heats surfed each time. Wilko's, by contrast, is 3.33.

But while these stats are worth paying attention to when it comes to John John and Gabe, Wilko has been bucking the stat trend all year.

After all, Wilko's numbers heading into the Fiji Pro were nearly identical to his numbers heading into Teahupo'o, yet that didn't stop him from making the Final. And that's been the case at nearly every event this year. So when it comes to Wilko in 2016, toss the stats out the window.

Matt Wilkinson's incredible run to the Final of the Fiji Pro was not something his career stats predicted.