Nat Young walks with a serious swagger in Western Australia. The Californian, who is surfing in place of the injured Italo Ferreria this year, has the highest average finish of any surfer at the Drug Aware Pro with 5th place finishes in 2014 and 2016 and an equal 3rd in 2015.
So when Young was paired with World No. 2 Matt Wilkinson in a Round Two death match on Thursday, geeks in the Fantasy Surf camp knew an upset was highly possible. After all, Young's average heat score (AHS) at Margaret River is 12.83 to Wilkinson's 9.81. But his win percentage at Margies is even more glaring, at 55.56 percent to Wilkinson's 30 percent.
"I feel really comfortable here," Nat said after handing Wilkinson a painful early round loss. "I've been coming here since I was 16 years old and these waves are always kind of similar to what I surf at home."
For Young, the win justifies his global criss-cross. After failing to requalify for the Championship Tour last year, he's hoping that a combination of wildcard entries and injury replacement opportunities will get him back on Tour.
He won the trials at Snapper, earning a precious wildcard spot, only to be sent home early by a revived Kelly Slater. He hung around the Gold Coast afterward, hopeful of getting news of a Margaret River opportunity, but it didn't come.
Nat flew back to California, and was barely off the plane when he received news that Italo Ferreira had been hurt at Duranbah, and had withdrawn.
Nat didn't even bother unpacking. He was on the next flight to Perth.