For a guy who's known best for having one of the best backhands on Tour, Matt Wilkinson's not too shabby in bowly left-handers. Like a jazz man ripping into a solo, Wilko's found the rhythm and tempo of Cloudbreak in a way not far from what John John Florence was doing at Margaret River. Go back and watch his approach -- pump the drop, follow with a deep fading bottom turn, bank into a high-speed layback snap, free-fall into the pocket, milk the tube and finish with a flourish. Shake well, mix and pour over ice. His surfing was perfectly suited for the skate park conditions offered up for the event.
Then opportunity knocked. When eight of the top 10 surfers on the Jeep Leaderboard faltered in Round Three of the Outerknown Fiji Pro, Wilko was left licking his chops like a hyena eyeing a zebra carcass. He seized the moment, taking out Julian Wilson and Ian Gouveia in Round Four, knocked out Jules again in the Quarters before beating the most in-form surfer at the event next to himself, Michel Bourez. Now he's got the chance to double down and do one better than his 2nd place finish at the Fiji Pro in 2016, and take over the Jeep Leader Yellow Jersey in one giant swoop. "I want to win the big trophy this time," said Wilko, "It'd be nice, having come so close last year, I want to bring it home for Namotu again."
With the Tour heading to South Africa for the J-Bay Open -- a righthand point break playing right into his strengths -- Wilko's set up well to make his second World Title run in two years. But this time around, he'll be looking for a different result.