As if Michael February's last few days haven't been enough of a whirlwind, the 24-year-old South African kicked things up another notch Tuesday at Snapper Rocks when he eliminated Matt Wilkinson from the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast.
As the first injury alternate for the WSL Championship Tour (CT) this year, February found out just two days ago that he'd be filling in for Kelly Slater here at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Intensifying the proceedings, February didn't find out until Round 1 had already run, putting considerable pressure on him for a Round 2 start, in which the person who loses is eliminated.
"Starting my first heat in Round 2 was kind of weird, because you don't have that first round to feel your feet," he said. "It was really tricky, the waves right now are out of the north. there's at best two, maybe three good waves in a heat. It changes from being a surfing heat to [one of] strategy."
February was already absorbing his imminent role as the replacement for Mick Fanning, who will be retiring after the next event of the year, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. But a late-hour jump into the Snapper scrum was something else altogether. And yet, February wasn't about to lost the opportunity not only to stay in the contest here as long as he can, but also to eliminate Wilkinson, specifically.
Their battle was a rematch of sorts, pitting two two against each other for the first time since their heat at the Corona Open J-Bay last July, where February surfed as a local wildcard.
"With the possibility of me being part of this Tour for the year, I want to look at those matchups and improve," he said. "After the heat we had at J-Bay, getting one up on [Wilko] now feels really good for me. I think year's going to be full of a lot of learning."
While February can breathe easy after his achievement today, his road on the big stage has really just begun. When the Quik Pro resumes, he'll face Australian Tour vet Julian Wilson in Round 3, Heat 7.