Julian Wilson started his 2018 campaign on rocky ground. After a mountain bike accident snapped his collar bone a month before the start of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, he somehow willed himself back in the water and won the contest in throbbing Kirra. It was a heroic effort that would propel him into the World Title conversation for the rest of the season.
"Coming off last year I felt like I was in a great spot to give it a good crack this year, but the injury definitely hampered things. When I injured myself, I literally had to take things one day at a time," explained Wilson before the start of the upcoming Billabong Pipe Masters.
"The injury itself had options of surgery or no surgery, but I had a baby about to be born and there was a lot going on. I didn't have time to think about anything else by trying to claw my way through that situation," continued Wilson.
Surfing through the pain all year, he'd go on to make the final at Uluwatu and win the Quiksilver Pro France in brilliant fashion. And now, sitting in a tie for second on the leaderboard, he has a shot at capturing his first World Title.
"It's been such a big year," said Wilson. "I had a shot at the title last year, but I'm a little bit closer this year, so it'll be great to have a great support crew on the beach. It's so nice to have the whole family here."
Wilson admits that the shoulder still isn't 100-percent, but it is the best it's been since the injury.
"I'm still doing rehab on my shoulder. It consistently needs work," explained Wilson. "But I feel like it's the strongest it's been all year. It's nice to have that confidence coming into this event."
Wilson has every reason to be confident. He's feeling good and surfing well. His wife and baby daughter will be by his side. The rest of his family have flown in from Australia for support. And he has the utmost faith in the equipment he will be riding.
"The last four years my quiver, I haven't even had to think about it it's been so good. It's nice not to have to think about that," said Wilson.
In terms of what he'll need to do to win the title, he's focusing on his performance. He will need either to win or get second in the Pipe Masters, depending on how World No. 1 Gabriel Medina does in the contest.
"First and foremost, I need to respect the wave. Then I need to get on a roll. I need to lean on my experience out there and try to find the right waves," said Wilson. "I know I need a great result. All three of us are trying to get a great result in order to get it. Medina needs a great result to clinch it, but obviously if he doesn't achieve that me or Filipe Toledo can win the Title with a great result, so all three of us are looking at going deep in the event."
If Medina makes the Final, the 2018 World Title is his. If he finishes third (makes the Semis), Wilson or Toledo need to win the contest to win the Title. And if Medina gets knocked out anywhere between Round 2 and the Quarters, Wilson or Toledo will need a first or second at Pipe to capture the Title.
Watch the Billabong Pipe Masters live December 8-20 on Worldsurfleague.com App and Facebook.