Matt Wilkinson is pro surfing’s most colorful free-spirited character. The 29-year-old Australian goofyfooter grew up in the tiny town of Copacabana, just south of Avoca Beach, in New South Wales. There were lean years, where he and his single-parent father Neal lived in the local Surf Life Saving Club or wandered the coast in their $3,000 van. Jovial, highly creative and self-effacing, Wilko is beloved by his peers for his antics both in the water and out. Early in his career he rarely shied away from parties and he’s always had a thing for offbeat fashion (including hair perms) and just plain fun. In 2011, he was spotted on Rollerblades at the Quiksilver Pro. Void of any major results during those years his CT survival was consistently in doubt. Things finally began to change in 2015, however, after he convinced former tour surfer Glenn “Micro” Hall to coach him. In the aftermath of that season, Hall reinvented Wilkinson’s competitive approach, adding touches of order to his creative chaos. The move paid off instantly. In 2016 Wilkinson shocked the world by winning his first two Championship Tour events in back-to-back affairs at Snapper Rocks and Bells Beach. He finished the year at No. 5. Then, as if to prove it was no fluke, he finished No. 5 in 2017 as well, nabbing his third CT win at the Outerknown Fiji Pro along the way. Today, Wilko is considered a new man. He’s as creative and crazy as ever, but now he’s a World Title threat to boot.