When Joe Turpel told Julian Wilson that he still was in World Title contention after his Final loss at the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, the Australian was genuinely surprised. "I still have a shot?," He asked. "That's fantastic. I'll take that."
Until five minutes remaining in the Final, when Wilson picked off a lefthand tube under the priority of his archrival Gabriel Medina, and took the lead, it looked like Wilson was going to take an even bigger reward away from Peniche. However, just as Wilson came back at the death in their Final in Tahiti, this time it was Medina who caught two waves in less than two minutes to snatch the win.
It was bitterly disappointing for Wilson. He'd perhaps peaked in his Semifinal with Kolohe Andino, when he came from behind by mixing his aerial prowess and tuberiding ability to out-muscle the form surfer of the event. A scrappy Final, however, meant his already slim World Title chances remain just that. He now needs to win the Pipe Masters for a second time to have any chance of taking the World Title.
Yet despite the initial disappointment, after the adrenaline drains away, Wilson will take plenty of positives from his efforts in Portugal. Coming back from a hugely disappointing result in France is probably one of the main prizes.
"We know Julian has the surfing package to go all the way," his coach Andy King told the WSL. "This year, though, he has been working more on managing his expectations and keeping himself present and positive. He's doing more work than ever in the water for sure, but that final piece of the puzzle will take time. It's happening though, I can see him improving at every event and enjoying his time on tour much more."
That slow transformation has seen a different Wilson in 2017. He's been more positive and engaged and it's noticeable how he has taken his losses far better than in previous years. That has been especially apparent over the last two weeks. Despite the early loss in France potentially skewering his dreams, his attitude in Peniche has been incredible. He's been the first surfer in the lineup each day, getting up long before dawn and frothing in the surf. Few have dealt better with the range of conditions that Supertubes has thrown up and he's had to scrap through low-scoring heats and then raise his game when it mattered.
A points haul of 8,000 and a shot at the World Title at Pipeline is just reward for both his surfing and his attitude. He's in with a shot and, right now, that is all that matters.