After five frenzied days charged with energy and non-stop waves, Julian Wilson and Lakey Peterson won the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast, respectively, where perseverance prevailed at every level. From the winners who have been poised to break through, to the rookies who toiled for years to get here, what this week's standouts all had in common were deep wells of patience and a profound drive (plus intensive training regimes).
The Finals ran Thursday at Kirra Point, for the first time since 2013, under a light rain as WSL staff and surfers worked to get going at the new location. By the time the hot, Australian sun broke through and fans had pressed together up and down the promenade, some huge performances had begun to unfold. Those who stayed long enough to let the sweat drip down their brows and their bodies pack in tighter, though, were rewarded.
The men's Final pitted Wilson against fellow Australian Adrian Buchan. Both men are seasoned Tour surfers -- this is Wilson's eighth year on the WSL Championship Tour (CT), while Buchan has more than a decade to his name -- but neither is consistently in the spotlight. Wilson, who became a father just two weeks ago, also struggled through severe shoulder pain throughout the event after a pre-season mountain bike injury. Despite the tape that still had criss-crossed his skin, he had an intensity of purpose here that in the past, tended to come through in fits and starts.
But here at Snapper, and then Kirra, Wilson seemed fueled by something new. Call it focus, call it fatherhood. Whatever shifted, it worked. After taking down some of the upstarts who wreaked havoc this week, like Michael February and Michael Rodrigues, Wilson opened the Final with a jaw-dropper of a 9.93 for a throaty tube. That put Buchan on his heels from the start, and he spent the rest of the Final battling back. The Australian icon came back with a 6.50 and an 8.60 -- not enough to win the event, but more than enough to catapult up the ranks, from No. 16 to No. 2 in the world.
Wilson, meanwhile, when taking the win, was the only surfer this week who was able to put the brakes on rookie Griffin Colapinto's total rampage. In fact, Wilson defeated the Californian twice -- first in Round 4, and then finally in the Semifinals. Of the surfers who didn't make the Final, Colapinto, along with Brazilian rookie Tomas Hermes, were shiny standouts, taking down Tour titans, one by one. Among Colapinto's victims were 2012 World Champ Joel Parkinson and, in today's Quarters, Tahitian powerhouse Michel Bourez.
Hermes, too, took a wrench to the natural order of things here in his first-ever CT event. Mick Fanning and Filipe Toledo were just two of the victims in his path of surf destruction. Afterward, he lamented defeating his good friend, Toledo, but was still beaming with unmistakable joy.
"[Filipe's] a good friend of mine, and wish him nothing but he best on the Tour," Hermes said. "He surfed really well and put up a fight. I'm happy to be advancing into the Semifinals, and to keep enjoying myself, and catch some more waves." Buchan ultimately ended the rookie's run in that next heat, but not before Hermes did some serious damage to the establishment.
Meanwhile, the Roxy Pro had its own brand of steamrolling, as fresh faces pushed through to the final rounds. The Final captured this emerging world order perfectly, as Californian Lakey Peterson went up against Australian Keely Andrew. Both women have had flashes of brilliance, with Peterson a perennial Top 10 finisher, working toward the Top 5 (she finished 2017 as No. 6 in the world) and Andrew working her way into the Top 10 (she finished 2017 at No. 11). Each woman arrived here physically stronger, mentally more confident, and utterly determined to achieve their respective goals.
For her part, Peterson spent the offseason surfing heavier waves with her coach, Mike "Snips" Parsons, training in the gym, and, on the personal side, getting engaged to her longtime boyfriend. Andrew, too, came back to Tour fit, refreshed and ready to do better at each stop on Tour than she did last year. Plus, she took a few weeks away from surfing by traveling with a friend over the holidays and resetting for the new year.
Both of those approaches came to bear in their Final. Peterson opened with an 8.00 and a well-deserved claim, making the solid Kirra sets look playful. She followed it up with a 7.67, quickly putting Andrew in a combo situation -- meaning she needed two new scores to catch up. Andrew never did catch up to her more experienced opponent, but it didn't matter. In the end, she had a blast, and is kicking off the year as World No. 2.
Peterson, however, has her eyes set squarely on the World Title prize. She unequivocally stated her intentions in a chat before the season kicked off, and she went for it in a big way here in Coolanagatta. After her Semifinal, when asked how she'd feel about taking the yellow Jeep Leaders' jersey to Bells, she said, "I haven't been in that color yet, and I'd really love to be."
Still, going into her seventh season on Tour, she -- like the others here who had huge breakthroughs -- takes the long view. "You know, one heat at a time, it's all a learning process," she said. "It's a really long year."