Julian Wilson is one of the most talented surfers in the world. Has been for a long time. So why doesn't he have a World Title?
That's a hard question to answer. Wilson has won six Championship Tour events, including last year's Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. He's made 11 CT finals and finished third and second in the world, respectively, the last two years. Since his rookie year back in 2011, he's finished Top 10 in the world seven out of eight tries. Talk about consistency.
While history is against those who don't win a World Title in their first five tries, there are exceptions. Take Joel Parkinson, for example. Parko didn't win the world title until his 12th season on the CT.
Of course, there are other amazing surfers in the world, like Taj Burrow, who retired after 18 seasons without having ever finished No. 1.
2019 will be Wilson's 9th year on tour and to hear him tell it, he's in a better space - both physically and mentally - than he has ever been entering a CT season. He is also back to defend his win at the Gold Coast. So, when his CT career is all said and done, will Wilson be remembered more like Parko, or Burrow? He'll be in good company either way, but you better believe he's gunning for the former ... this year more than ever.
WSL: This time last year you were recovering from a mountain bike injury and nursing a very injured shoulder. Did you surprise yourself to come away with a win at Gold Coast?
WIlson: A huge surprise. As big of a surprise as I think I could have had. Four days out from the start of the event last year I was 90% sure I wasn't going to be able to compete. And then two weeks later I had won the event I've wanted to win more than any other for my whole career. It happened under the most incredible circumstances.
Going in, my expectations were so low that any result at all was going to make me happy. It was a bonus just to be surfing in the event at all and so I was very easily pleased by little things as I was advancing through. I was super challenged by my shoulder - I maxed it out a couple of times, where my shoulder basically gave out on me halfway through a heat and I was thinking I was doing more damage than it was even worth, on top of having a new baby at home. But Chris Prosser [WSL medical director] was unbelievable, he's the reason I was physically able to get through the event.
You finished runner-up to the World Title last year and you were in the thick of the title race right until the very end. But, even with a couple event wins, it didn't appear you ever hit fifth gear. Would you agree?
Yeah, I think at the Surf Ranch was the first time throughout the year where I was able to actually take my surfing back to what I was trying to achieve on the board, and not being completely distracted by my injury. It felt like France and Portugal after that was all about my surfing again,and I was surfing the way I wanted to. I was really up for the fight again and enjoying my surfing at the point. Whereas early in the year, my shoulder was all I could really focus on.
Now, coming into this season, I feel like I'm in a great place. I'm able to focus solely on my surfing and what I'm trying to achieve with my performance. It's definitely a lot more promising starting out feeling this way, as opposed to feeling like there was a huge chance I wasn't even going to be competing in the first event. I think my surfing is in a much stronger place than it has ever been.
Do you make significant changes to strategy or goals from year to year?
Not really. I feel like the beauty of competitive surfing is you're always learning big lessons, especially when you're losing - probably more so when you're losing, actually. Surfing is such a moving target, so I never get fixated on thinking any one thing is set, or is definitely gonna work for me. My equipment and my relationship with JS Industries, has been the most consistent factor I've had in my career. That's a huge part of it, having that consistency. I have a lot of trust in JS. That's allowed me to have a few good runs at the title and that's a huge piece of the puzzle that's nice to have quiet in my mind.
My physical preparation always changes a little bit going into the first event. I always try to make the most of that time off early in the year to iron out the things that build up towards the end of the season, with injuries and other stuff that needs to be balanced out.
What did you do this off-season?
I really enjoyed having that extra month off. I moved in with with my wife to a new house in Newcastle. We're kind of based out of Newcastle now so that's been a nice change. I surfed the Newcastle contest a couple of weeks ago and that was a nice way to surf a couple heats and get the year started and now I feel ready for the season to start. I'm just excited. My body feels good, fit and able and I'm ready to go.
Will the family travel with you this year?
Yeah, they'll be at most of the events, there's only about four they won't make it to. I'll have a lot more time with my family this year, which will be great. My daughter just turned one. It was really special to go on that journey with her last year. I learned so much becoming a father and it helped me shift away from trying to find perfection in a lot of stuff and to just letting go. To be a Dad first and a pro surfer second, which helped me get out of my own way in the process.
Did letting go help you deal with that pressure at Pipe? You seemed so relaxed with everything on the line.
Yeah, I think so. Pipe was special because there were such good waves and lots of opportunity for everyone. It was a great way to let the World Title be decided in really good, consistent waves, with both lefts and rights. It was the ideal sort of Pipe forecast when you have a shot at the title.
But yeah, I have the dream of being World Champion. And I've been close a few times. I dunno, I don't feel like I deserve it in any way, I just feel like it's something that really, really motivates me to make the most of this opportunity in front of me and to keep chasing that World Title.