At each Tour stop, a jersey is tossed to a local ripper to pit their homegrown skill against the World's best. While local wildcards rarely make the podium, many have sent top-ranked seeds packing in early rounds.
Since being reintroduced to the World Championship Tour in 2014, the Margaret River Pro has seen several disruptive performances by Western Australians. Here are some classic moments from West Oz locals that have transpired at the event over the years ...
In 2014, Cowaramup's Yadin Nicol was given the local wildcard. Nicol smashed Kelly Slater and Bede Durbidge in Round 1, which seeded him against defending World Champion Mick Fanning in Round 3. Drawing on his aerial prowess, Nicol stomped a huge reverse at Main Break for a 9.77, which put Fanning into a combo situation he never found his way out of.
Perhaps the most powerful performance by a local wildcard at the Margaret River Pro was by Yallingup's Jay Davies in 2015. Drawing on his experience at The Box and his blend of power surfing, progressive airs and tube riding, Davies eliminated two World Champions.
At the infamous slab, Davies put on a late-drop to foam-ball ride clinic and bested reigning World Champion Gabriel Medina in Round 2, 3x World Champion Mick Fanning in Round 3 and Jeremy Flores in Round 5. Davies eventually fell in the Quarters to John Florence.
After Davies' incredible performance in 2015, he was invited back to the Margaret River Pro in 2016. Unfortunately for Davies, he didn't find the same rhythm as he did the previous year and was eliminated in Round 2 at Main Break by Flores. Fellow local wildcards Jack Robinson and Jacob Willcox also failed to advance in 2016.
Jacob Willcox earned the local wildcard in 2017 and in a battle of backhands, faced Gabriel Medina in Round 2. In marginal Main Break, Willcox was able to out-carve the World Champion for a narrow win despite Medina having the highest scoring wave in the heat. However, Willcox fell victim to an unstoppable Florence in Round 3.
Now fast forward to the 2019 Margaret River Pro. Jack Robinson, who currently sits in the 5th spot on the QS leaderboard has been given the local wildcard.
Between Robinson's previous performances in the CT arena and his jaw-dropping video parts, his surfing is undoubtedly Tour caliber, especially in waves he's familiar with. Robinson is dangerous at The Box. In freesurfs, he's been known to take a whimsical approach to the consequential slab, occasionally going doubles in the tube with a friend.
If the remaining rounds run at The Box, seasoned Tour veterans like Toledo and the competing World Champions will definitely have their work cut out for them against Robinson. Will Robo be the next disrupter of West Oz? We'll see in the coming days.