Matt Wilkinson Has No Idea What’s Going On

Saturday, April 2, 2016 Bells Beach, Victoria Australia

Take a quick glance at the history of Bells Beach champions and you’ll find the venerable list could easily be surfing’s one and only Hall of Fame. In the past 33 years alone, 75 percent of Rip Curl Pro winners at Bells have held world titles, or were about to.

Yet in this modern age of blow tails and aerial rotations, Bells’ slopey face has been falling out of favor with some of today’s elite tour stars. Their beef is it’s not conducive to today’s new brand of acrobatic surfing, which is half true. Aerials weren’t on the menu Sunday with Bells being 8-to-10 feet and unruly. But Matty Wilkinson spent the entire week chucking his tail.

And what the naysayers forget is that ripping these big chunky faces of Southern Ocean involves a mastery of surfing’s revered essentials: speed, power, and flow; none of which will ever go out of style. If you need proof just go back and watch 30-year-old clips of Curren and Occy clashing in the Bells Bowl.

“I think every goofy footer, still, before you come down here, you watch a bunch of clips of Occy…he’d come off the bottom so hard and rip into the top turn like nobody’s ever done. I tried my best to mimic that, but I’ve got some kind of different turns in my surfing. What I lack in the big power-wraps off the top I feel like I can make up for getting the fins free.”

On Sunday Wilkinson became the first goofy footer since Occy in 1998 to win at Bells. Occy, by the way, won his first world title the very next year. Wilko mightn’t need to wait that long. With his second straight win this year he’s taken a commanding 10800 point lead over the competition, guaranteeing that he’ll be wearing the yellow jersey on the way to Brazil in May.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” he told Ross Williams afterward, trying to explain his miraculous breakout. His best year-end finish to date has been 18th. Traditionally by year’s-end, he’s just trying to requalify. Now he’s seriously thinking about steps he can take to secure a world title.

In truth, Wilko’s coach Glenn “Micro” Hall has him focusing on small improvements in about 10 different areas of his surfing. “If I can improve 10 percent in each of those 10 areas, that’ll be 100 percent improvement,” Wilko explained.

He’s shattered that goal.