Julian Wilson has sounded a warning to tour rivals with a dominant win at the US Open overnight to pocket a clean $100,000 and set a platform for a real tilt at the world title.
my boards have felt great all week - wilson
Six stops remain on the tour, and with the 23 year-old clearly having overcome the ankle injury that plagued his start to the tour, Julian has emerged as a sneaky smokey ahead of Tahiti and his favourite break, Lowers at Trestles, California. On his way to taking down Brazilian Miguel Pupo in the Huntington Beach final, Wilson narrowly accounted for Rio Pro winner John John Florence and Fiji Pro runner-up Gabriel Medina, leaving little to suggest he is anything but a tour threat.
"I feel like I was peaking at the right time," Wilson said. "I had a little shaky start at the beginning of the year with an ankle injury, but I really feel like my surfing's coming into form now. And my boards have felt great all week. I've struggled here in the past, so I just told Matt Biolas [from ...Lost Surfboards] to make me something he thought would work. I put a lot of trust in that, and it worked. It's been an amazing week."
It looked like being an underwhelming final as 50 shades of grey covered the sky and the tide disappeared with the sun. Like anything Zach Galifianakis has starred in since The Hangover, the surf wasn’t great. But come time for the semis and with a new southerly swell, the pier was working a little better.
On paper, the Wilson v Florence quarter conjured up thoughts of a Dragon Ball Z kind of aerial battle. But in the end it fizzled out like The Shire, Jules sneaking through in the final five minutes with his only two scoring waves of the heat. It was a different story in his semi against Medina, however. Wilson launched himself into the pile-ons with a revert before Medina posted a seven-point air. Wilson then accepted the challenge and fired back with an aerial of his own to put the semi to bed.
Eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater didn’t have as much fun though. Despite the fact he didn’t want to be there, the 40 year-old turned back the clock to his Jimmy Slade days, when he starred alongside The Hoff in Baywatch and owned the pier - and Pamela Anderson.
Slater showed up to his quarter with Dane Reynolds like a man with a plan. Reynolds showed up like he always does - a little dishevelled, as if he’d spotted The Open was on and borrowed someone’s board so he could have a surf. God bless him. He didn’t disappoint but Slater was far too good, progressing with ease before Pupo stopped him in his tracks and sent him packing - likely back to an organic farm somewhere.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s Red Bull stable mate Sally Fitzgibbons wasn’t as lucky, the reigning women’s champion going down in controversial fashion to Carissa Moore before Lakey Peterson claimed her first Pro win after taking out the juniors a day earlier. Peterson posted a perfect 10 in her semi against Malue Manuel and went on to win the semi before accounting for 2011 ASP champion Moore in the final.
But Moore’s win over Fitzgibbons was the biggest talking point, the former making an inside connection in the final minutes of the heat to take the lead from Fitzgibbons for the first time, and the victory. Many thought Fitzgibbons was hard done by.
“It’s a tough one,” Fitzgibbons said. “No one wants to lose like that. It was a split (judging) panel and I felt like I surfed to the criteria. I had built myself a good momentum through the event and felt like I was ready for the Finals. We’re athletes. We’re here to win and anything less than that is always going to be a disappointment.”