By his own lofty standards, 2016 was a frustrating one for Julian Wilson. He made the final at Margaret River and threatened for the title at various stages, but couldn't quite string together the wins needed to really challenge for the crown.
Most frustrating of all, as the clip above attests, Wilson was in the best form of his life in the water. As fit and disciplined as anyone on tour, with his beautiful girl by his side, and backed to the hilt by friends, family and sponsors, Wilson is one hot streak away from flying to the top of the ratings. The supremely fit and confident Queenslander knows it.
With the first event of the World Tour two short weeks away, Wilson is rounding out a productive off-season that was highlighted by his wedding. A short time later, Wilson is proud to unveil this incredible edit, Wayward, firing a shot across the bow of his opponents in the process.
While a million girls' hearts will be broken by the first bit of news, the latter will see surf fans turning cartwheels of joy, as this is Julian Wilson at his finest, pushing his performances like we've never seen before, edited in fine form by close friend Jimmy Lees. With the world tour in a state of flux, the title race is wide open and ripe for the plucking, and Julian Wilson is as hungry as they come.
We caught up with the kid from Coolum on the eve of his 2017 assault.
Congrats on the clip, it's incredible. How long have you been working on it for?
About 12 months, the oldest footage is from this time last year. I didn't really have a plan back then so I held on to the clips, then had four days in Bali early in the year with my wife Ashley and got some more good stuff, and the idea to pull it all together started to hatch.
I had another trip to Bali with Jimmy Lees, Lee Wilson and some other friends, and from there we figured we already had a bit of footage, maybe we should aim to do something a little bit longer. I had an opportunity to go to Fiji between Portugal and Hawaii to chase a swell for a few days, and that came together really well, too.
This feels like one of the rare edits in this era of three-minute web clips that can actually hold the viewer's attention.
I hope so. I feel like there are some bits in there that have clicked, are better than some things I've done before, or are the best version of certain moves. Hopefully it's entertaining enough for the viewer to get through it all, even though it's that bit longer.
You went to Fiji with Craig Anderson, how was it?
It's been a while since we've done a trip together. Craig's a good friend and we don't get many opportunities to hang out anymore so when I saw the swell pop up in Fiji, for some reason I thought of him instantly. I texted him two days before we were meant to leave and asked if he wanted to go get some waves. He wrote back straight away saying he'd love to, and that was it.
We connected in Fiji and scored. It was so spur of the moment, in and out at the peak of a two-day swell, so last minute we didn't even have a photographer with us. There was no one around, apart from a stand-up paddle crew, but they had a flat water race at the peak of the swell. So it was really just me and Craig trading off waves at super fun Cloudbreak. We were losing it, they were definitely the best waves I got last year.
Back at home, those lefts running into a southerly wind seem ideal to hone your backhand airs on?
Oh yeah, for sure. Anything that brings a bit of South, storms and swells that get into a few of my little spots can be really fun for trying airs and new stuff.
Are they backhand big spins you're pulling?
Yep. Chippa Wilson does a lot of them. He's incredible at the technical stuff, but his are almost like a flat spin, whereas I really wanted to do them into the transition of the wave. These were the first few I'd ever really done, so it felt really cool to land something new.
Where does the inspiration for them come from. Do you practice on a skateboard first or just go out and do them?
I don't really skate that much these days, but I do watch a lot of skateboarding and get very inspired by it, and then want to bring that to the water. Seeing the stuff the skaters are up to really gets me pumped to try new things, definitely.
Talk us through that air in Bali. Is it a Loop, or a Corked Alley-Oop? What are you calling it?
I guess it's a Corked Alley-Oop, yeah. One where you get a bit inverted because you grab the rail. You do them when there's no wind so you need a bit of assistance from your hand to help you land back in the transition. It's actually a really functional air when the waves are clean, have some juice, and you want to try something different.
It's almost exactly the same as the one Taj Burrow did in Stranger Than Fiction – same location, same outcome, just a decade later and twice as big.
Yep, same manoeuvre, and I'm sure he had the same intentions and same conditions. It's the best one I've ever done for sure, with the grab and landing. I landed with my feet pretty close together and was going Mach 10, it was pretty surprising, it was just one of those ones where it all came together and I was definitely stoked when I saw the footage.
It's funny, sometimes things feel really cool at the time, and then you watch them back and can't figure out where that connection came from, and other times you're not sure and are surprised when you see what it looks like.
Do you then bank that sensation and know that if you get a similar section you can pull that move out again?
It definitely makes me think about waves like Lance's Right and North Point, and it's nice to know that when you get them on, and it's clean and barrelling, you might have another option and the chance to go as big as you possibly can.
You kept that clip under wraps until now, is that hard to do these days?
It is, definitely, but because my life is so contest based, I know that if I need to get away it's only ever going to be a quick hit and run, a few days on a swell. I've got a pretty tight crew, so it's easy to keep things under wraps between us, for sure. It's nice to be able to hold some things back in this modern Instagram world.
Are you excited to see how people react to Wayward?
For sure, I'm really looking forward to it. There are a couple of things in it that I'm stoked on, and having that feeling is usually enough for me, but this time I'm excited to share it all and see what kind of reaction it gets.
Do you and your good mate and filmer/editor Jimmy Lees have an equal say in the creative side of all of your edits?
Definitely. We go back and forth, and have a very tight relationship. I try to let him take the reins on it though, I trust his flavour and what he comes up with in his head. I definitely keep a close eye on things, and nothing goes out without us talking it over a lot and getting things to a point where we're both happy.
Big congrats on the wedding!
Thanks, it was a lot of fun. We had people come from a long way away so it stretched out over the weekend. The big night was Saturday, then we caught up on the Sunday afternoon and kicked on, it was great!
Is Jimmy in charge of the wedding video?
No chance! Jimmy was definitely not on the tools on my wedding day, no way.
Finally, you're married now and you've won the video game, what more is there left for Julian Wilson to do in 2017?
It's time to knuckle down and chase the title. It's going to take me really putting a year together, banking heats and getting stuck right into it.
Is releasing a clip like this right before the season kicks off all part of the game these days? Does this get people talking, or drive a bit of fear into your opponents?
I think it works well for me because I'm not holding onto anything now, I can let it all go and start this year with a totally clean sheet and really focus on the first event at Snapper. It's a nice feeling knowing there's nothing in the archive anymore, everything is out in the open, and all of my intentions can now be aimed towards competing. 2017 is a blank canvas.