For his latest stunt, perennial joker, underachiever and good time girl Matt Wilkinson has grabbed hold of a feisty tabby cat by the tail and slung it with great force among the pigeons of the world title race. Without a major event victory to his name before this year, the Australian yesterday won his second successive world tour event, beating Jordy Smith in the final of the Rip Curl Bells Beach Pro to become the first goofyfoot to ring the Bell since Occ in ’98.
The leaderboard looks stranger than it has done at this stage of the season in years. Wilkinson, in the yellow jersey, has already opened up a sizeable gap between himself and the rest of the field, much as Eddie Merckx did at the start of the 1969 Tour de France — except he was on performance-enhancing drugs. Wilko now has 20,000 points, more than twice as many as Conner Coffin, who leads the chasing group with 9,200 and is followed closely by Jordy Smith and Kolohe Andino.
Several weeks ago I prophesied that, for reasons of historical necessity and cosmic balance, this year’s world champion was to be found among a select group of twelve surfers, and that Wilko, along with Kanoa Igarashi and Ace Buchan, was a member of this group. But I also prophesied that Glen Hall was not Claudio Ranieri. I begin to think my tea leaves told a lie, just like when they said Ricky Basnett would be Africa’s first world champion. Could it be that Glen Hall, though distinct in philosophy, nationality, accent and stature, is in fact Claudio Ranieri? And Matt Wilkinson Leicester City? The world’s most underachieving surfer, about to become the world’s most overachieving surfer?