Matt Wilkinson notched up his most impressive win of his Junior career at the Kustom Jetty Surf Pro Junior in Victoria yesterday and announced his intentions to concentrate on the Open World Qualifying Series this season – with his ultimate goal being to qualify for the World Championship Tour for 2008.
The ambitious Wilkinson (pictured below) may appear to have set himself a high benchmark, but few who have watched his performances over the past two weeks would argue that he’s not ready for such a task.
In yesterday’s final he defeated South African Brandon Jackson in an awesome display of power surfing which included a number of innovative high risk moves. Wilkinson’s two wave final heat tally of 17.5 out of a possible 20 included an outstanding final ride of 9.5 out of 10 and left his opponent requiring an impossible two wave combination inside the final five minutes.
“I’m feeling great with my surfing at the moment, my boards are all really good and in any heat I feel confident of scoring excellent scores whenever I need to. I’ve worked hard on my aerial surfing in the past 12 months and it’s become a natural part of my competitive surfing and I think a few of us young emerging surfers potentially have a big advantage with a strong aerial approach,” he said after the event.
Yesterday’s win comes on the back of Wilkinson’s third place in last weeks Billabong ASP World Junior Professional Championships in Sydney where he finished the highest of the Australian’s behind South African Jordy Smith.
“To win today sort of eases the disappointment of not making last weeks final or winning, but the world title would have been great, but still, I have confidence at the moment, I head to Brazil next week for two World Qualifying Series events and my aim is to qualify for the championship tour next year,” said Wilkinson. “I’ll compete in plenty of Pro Juniors this year but the priority for me is the World Qualifying Tour.”
Jackson (Durban/South Africa) was never in the hunt in today’s final. He said: “When Wilko scored an excellent 8 point ride early in the final I knew I was in trouble because there simply weren’t that many high scoring potential waves coming through. I had to try and find only excellent waves and leave the average ones and well, it turned into a poor final for me and became even worse when he scored that 9.5!”
While Wilkinson’s final was a very one sided affair, possibly his semi final win was the highlight of the day when he won a high scoring see sawing battle against Queensland surfer Mitch Coleborn. Coleborn held the advantage with just one minute remaining but Wilkinson’s competitive grit came through on his final wave which scored an 8.25 to take the win.
Brendan Jackson, despite having a poor final, had been a standout throughout this event and in his semi final knocked out Nambucca Heads NSW surfer Heath Joske. Joske had been in superb form throughout the event but found difficulties with wave selection in his semi final with almost all his waves closing out and allowing little scope to score big on.
Both Coleborn and Joske were disappointed at not making the final but relatively pleased that they are off to a strong start at the opening event of the 2007 Australasian Pro Junior season. Coleborn said: “The Pro Junior Series is my goal for this year , I’d love to win it and I will give it my best shot this year which is my last season at 20 and under. I’ll also chase the WQS events in between and try and build a seeding for next year. The semi final was disappointing as I was leading with a minute to go but that’s surfing, especially against a guy like Wilkinson who can score big on almost any wave and as he proved today he’s not beaten him until the siren sounds.”
Earlier in the day Coleborn defeated fellow Sunshine Coast surfer Julian Wilson in their man on man quarter final clash. Wilson finished the event in equal 5th place.
Joske has this year and next at Pro Junior level but looks determined to try and win the series this year saying: “This is a good start for me but obviously I’d like to have won. There’s plenty of events and it’s a long season and I’ll put all my energies into winning the series this season for sure. I actually think the next few events in Queensland and then near my home town at Coff’s Harbor will suit me better so hopefully I can win and lead the series coming into the Coff’s Harbor event.”
The next event on the Pro Junior Series is at Burleigh Heads in Queensland for the Hurley Burleigh Pro Junior from January 22-28th.