Photo: WSL/Cestari

Two Big Things Just Happened In Regards To Julian Wilson’s World Title Campaign

The Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o got started today in, ahh, not the most glowing conditions we’ve ever seen for the event. Not by a long way. In fact, it was the sort of opening day of competition that you could happily click off as you got to work, letting the inconsequential three-man Round 1 heats play out in a hidden tab while you answered emails. Smart. You could save those hours of watching surfing during work time for when some actual heats of consequence were to play out. Plus, it was a Monday morning.

But unbeknownst to me, playing out behind a hidden tab of my browser, the WSL had decided to run the first few heats of Round 2, sending Julian Wilson and Tahitian trials wildcard Tikanui Smith out to their deaths! (Not deaths, obviously.)

And now we cut to a shot of me, at work in the office, when I checked in on the results of that first heat of Round 2.

Julian Wilson lost. Julian Wilson is out of the 2018 Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o, already.

And now, thinking of Julian’s World Title, we cut to me scrolling up further to see that… yep, all the other Title contenders, including Filipe Toledo, had won their first round heats.

Filipe Toledo and Julian Wilson are no.1 and no.2 on the ratings as we bend into the final straight of the Championship Tour year (Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira lurk close behind in third and fourth).

It’s an interesting battle; while Filipe looks unbeatable in most locations, he’s traditionally performed below average (to put it lightly) at tour stops with bigger waves over reefs. Spots where Julian Wilson has won in the past: Teahupo’o and Pipeline.

But Filipe can smell a World Title, and the best thing about having such an obvious weakness is that it’s easy to address. He went to Tahiti early in 2018, and he practiced.

As if knowing the marked improvement was coming for Filipe, the WSL has relished putting a spotlight on his shocking results there, with a feature on their homepage postered up on the wall like a high profile boxing card. The bout? Filipe and the break:

Filipe: 0 VS Tahiti: 3

“Since joining the Championship Tour in 2013, he’s finished with three 25th place results and had to sit one contest out due to injury. His best result came in 2015, finishing in 9th place after being knocked out by Italo Ferreira in Round 5,” wrote Jake Howard in the article. “It may have been his best contest finish, but he exited the round with an unsatisfying total heat score of 0.0. It was a low point in an otherwise stratospheric young career…”

They also featured this clip on Twitter:

Three lasts, an injury withdrawal, and a 0.0… that’s ugly.

In contrast, Julian Wilson is the reigning event champ. If he is to claw back some points and really make a run at the 2018 World Title, this would have been the place for him to do it. But… ahh… nope. Nope times a million.

With their backs put against the wall by a shitty forecast, the WSL made that call to run part of Round 2 today. And in that heat 1, there were only three waves surfed. Julian Wilson’s 5.83 was the best of them. But local trials winner Tikanui Smith had the other two: a 5.5 and a 2.17.

That’s not to say the loss is not Julian Wilson’s own. World Champs make it work, no matter the conditions. And today Julian lost.

And so that’s that for Julian Wilson’s 2018 Tahiti Pro. A 25th.

The day’s surfing ended two heats later.

The fact they squeezed 15 heats out of a day that saw a World Title contender bundled out with a single wave – a five – points to a long event where some pretty non-Teahupo’oey looking Teahupo’o will decide some pretty big things.

Toledo practiced proper Teahupo’o to best make sure 2018 will be his Title year. Turns out he mightn’t have needed to.

Mike Jennings