15 June, 2017 15 June, 2017


“Normally, you’d expect a Kelly Slater vs John Florence final at Fiji. But Matt Wilkinson doesn’t do normal, instead he leans more toward eccentricity to make his mark…” Euro rookies, the coaches, WSL commentary and Wilko then and now… In this report The Chairman aka Glen Drysdale (who watches the WSL from the comfort of his armchair) tells us what we learnt from the 2017 Outerknown Fiji Pro. 

Matt Wilkinson didn’t drop a heat on his way to becoming the 2017 Outerknown Fiji Pro Champion by defeating fellow Australian rookie sensation, Connor O’Leary, in the final. He was consistent, stealth, precise and strategic. He was everything ‘Wilko’ wasn’t three years ago. Eight lay days on an island paradise with unlimited supply of beer would surely have unravelled the steeliest resolve of the Wilko of past.

Instead it was a master class of fortitude, focus and adding the fine touches that make all the difference to a performance when you need it most. And now, the ‘Court Jester’ who grew up, is wearing the yellow jersey again, and one gets the feeling, it’s a way more comfortable fit. This time Wilko snatched it from John Florence, not the other way around, and it may just be less of an emotional battle to hold onto, than to protect.

A consistent and strategic Matt Wilkinson © WSL

The key difference was how Wilko read every heat. He went to the rail when others looked for collapsing tubes, he paced waves to near perfection, burning off speed by knifing the inside rail, staying light when it was necessary and dropping the hammer when it was called for. Sure, others showed glimpses of the same composure, Connor O’Leary, Julian Wilson, Michel Bourez and Sebastian Zeitz come to mind, but it was the consistency of Wilko that did all the damage.

Ironically, going into J-Bay last year was the beginning of the end for Wilko’s world title run. How quickly things can change…

Michel Bourez focused and firing through the barrel. © WSL

Three things we learnt in Fiji

1. The Euro is strong

Leo Fioravanti and Joan Duru both packed quarter final finishes, proving that the European contenders, are just that. Fioravanti took care of Florence with Duru cleaning out Saffa hope Jordy Smith with relative ease. To level world title contenders in round three and push on to the quarters in conditions that asked a lot of anyone’s abilities speaks volumes for the Euro rookies. With Leo’s rail snaps and tightness in the pocket as well as Duru’s ability to really drive the barrel, they will both be genuine threats at J-Bay.

Joan Duru sails through a snap © WSL

2. Having the right coach helps

Glen ‘Micro’ Hall does it again with Wilko and Luke Egan finals with O’Leary. Sure, some would argue that having a coach maybe oversubscribing a bit in a sport where the athlete really is his own coach, but whatever Wilko’s needing to hear from Glen Hall’s microphone, seems to be working. And Egan is certainly making all the right inroads with O’Leary who now has a very good grip on how things work, as well as a pretty solid lead on the Rookie of the Year title race.

Connor O’Leary makes a hair-raising drop. © WSL

3. The WSL commentary format needs an overhaul

The current format is not working. At all. Where’s the insight, the analysis and the compelling back stories that push and drive the athletes to really want to do this? I want to know, I want to be entertained! Please can’t the WSL ask some really hard questions as to what it is that commentating should be doing for its audience? It should be adding value, not filling in dead space with mixed metaphors and clichés. I want to know the human truth behind Matt Wilkinson, not hear another interview with his coach. And I certainly don’t need reminding that… “Here we are folks… in the South Pacific.”

Looking forward to J-Bay, the return of Jordy Smith, the potential for stretched out 8ft Supers walls, and of course… the armchair!

See you there,

The Chairman

Jordy Smith charging on from Fiji to J-Bay © WSL

*Images © WSL 

**Words by Glen Drysdale


  1. Jon Griffin
    15 June, 2017 at 7:52 pm · Reply

    Quite the “shake up” event.
    The Bourez foot stall was a pleasant surprise, wow!

    Agreed on the commentary, rather just hit the MUTE button. GRRRR.

    Thanks for the armchair report!

  2. Rob warren
    15 June, 2017 at 8:52 pm · Reply

    Nice one chairman! jbay awaits!!!

  3. Torsten
    15 June, 2017 at 9:25 pm · Reply

    Great report. Entertaining and informative. Looking forward to the next one.

  4. Robin
    16 June, 2017 at 11:18 am · Reply

    Epic!!! Looking forward to the J-Bay report with the benefit of local knowledge!

  5. MarkName
    16 June, 2017 at 4:01 pm · Reply

    What a shakeup in the title race… deserved winner in wilko and I’m stoked that the italian lion finally roared to life in this event… bring on Jbaai, let’s just hope there’s no haai or more round 3 naai…

  6. brad
    16 June, 2017 at 5:49 pm · Reply

    totally agree about the commentary

  7. Lyle
    16 June, 2017 at 9:41 pm · Reply

    The WSL needs to something different. Show some creativity. Change it up a bit and keep us interested. The format is stale. Surely marketing recognizes this.

    Love the reports Glen

  8. Jonesy
    19 June, 2017 at 9:35 am · Reply

    Yeah commentary needs to re-boot the monotone fall asleep style they have at the moment.
    99% of all fans watch the highlights and Mute the sound with their own background music anyways.

  9. Byron
    19 June, 2017 at 1:15 pm · Reply

    Can’t be coincidence that Wilko finished runner up last year at this event and then followed up with the win this year. Guy is seriously learning to charge big left reef breaks and amazing how his game has changed. Chopes will be interesting.

    Great report Chairman and agreed on the commentary-its lazy and robotic.

    Lets hope Supers delivers like the trials and all the best to the saffas taking part. Want to see ou’s getting pitted senseless!

  10. Trev
    19 June, 2017 at 8:44 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the update and insights Glen. Title race is fascinatingly poised approaching the half way point.
    Hope Jordy can bring it again @ J Bay and pull ahead…

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *