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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Thu, 15 June 2017

Australian Matt Wilkinson has won the Outerknown Fiji Pro after a hard-fought fight against explosive rookie and fellow Aussie Connor O’Leary in clean 4-5' surf at Cloudbreak early today.

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WILKO WIN: He came second in Fiji last year, and now he has won it. Photo WSL / Cestari

Wilko's win in the fifth stop of the WSL Championship Tour (CT) came after triumphs over 2017 World Title contenders Michel Bourez (PYF) and Julian Wilson (AUS) and elevates him to #1 in the world on 26,750 points on the Jeep Leaderboard, leapfrogging former frontrunner and reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW), while Jordy Smith (ZAF) slips from second to third, with Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Owen Wright (AUS) behind him.

It was an improvement on last year's runner-up finish to 2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) in Fiji last year for Wilko, whose incredible 2016 season saw him win the first two events to finish the year fifth. Today’s win marks his third CT victory.


OFF THE TOP: Jordy Smith slips from second to third in the rankings. Photo WSL / Cestari

“We’ve had an awesome week that started with pumping waves and then had some lay days,” said Wilkinson. “If you were going to have lay days anywhere, this is the place to do it. Happiness translates to results. It feels good to pick up momentum rather than to have the yellow Jeep Jersey to lose. Now I have it to keep.

The Final saw Wilko and O'Leary post excellent in the first ten minutes. The rookie took a slight edge thanks to his 6.50 back-up score and went on to build his advantage with a 7.37. Wilkinson fought during the 40 minute bout to turn the heat, and with two minutes remaining his persistence paid off with an 8.03 and the title.

O’Leary moves from 15th to 7th on the Jeep Leaderboard to lead the WSL Rookie of the Year race, and become the only rookie to make a final this year. He won every heat en route to the Final, taking down 2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS), fellow rookie Joan Duru (FRA) and 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA).


BOUREZ BATTLE: Wilko came up against Michel Bourez in the semi-finals. Photo WSL / Cestari

“It was such a good final back-and-forth and I’m really glad we put on such a good show for everyone,” said O’Leary. “Wilkinson’s a legend. He got second here last year so he really deserves the win - he’s been ripping. I’m going to do some training and then head to Ballito and J-Bay.”

Bourez battled eventual winner Wilkinson in Semifinal 1. The pair were neck-and-neck through much of the heat but a last-ditch effort from the Australian saw him earn a 5.90 and edge the win over Bourez. The result is the best of the season for the Tahitian who was a standout all event, posting consistently high scores and winning each heat on his way to the Semifinals.

In the second semi, Parko gained the lead on his opening exchange with a 6.83, but O'Leary dominated with an excellent 8.00 and 7.40. Parkinson’s 3rd place finish marks his best result of the season and elevates him to 6th.


WILD MAN: Wilko was imperious from Round 1 right through to the final. Photo WSL / Cestari

The 2017 rookie class all made it to the finals day, with the three rookies delivering their best results of the season. Leonardo Fiovaranti (ITA), Ian Gouveia (BRA) and Duru, each caused a stir in Round 3, when they eliminated top seeds Florence, Wright and Smith respectively. Fioravanti was eliminated by Bourez in the Quarterfinals after sending home Gouveia in Round 5 while Duru couldn’t overcome runner-up O’Leary.

The next stop will be the Corona Open J-Bay from July 12-23. The women will next compete at the Vans US Open of Surfing, from July 31 to August 6.

Check out www.worldsurfleague.com


ELEVEN SEVEN: Kelly Slater and members of the Fiji Sevens team. Photo WSL / Cestari

Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Final
1 Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 16.60
2 Connor O’Leary (AUS) 15.70

Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Semifinal
SF 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.23 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.00
SF 2: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 15.40 def. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.36

Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Quarterfinal
QF 1: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 17.00 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.30
QF 2: Michel Bourez (PYF) 17.80 def. Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 13.57
QF 3: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 11.16 def. Joan Duru (FRA)
QF 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.67 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 11.23

Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Round 5
Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.34 def. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 7.34
Heat 2: Leonardo Fioravanti (ITA) 14.83 def. Ian Gouveia (BRA) 11.33
Heat 3: Joan Duru (FRA) 17.33 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.50
Heat 4: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.57 def. Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 12.36

2017 WSL Men’s Jeep Leaderboard (After Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro)
1 Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 26,750 points
2 John John Florence (HAW) 26,500 points
3 Jordy Smith (ZAF) 26,150 points
3 Adriano de Souza (BRA) 26,150 points
3 Owen Wright (AUS) 26,150 points

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