TAVARUA/NAMOTU, Fiji (Thursday, June 15, 2017) - Matt Wilkinson (AUS) has won the Outerknown Fiji Pro, Stop No. 5 on the 2017 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), after an action-packed Finals Day that saw the world’s best surfers battle in pumping waves at Cloudbreak.
Wilkinson’s win comes after a hard-fought Final against 2017 CT Rookie Connor O’Leary (AUS), and triumphs over 2017 World Title contenders Michel Bourez (PYF) and Julian Wilson (AUS).
The Australian came into Fiji determined to take the win after earning a runner-up finish to 2014 WSL Champion Gabriel Medina (BRA) at this event last year. Wilkinson’s incredible 2016 season saw him win the opening two events and finish the year in fifth place. Today’s win not only marks Wilkinson’s third CT victory, but sees him lead the elite World Title race heading into the next event.
“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.”
Wilkinson will now sport the coveted yellow Jeep Leader Jersey with 26,750 points on the leaderboard. His win advances him past former frontrunner and reigning WSL Champion John John Florence (HAW), as well as Jordy Smith (ZAF), Adriano de Souza (BRA) and Owen Wright (AUS).
“I am so stoked,” continued Wilkinson. “It definitely feels good to pick up momentum rather than to have the yellow Jeep Jersey to lose. Now I have it to keep. Thanks to everyone - all my support crew and everyone that has helped me.”
An exciting Final saw both surfers post excellent-range scores in the opening 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 battled through the rest of the 40 minute bout to turn the heat and with two minutes remaining his persistence paid off and an 8.03 was enough to earn him victory.
Today’s result sees O’Leary move up from 15th to 7th on the Jeep Leaderboard and secure his place firmly inside the Top 10. The impressive performance from the young Australian sees him leading the 2017 WSL Rookie of the Year race and become the only rookie to make a final this year. O’Leary won through every heat en route to the Final and defeated 2012 WSL Champion Joel Parkinson (AUS), fellow rookie Joan Duru (FRA) and 11X WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) before meeting Wilkinson in the Final.
“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.
“It’s a weird feeling because he got that wave with like 20 seconds to go,” Bourez said. “He (Wilkinson) just got it at the end so good on him. I’m just super happy to be here - it’s pumping, there are barrels and it’s a beautiful day. I wish I made the Final but at the end of the day I had fun.”
En route to his runner-up finish, O’Leary took down Parkinson, CT veteran and 2012 WSL Champion, in the second Semifinal. Parkinson gained the lead on his opening exchange with a 6.83, but the rookie dominated with an excellent 8.00 and 7.40 for the win. Parkinson’s 3rd place finish marks his best result of the season and puts him in 6th place on the Jeep Rankings.
“I’m a little disappointed but stoked with a Semifinal,” said Parkinson. “I’ve had pretty scrappy heats today so I really wanted to go out there and do the surfing I know I can do. Going into the dream leg of the tour I’m happy with a Semifinal finish. J-Bay is definitely one of my favorite events coming up.”
The Outerknown Fiji Pro was an incredible event for the 2017 rookie class with Leonardo Fiovaranti (ITA), Duru and Ian Gouveia (BRA) all making it through to Finals Day and delivering their best results of the season. The three rookies Fioravanti, Gouveia and Duru, each caused a stir in Round 3 where they eliminated top seeds Florence, Wright and Smith respectively. Fioravanti was eventually 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 on the 2017 Men’s WSL CT will be the Corona Open J-Bay from July 12 - 23, 2017. The women will next compete at the Vans US Open of Surfing, which opens July 31 and runs through August 6, 2017.
The events will be broadcast LIVE via WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL app and on Facebook LIVE via the WSL's Facebook page. Also check the local listings for coverage on CBS Sports Network in the U.S., Fox Sports in Australia, ESPN in Brazil, Sky NZ in New Zealand, SFR Sports in France and Portugal and as part of the EDGEsport Network.
For more information, check out WorldSurfLeague.com.
Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Final Results:
1 - Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 16.60
2 - Connor O’Leary (AUS) 15.70
Outerknown Fiji Men’s Pro Semifinal Results:
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 Results:
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 Results:
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
Supertubes, Jeffreys Bay - In firing surf at Supertubes, Dale Staples from St Francis Bay won the 2017 edition of the JBU Supertrial by powering through some of the biggest and deepest barrels of the day. Staples was in rhythm with the ocean from the start, picking up all the best waves on his route to the final.
It was a cold and blustery JBay morning, but there were sets at first light and the contest organisers showed no hesitation in calling the event on. As the freezing offshore wind picked up, so the invited surfers hit the perfect lineup, with consistent six-foot waves pouring through.
Former Championship Tour surfer Greg Emslie was a surprise elimination from round one, after leading for most of the heat. Greg caught a particularly long wave, and after his final turn and kicking out, found himself facing a huge set in front of the reef. "I got caught inside by a big set and pushed onto the reef," said Greg. "By the time I surfaced from the first wave there was another one, and more behind it. I hit the reef again and eventually got washed all the way down and came in."
Former event champion Dylan Lightfoot and defending champion Steven Sawyer did not disappoint however, and both won their first round heats. With a wildcard into the Corona Open JBay as well as $10k (R127k) up for grabs there were some determined performances in the breezy conditions with no one giving any quarter.
WQS competitor and perennial Supertubes standout Dale Staples from St Francis Bay shone during the first semifinal. With the swell still rising, Dale found some deep barrels, including one ridiculous 10-point barrel ride at the Impossibles section to emerge with a near-perfect heat score of 19.93 out of a possible 20 points, throwing away a 9.7 as his third wave.
"It's really good to get such great waves for a contest," said Dale after his heat. "That ten-pointer was a nice set wave. It looked like it was going to run off away from me, but it actually held all the way to the end."
Staples continued his form all the way through to the final, which turned into a barrel frenzy as Supertubes, one of the best waves in the world, delivered wave after perfect wave throughout the afternoon. Staples jumped into the lead early on in the final with one incredible double tube ride, followed by a second high scoring ride, and his lead was unassailable from then on.
Mikey February from Cape Town has been having an excellent season but couldnt find the good ones out there and finished in fourth place. Local surfer Matt McGillivray had been looking good all event and some had him touted for the win, but he couldnt match Staples incredible tube riding. Former event champion, a fit and determined Dylan Lightfoot from JBay, found some of the biggest waves of the final, but was unable to string together enough combination moves to get close to Staples, who won the final with a comfortable lead.
"After I got that early one I was feeling really good, and it’s always great to bank a good score in the beginning, " said a jubilant Staples on the beach afterwards. "Then I got that second nine, and I was stoked and hoping that it would just go flat."
The wind was howling offshore the whole day, and quite a challenge for all competitors, but it actually worked for the victorious Staples.
"The wind was actually beneficial for me in this event," said Staples. "It was like the wind was just holding the main barrel section up the whole day. Some of the barrels looked like they were going to shut down on you and then they just opened up in the wind."
First prize in the JBU Supertrial consists of a wild card into the Corona Open JBay, $10k (R127k) as well as the valuable Championship Tour competitive experience that comes with it.
Kouga Mayor Elza Van Lingen was in attendance at the event and was rapt with the action in the water. "I'm so proud of all the surfers in he competition, and proud of the fact that we were able to host such an amazing contest," said Van Lingen. "There is nowhere else in the world where we can run such an event, and I can't wait for this all to happen again when the JBay Winterfest comes to the town of Jeffreys Bay next month. I hope to see you all there."
The Corona Open JBay has a waiting period from 12th – 23rd July, and is part of the JBay Winterfest.
1. Dale Staples (St Francis Bay).
2. Dylan Lightfoot. (JBay).
3. Matt McGillivray (JBay).
4. Mikey February (Kommetjie).
Hashtags #JBUsupertrial #JBayWinterfest
The JBU Supertrial is co-sponsored by RVCA.
www.wavescape.co.za is the media partner.
Supertubes, JBay – There is a powerful swell heading for JBay, and the contest organisers of the JBU Supertrial Powered By Monster Energy are ready to go with their event. The huge storm heading for Cape Town mid-week will transform into big storm surf in JBay later in the week, and will result in challenging conditions for the competition.
There are two possible days that the tournament could run, and invited surfers from out of town are already heading down to JBay to start preparing for what is going to be an interesting day of surfing.
“The Cape is in for one of the fiercest storms in a decade as a 985mb low pressure cell slams into Cape Town on Wednesday, spreading east rapidly in the form of a gale force northwesterly followed by westerly,” said JBU Supertrial official wave forecaster Spike from www.wavescape.co.za. “JBay will be blasted by devil winds on Wednesday, followed by strong west winds on Thursday when a huge storm swell arrives. Some big sets should be bending into Supertubes, but winds are fierce.”
According to Spike, it looks like Friday has a small window for the contest to run as well.
“By Friday, the swell has gone southerly and is a solid six to eight-foot at Supertubes perhaps bigger at first, easing gradually,” continued Spike. “Epic conditions are probable for the early hours of daylight, with a light onshore starting to ruffle the surf by late morning.”
Contest organiser Koffie Jacobs has been closely monitoring the swell charts, and concurs with Spike. "There is a lot of weather coming our way, and plenty of surf along with it," said Jacobs. " We are looking for the best window of opportunity on either Thursday or Friday, as both days have potential."
Out of the 12 selected surfers for this invite-only event, there are three local guys who are very excited about the upcoming event. Matt McGillivray is a natural-footed surfer who calls Supertubes his home break.
“I'm super grateful to have been included in the JBU Supertrial again this year,” said McGillivray. “I'm really excited for it and am crossing my fingers for a good sized swell to come through. It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to surf a heat with just four guys out, at one of the best waves in the country.”
Former event champion Dylan Lightfoot is another local surfer who is ready to meet this swell head-on.
“The JBU Supertrial is my favourite competition of the year, and every surf I have at Supers is geared towards preparing myself for it,” said Dylan. “My boards are feeling good and I am feeling confident for the event! There is a great swell this week that is looking promising.”
The defending champion, local goofy-footer (right-foot forward) Steve Sawyer is also very happy about the upcoming swell and subsequent running of the competition.
”I’m excited for the 2017 JBU Supertrial,” said Sawyer. “I've waited a whole year for it. To be honest, last year was an unexpected and super pleasant surprise. I have no expectations for this year except for the awesome waves that are coming."
So all eyes will be on the famous right-hand point-break of Supertubes for the next few days, as JBay prepares for another classic day of surfing in this prestigious tournament. First prize in the JBU Supertrial consists of a wild card into the Corona Open JBay and valuable competitive experience surfing against the likes of 11 times world champion Kelly Slater (USA), three times world champion and defending champion Mick Fanning (AUS), current world champion John John Florence (HAW), former world champions Gabriel Medina and Adriano De Souza (BRA) as well as South African surfing legend and two times event champion Jordy Smith. There is also a minimum prize purse of US$10k (R127k)
The JBU Supertrial presented by Monster Energy has a waiting period from 1st – 11th June, and historically has always enjoyed excellent surf conditions at Supertubes. The Corona Open JBay has a waiting period from 12th – 23rd July, and is part of the JBay Winterfest
Hashtags #JBUsupertrial #JBayWinterfest
The JBU Supertrial is co-sponsored by RVCA.
www.wavescape.co.za is the media partner.