HE was the jester of world surfing – a likeable, fun-loving larrikin and one of the most popular surfers on the world tour.
But after a breakout season last year, Australian Matt Wilkinson has got very serious about the job ahead – winning a maiden world crown.
Wilkinson enters this weeks Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach as defending champion and with the confidence of knowing he can excel at the famed Victorian venue when competition starts.
While the women surfed Wednesday the men’s competition was put on hold on Thursday due to decreasing swell.
When the competition is called back on Wilkinson is up in the first heat against three-time Bells winner Mick Fanning and Brazilian Jadson Andre.
“I’m excited about Bells. I feel good surfing here. I like the wave,’’ said Wilkinson, who carried the world No.1 ranking in surfing for the first part of last year’s world tour before eventually finishing as highest Australian in fifth place.
“I am one of those people who always feels I can do well at a place I have won before so that helps.
“I want to come here and get the job done.”
Wilkinson was delighted with his second place to good mate Owen Wright in the opening event of the World Tour on the Gold Coast.
“It’s the one time I was happy to be second,” he said of his mates win after returning to surfing from a year out recovering from a head injury.
But he plummeted down the world rankings from second to sixth after his early exit from the Margaret River Pro in a wave starved heat last week.
“I wasn’t happy with that at all,” Wilkinson said.
“There’s no relaxing in this event. It’s about backing up every heat.’’ he said.
On the women’s side of the competition world champion Tyler Wright has advanced to the quarters with Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons needing to win their round four heats to join her.
It is still unknown if Fitzgibbons will surf after slashing her foot open on her fin on Wednesday.
Originally published as Surf jester Wilko serious about title bid
SOURCE: newsnow sport