Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Day 3: The Elusive Trio

Photos by Nate Lawrence unless noted

The elusive trio of luck, wave selection and seizing opportunity ensured victory at the Quik Pro today. But it was the coming of age performance of World Tour sophomore and growing cult figure Matt Wilkinson that was the highlight.

Round 3 began with the elimination of Cooly Kid and event favorite Mick Fanning by Hawaiian Dusty Payne. In high tide conditions described by Joel Parkinson as the "worst of the day," Fanning went waveless in the final seven minutes, requiring just a 5.11 to progress. It was the second time in consecutive World Tour starts that he was defeated by the Hawaiian.

For Dusty, the win provided the helping of luck and boost to his self-belief that were both lacking in his rookie year.

"Last year I lacked a lot of confidence, and this year I’ve tried to change my game plan and feel a little more confident," he said, also revealing that he’s joined the growing list of pro surfers training with Joel Parkinson’s Ironman fitness coach, Wes Berg.

Parko needed little luck to progress past goofy footer Kai Otton in Round 3. He showed a mastery of the shin-deep Snapper grinders that you’d expect from a local for the win.

"It favors smaller guys who can fit in the pocket and can wrap around. Guys like Taj will surf really well. Julian. Guys who can fit tight and do some great maneuvers," he said of the low-tide conditions in which his heat was run (also what the final will likely be run in).

Taj kept his hopes of back-to-back Quik Pro titles alive, narrowly defeating Julian Wilson. Jordy racked up the day’s highest combined total (17.17) to easily account for Cory Lopez, and Kelly defeated 16-year-old giant killer Matt Banting.

But it was the performance of Matt Wilkinson that brought the day’s highlight. In high-tide conditions, Wilko cracked and jacked his way to the second highest total of the day (16.6) in defeating Brazilian Heitor Alves. With the heat sealed, Wilko stuck one of the all-time great rodeo flips, only to fall off as he spun out of the move.

With Dane out of the event, Wilko assumed the niche of progressive talent and cult figure. He presented an out-of-shape figure to the media following the heat, complaining his hat was too small to fit his perm in and showing no concern to hide the tattoo on his wrist reading "DTF" (letters standing for "Down To Fuck" — a reference to the film Superbad). Of his highest scoring ride (9.27), he said, "I don’t even remember it. All I remember was my hair in my face and going up and down and up and down."

When quizzed about the 5’9″ fish he rode in the heat, he replied, "It’s wide up the front so it’s super drivey like a normal board and you can still lean back and you can throw the tail. I rode a 5’7″ version of it last year and I felt I was getting a little underscored. I threw two inches on the front and it’s getting me an extra four points per heat."

I quipped that, "an extra two inches will always score you some points."

"That’s what she said," he responded, to laughter in the gallery.

Wilko, mid-rodeo. Photo: ASP

Kelly Slater’s reaction to the performance revealed something as to why he’s still on tour. The champ watched the rodeo attempt from the competitors’ area, jumping as Wilko fell on the final rotation. He jogged to the edge of the area to watch the replay on the big screen and spent the next few minutes gesticulating and miming body movements with a friend. Asked whether it was trying to better performances like Wilko’s that was keeping him on tour, he said yes.

"That’s definitely a part of it. It’s nice to be able to continue to push that level. Most of my friends that I grew up with are not on tour anymore; just me and Taylor [Knox], And Taylor is a pretty tried and true carving guy.

"Since I’ve been a little kid airs have been the things I like to try. To see what the guys are pulling off these days is great and, instead of all my friends who are retired from pro surfing now, it’s exciting for me to see how far I can push that level as long as my body holds out. And also to keep my mind open to it."

Whether Wilko will become the second goofy footer to ever win the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, it’s out of his hands, he says.

"If there are barrels behind the rock, Parko and that will be dropping into kegs and it will be super hard to get the speed on your backhand to get out. If they keep running me in the higher tide I’ve got a chance." —Jed Smith

Jed Smith and the rest of SURFING’s media team will be on hand as the Quiksilver Pro moves into its final stages. Round 4 is up next and can be viewed live here when competition resumes. For the surfers, it only gets harder from here on out. (That’s what she said.)