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.
Meanwhile, barriers were broken down during the historic Final of the Outerknown Fiji Women’s Pro, Stop No. 5 of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), with California’s Courtney Conlogue (USA) taking the win over Hawaii’s Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW).
Conlogue and Weston-Webb, two of the hardest-charging surfers in the field, battled for the event title in dangerous six-foot barrels at Cloudbreak in front of the world’s best male surfers who stepped aside and reorganized their event schedule to see the Women’s Final run in these critical conditions.
The Final saw the women go all out in waves of consequence for the CT win. Massive walls and heavy barrels lined-up at Cloudbreak to challenge Conlogue and Weston-Webb in their seventh head-to-head matchup. Weston-Webb charged through the fast tubes, but was unable to find the exit to complete her scores. Conlogue plowed through the lineup but got caught up on the lip trying to land extreme maneuvers. The Californian kept fighting and landed big combination moves in critical sections to take the win.
Conlogue claims her seventh career Championship Tour victory and her second of 2017, after a win at Bells Beach earlier this season. The win for the two-time CT runner-up sees her move up one place from 5th to 4th on the Jeep Leaderboard and close the gap on the top three.
“This event has always had a really special spot in my heart,” Conlogue said. “There’s been so many amazing winners and this is one of the best left-hand reef breaks in the world. I’m really stoked the WSL did what they did and thank you Jessi [Miley-Dyer] for really supporting the women. We’re pushing the change and being strong for all the women out there and going for it. Conditions were definitely tricky, but we were stoked to get into a couple.”
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