Why Julian should be busting down the door to practice at Lemoore
Right now Julian Wilson might be banging on the door of the Surf Ranch screaming, “Let me in!” After his torturous, round two loss to Tikanui Smith, in Tahiti, Wilson will loose ground on the Jeep Leaderboard and he should be desperate to start doing laps of the Lemoore pool to keep himself in the title race. In his most recent Instagram post Jules, who claimed victory at Chopes last year, stated, “You give just as easy as you take. Not how I wanted to leave, but none the less it was a pleasure. Regrouping and moving forward to the next event.”
Exactly how do you ‘move forward’ to an event at the wave pool when there has never been a fully-fledged WCT event held at the pool before? It’s the surfing equivalent of the first ever one-day cricket match. It’s even more of a complete leap into the unknown for Julian who, as far as we can tell, has never ridden a wave at The Surf Ranch. Julian didn’t take part in the competitive unveiling of The Ranch, The Future Classic, back in 2017. Meanwhile, after being selected for the Australian team in The Founders Cup, in May this year, he was a late scratching. Then, when team Australia went on a training camp to The Ranch a month ago, Julian was again M.I.A. . For Wilson that’s three missed opportunities to wet the rail in chlorine. Will his absence from the pool carnivals prove costly and what can he do in the interim to fast-track his learning curve?
Above: Team Australia train, but where's Julian?
As it stands the WSL are set to schedule at least three official practice days at the pool in the immediate lead up to The Surf Ranch Pro on the sixth of September. So far the discussions from in and around the WSL suggest that the warm up laps will be conducted in a strictly egalitarian fashion. It certainly won’t be the kind of punters and pros mosh pit you see at Snapper Rocks prior to The Quiksilver Pro. In the same way the WSL has promoted the pool as an even playing field, it will want to make the immediate lead up process as fair as possible. It seems likely that surfers will be able to ride a set number of waves per day during the three day warm up. This may loosen up if some surfers prefer to hit the nearby casino, but given the limited number of waves available there will have to be some strict rules about the way waves are rationed out – unless Kelly turns the lights on and makes it a 24hr surf party.
Where does all this leave Julian? As the envy-inducing, Instagram accounts of the WCT surfers indicate, plenty of them have been bequeathed random opportunities to go riding at the Ranch. This it seems is part of a broader policy to give surfers a chance to become familiar with the nuances of the Ranch during certain windows. Or maybe it's just Kelly playing favourites. The question is, can Julian make a case that he deserves a separate day at the Ranch, without the entire top 34, to loosen up and figure out the sections?
In Toledo's confident round one performance at Chopes we saw how much he benefited from arriving in Tahiti early. Even if he goes no further in the event it will be a personal victory for Filipe, particularly given Julian’s misfire. However, the Surf Ranch Pro is not like other events where you can simply rock up early and put your time in. The limited number of waves available raises all sorts of ethical questions about who should get to surf it in the lead up to the event. However, putting those ethical questions aside what can Julian do to Bust Down the Door at Le Moore?
The pool is not officially available for public hire, but in the past few months it seems corporate groups and people with a little pull have been able to lease the Ranch. Former channel nine boss, and Balter brewery investor, David Gyngell, recently shouted a few of his Bondi mates, along with former CT surfer Ant Macdonald, a day at The Ranch. It would be interesting to know if Hurley (owned by Nike) can pull any strings to put their boy in the pool for some practice. Or if it’s as simple as Julian sending Kelly a message on Insta and asking him to throw a pool party in honour of his world title quest. The rules of fair and equitable access to the pool obviously seem to get thrown out the window for Kelly. This is a given, but it would raise some interesting questions if he was in the world title race. In a kind of devilishly compelling scenario one might imagine Kelly inviting four title contenders – Julian Wilson, Filipe Toledo, Gabriel Medina and Italo Ferreira to share the pool for a day and see if they eat one another alive.
Meanwhile if you were Julian Wilson, increasingly in danger of becoming another one of those best surfers never to win a world crown, you’d be doing everything within your power to get access to the wave pool. You should be able to hear him shouting from the pool deck. “Get out of the way Kelly, mini Dorian, corporate Johnny, Blink 182, Matt Meoala and Rob Machado, I’ve got practice to do and a world title to win.”