The high-speed style and nimble aerial acrobatics of former junior world champ Julian Wilson will catch your eye and might snare a WCT title or two.

Wilson’s moves have already attracted the attention of top surf pros and film-makers. Wilson’s moves have already attracted the attention of top surf pros and film-makers. Images // Redbull

Aussies occupied ten of the top 20 places on surfing’s World Championship Tour (WCT) last year including second, third and fourth – Bede Durbidge, Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson respectively behind one Kelly Slater.Okay, we didn’t win it in ‘08, but clearly this country is doing something right in continuing to produce surfers steeled for the pressure of top-flight competition. And while we can largely thank our coastline and world-class waves for that, it also comes down to a thriving club scene and superbly organised network of junior competitions that continually pits this talent against each other. On any beach in the nation you’ll find youngsters performing manoeuvres that were only the stuff of pipe dreams a decade or so ago, meaning any nippers standing out from these battalions of rippers have to be something special.When the experts run their eyes over Australia’s generation next, one name recurs in their predictions of surfing’s next big thing. Julian Wilson has just turned 20, but with a brace of national and international junior titles to his credit and a growing list of top scalps under his belt from his limited forays into open competition, he’s the grommet predicted to have the biggest future.

Julian who?

Although touted as a top prospect in his early teens, Wilson shot to prominence in 2006 – a Junior (under 18) ISA World Championship will do that. That was won in Brazil and followed a string of junior titles he put together the previous summer.His sudden charge to prominence was given a boost by his appearance that year in a spectacular film showcasing his abilities: Young Guns 2. When his Quiksilver sponsorship turned into an invitation to board a luxury yacht with grom guru Kelly Slater and a posse of other wannabes (Ry Craike, Dane Reynolds and Clay Marzo among them), it was a chance to sample the perfect waves of Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands and demonstrate his bag of tricks, egged on by his colleagues (and future competitors).Wilson showed his high-energy, high-speed style and nimble aerial acrobatics were truly world-class, and the film was so successful, it was followed a year later with a sequel, Young Guns 3. Wilson’s segment in that film was voted the Best Male Performance in the annual US-based Surfer Magazine poll, tipping the likes of pros Burrow, Andy Irons, Bobby Martinez and America’s next big thing, Reynolds.That Quiksilver connection has also led to several wildcard entries into WCT events, including the Quiksilver Pro at Queensland’s Snapper Rocks last year, the first event on the annual tour. Wilson knocked off Pancho Sullivan – a top-ten pro – in the first round, before meeting Mick Fanning in the second. While he was unable to progress past the then reigning world champ, he certainly proved he belongs in this elite company, possessing not just the moves, but the mindset to take on the world’s best. He’s been offered another wildcard entry into this month’s Quikky Pro (Feb 28-March 11) and anything could happen. The top stars will dread coming up against him in early rounds.

Julian Wilson Julian Wilson. Image: Getty Images

Who’s he like?

Heavier, stronger surfers might impress judges with their powerful gouges and gung-ho approach, but Wilson is from another school. His light frame and amazing balance allow him to gather the same speed as anyone, which he then uses to string together fabulous series of flamboyant flourishes in the most precarious parts of a wave – in, around and over the peeling lip, and particularly above the wave, boosting himself to incredible heights to perform a veritable catalogue of aerial tricks (and land them).The height and amplitude of these aerial moves – surfing’s new frontier – is in a very elite class, which he shares with just a handful of others (most notably Reynolds, Jordy Smith, Josh Kerr and Burrow). Yet Wilson seems to be onto his next move seamlessly from the last, constantly on the edge of the board in the fastest part of the wave. This allows him to perform, say, four big manoeuvres on a wave while others might just fit three. It almost goes without saying these days that he’s a spectacular tube rider, frontside or backhand.Wilson’s surfing style combines the relaxed fluidity of a Parkinson with the gymnastic, aerial brilliance of a Burrow. Where others wrestle with waves and attempt to overpower them, Wilson prefers to intuitively harness a wave’s power without apparent effort, somehow maintaining tremendous speed throughout the arcs of his long turns, while his snaps (radical changes of direction) are more Bolshoi Ballet than Wrestlemania. There’s an elegance about his movements that recalls (for some, perhaps) American Tom Curren at the peak of his powers, arguably the “prettiest” world surfing champion.Wilson can also lay claim to being the first to land a trick called the “sushi roll” (he first nailed one while being filmed in Japan). While surfing on his backhand, he’ll come off a powerful bottom turn, taking aim for a launching spot just ahead of a barrelling lip. As he hits mid-air, he’ll allow his board to get away from him for a moment, before grabbing it with two hands in a Superman position, spinning in a full twist, and bringing it back under his feet just as he lands back on the face of the wave. And continue riding.This kind of aerial manoeuvre is seldom attempted in the high-pressure competitive arena of pro surfing (due to their low chance of success), but Wilson has routinely thrown in an air or even an air reverse in competition without faltering (this means boosting above the wave and spinning through 180-360 degrees before landing and continuing). He’s not the first or only one pulling off these manoeuvres, but he’s as good as anyone.

What’s his story?

Wilson hails from Coolum on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, a spectacular stretch of open beach just a short drive from the famed long walls of Noosa Heads. Born into a surfing family, his mum has been the big support in his early years, managing his affairs and folding his board shorts as he’s packed for numerous distant shores.Perhaps his only setback was the ankle injury he suffered in California last August, rolling it in a pothole while walking out for a surf; it required surgery and kept him out of the water for three months. Wilson was forced to survive on a diet of Will Ferrell movies and Simpsons repeats. But as if to prove his recovery, he came straight back to win two junior comps in succession last December.His progress to the pro ranks seems assured, but first he has to qualify. And that means capturing points on the secondary World Qualifying Series and making the top 15 – to make the jump up to the WCT. But the youngster isn’t ready to make that kind of commitment just yet. He’ll surf selected events in 2009, make more films, travel to more exotic locations, sign more autographs and appear in more commercials. Time is on his side.

– Graem Sims