Even if the kid didn’t rip, you wouldn’t forget a name like Xavier Huxtable in a hurry. It’s original, that’s for sure, and it complements the rest of the package pretty nicely. The freckle-headed, cheeky-grinned Victorian schoolboy who plays AFL in his spare time and might just be the best surfer to come out of the southern state in yonks. Or at least that’s the image Rip Curl is trying to sell. But they could be on to something. 

For starters, the kid’s mug is as earthy and real as Aussie surfing gets. Not to get hung-up on a seventeen-year-old’s looks, but it’s a refreshing antidote to the industry’s almost Aryan predilection. It’s the face of a character, and people love characters, especially the kind they can relate to.

Then there’s his surfing. Sure, this week he suffered the same second round fate as a thousand other wildcards before him, but he certainly didn’t get blown out of the water. A few less grommet errors on the end section in his Round One heat and I dare say he would’ve had Kelly pinned. Same goes for his round two match-up against Soli Bailey and Wade Carmichael—the kid was in it the whole way.

Usually the local wildcard at Bells is a twenty-five-year-old tradie who’d tear a boardriders contest to pieces but can’t seem to rub two scores together at CT level. Not the case with Xavier. The kid seemed to have an innate grasp of the criteria and surfed well enough to give his vastly more experienced rivals some trouble. And let’s face it, his surfing still has miles of room to improve. He’s talented for sure but imagine what another year of growth could do, another year to smooth out those kinks. Then there’s his timing.

It’s been ten years since Nic Muscroft was on tour. Ten years since Adam Robertson finished second at Bells to Parko. Victorian surfing has been waiting a long time for their next big thing to come along. Rip Curl is claiming they’ve found him. They might be right.