WILLY & GABS’ EX­CEL­LENT AD­VEN­TURE

ON THE ROAD WITH SURF­ING’S ODD COU­PLE

Surfing World - - Contents - In­ter­view by Chris Binns Pho­tog­ra­phy by Nate Lawrence and Corey Wil­son

It’s be­com­ing in­creas­ingly likely that Matt Wilkin­son and Gabe Me­d­ina will face off for the World Ti­tle this year. The two friends took a break from the tour to dis­cuss how they’d be about crush­ing the other’s dreams.

THEY'RE AN

un­likely pair are Matt Wilkin­son and Gabriel Me­d­ina. A few years apart (Wilko was born in ‘88, Gab in ‘93), they’ve trav­elled two wildly dif­fer­ent tra­jec­to­ries to get to where we find them to­day, kick­ing back with their feet up in a rea­son­ably wellap­pointed surf camp in the jun­gle, sun­burnt and parched in­be­tween marathon ses­sions. The most cov­eted sec­tion of reef isn’t close to show­ing, the winds have been a lit­tle wonky, and there’s a black mon­key gone rogue that has bit­ten five vic­tims and count­ing, but given the rigid na­ture of the World Tour sched­ule the Rip Curl crew were forced to go old school and line this trip up months in ad­vance. In this day and age of weather maps and pur­ple blobs and last minute strikes, it’s ac­tu­ally kinda cool, and the camp is all but empty. Time to go to work as Rip Curl brings back their iconic Search pro­gram.

There’s back-to-back-to-back swells here, lined up like pre-dawn 747s cir­cling Kings­ford Smith wait­ing for the cur­few to lift, and con­di­tions have ebbed and pulsed through­out the week, with win­dows of wind and tide on var­i­ous sec­tions of the mile-long play­ing field. Al­though it doesn’t have as cool a name as El Niño, the In­dian Ocean Di­apole has seen warmer-than-usual wa­ter and mon­soonal rain in In­done­sia, with an abun­dance of waves (and snow in Aus­tralia) a much ap­pre­ci­ated side ef­fect. And now, as we sit on a six-foot left tube with a light sprin­kling of other surfers, ev­ery­one’s as happy as a clam.

Watch­ing Gab and Wilko, ably sup­ported by lo­cal star Garut Widiarta, go about their busi­ness is a study in con­trasts. Wilko is the char­ac­ter the surf­ing world has loved for­ever. From hold­ing court at the din­ner ta­ble to shar­ing a laugh with ev­ery sec­ond punter in the lineup, Wilko has an ef­fort­less charm that

is only ever put to the side when a big west set shows; sud­denly he’s all buried head and deep strokes and game face un­til he’s fly­ing over the back of an­other made gem, or pop­ping up in the white­wa­ter curs­ing the one that got away. On one drop a mid­dle-aged Aussie can scream noth­ing more than “Get fucked!” as Willy takes off wildly late un­der the lip, only to emerge in a plume of spit a short time later.

For Gabriel things are a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. From the dark, fo­cussed eyes to the enor­mous shoul­ders and tree trunk legs, it’s as if God has cre­ated the ul­ti­mate Surf­ing Ter­mi­na­tor, whose pur­pose is to crush, kill, de­stroy any poor lump that rears its head within his strike zone. The dis­tance that Gab can cover to catch a wave is in­cred­i­ble, and as much as he rarely falls, he never, ever misses any­thing he pad­dles for. To watch Gab surf is a joy, he gets up so much speed pad­dling that he needs no drop or bot­tom turn, he sim­ply high lines from the mo­ment he en­gages in a wave, pump­ing and weav­ing in the top third un­til fi­nally he utilises all of that ve­loc­ity to ei­ther va­por­ise the first sorry sec­tion he spies, or launch into the strato­sphere, six-feet high and spin­ning like a dervish. It’s a sight to see, that’s for sure.

But enough of our chat, how about we hear from the men them­selves? In be­tween long ses­sions in the brine, end­less ping pong bat­tles, and over steam­ing Ja­vanese cof­fee we sat down with the first and third ranked surfers in the world to roll tape on ev­ery­thing from teenage life to Taj Bur­row’s re­tire­ment and, of course, the tour it­self. En­joy.

SW: Gabriel, tell us about Willy’s year. GM: It’s been great! Two wins, a fi­nal in Fiji, cou­ple of solid re­sults. I wish I had his record so far this year. He started the year with a win on the QS and turned up at Snap­per look­ing re­ally fit and ... MW: ... sexy. GM: Yes, sexy. Haha! I’ve al­ways said to Wilko that when you’re fit and in good shape it helps you to per­form bet­ter, and the Gold Coast was a per­fect ex­am­ple. He was at his best, on his back­hand, he was pick­ing the right waves, and ev­ery­thing went his way. When he needed a score, the wave would come. It was the same at Bells. My Dad and I were talk­ing about how no­body ever wins two events in a row, it’s so hard to keep that kind of form, and then Wilko did it! So maybe now I can do it, it’s pos­si­ble. He’s hav­ing a great year, he’s look­ing re­ally sharp.

SW: Matthew, tell us about Gab’s year. MW: He’s com­ing for me! Shit! Ah man, I don’t know. He started a lit­tle bit slow, but last year he started reeeally slow and was still go­ing for the ti­tle at the end of the year, this time around he’s not so slow. And he’s ... com­ing ... for... me! There’s no one scarier to have be­hind you, he’s won ev­ery event, Chopes, Cloudbreak, Europe, and he can do big airs and charge and get bar­relled. He’s scar­ing me! Ha.

SW: You guys were in the fi­nal to­gether in Fiji, how was that? MW: It was sick to have one to­gether though I feel like we barely even saw each other, we were just duck­div­ing the whole time. GM: Oh man, that was hard. We got so many waves on the head, I think I got my first wave with un­der 20-min­utes to go, and Wilko only had two small scores by then as well. MW: I got one mini wave and did three turns and got a three, and that was pretty much it. The waves were so pump­ing in the morn­ing that you can’t com­plain, then the fi­nal was ba­si­cally a pad­dle­fest, and Gabe found him­self two pretty sick pits and that was it.

SW: Is one of you guys go­ing to win the world ti­tle this year? MW: Yeah. GM: I hope so. Yeah, one of us.

SW: Can you work as a team? MW, GM: Ba­ha­ha­ha­ha­haha!

SW: Can you feed of each other’s en­ergy? GM: I think surf­ing is re­ally in­di­vid­ual when you’re com­pet­ing, even with my Brazil­ian friends it’s like that. Hope­fully one of us

“JUSTIN TIN BEIBER IN OZ WOULD BE LIKE GABBY IN BRAZIL. HE HAS THREE SE­CU­RITY GUARDS WITH HIM THE WHOLE TIME, IT’S RE­ALLY GNARLY!” – WILKO

Op­po­site: Re­fract that state­ment folks, The Search is back. Open­ing Spread: Wilko and Gabs took time out from the cork shots and cham­pagne showers to get back to ba­sics. Mon­soon style.

Above: Suss­ing the beans with the num­ber one seed. Op­po­site: Litres later, Wilko took to the wa­ter with a belly full of bean silt and ripped the guts out of a cou­ple. Fol­low­ing Spread: Gabs Belieber mov­ing oceans with some se­ri­ous sprayage.

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