WILLY & GABS’ EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
ON THE ROAD WITH SURFING’S ODD COUPLE
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.
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