Twenty-one-year-old Australian Julian Wilson is the sort of dynamic surfer for whom the new World Tour qualifying procedures seem tailor-made. An explosive competitor who has twice beaten Kelly Slater at the World Tour level -- thanks to Quiksilver-provided wildcard berths – Wilson also boasts the sort of well-rounded, aerial-infused arsenal that modern surf stars are made of.
It was such dynamic surfing that was to blame back in January, when Wilson suffered a Grade 2 sprain of his anterior talofibular ligament while freesurfing with Dane Reynolds and Dusty Payne in Ventura, Calif. The injury put a solid dent in his 2010 Worl Tour campaign, as well as sidelined him toward the business end of his soon-to-be-released movie, "Scratching The Surface."
Nevertheless, Wilson's on the comeback trail. Last month he competed in Brazil and the U.S., and he's heading to the ASP 6-Star Sri Lankan Airlines Pro at Arugam Bay with a wildcard in hand. ESPN Surfing caught up with him, en route.
How did it feel to get back to competition last month?
Well, I was fortunate enough to get a sponsor's wildcard into Lowers and then went down to Brazil to do the Rio 6 Star. It was great to get back in a contest rashie, but I didn't feel too confident. I was still surfing around the event sites to prepare myself as much as possible.
So you've been slowly climbing back since the injury. Did you feel your level of surfing was on par with the finalists of those events?
Yeah, on par with the finalists for sure. I don't know about everyone else, but at Star and PRIME events, you always think you could of beaten the guy who won the final!
Next up is the Sri Lankan Airlines Pro. How does Arugam Bay suit your style of progressive, limits-pushing surfing?
I have never been but from what I've heard it can be a very rippable righthand point. I don't know any natural footer who wouldn't be excited about the prospect of that.
Your ankle injury required surgery to repair? How has the road to recovery been?
It took longer than I thought. When I damaged it in January I thought I'd be fine to compete by March in the Drug Aware Pro at Margaret River and O'Neill Coldwater Classic in Tasmania. But that turned into early May at Trestles.
What have you been doing to strengthen your body and maintain surf fitness?
I trained a lot through my injury and worked with a few good [physical therapists]. I took extra time and put the effort in, so I'm confident my fitness won't be letting me down this year.
How did your first wave feel after the operation? Did you hold back to test the waters or were you confident your ankle had fully heeled and it was like it had never happened?
Just like last time when I buckled my ankle stepping into a submerged hole in the sand, my first wave was very slow and on a longboard. There was no way I was testing the waters in the first week! It's like walking again for the first time.
Do you think you will recover from the injury setback and qualify for the world tour in 2011?
Good question. I am just hoping to get in to all the PRIMES from here on out and also squeeze in some 6 Stars. I want to do as many contests as I can then see where I am at the end of the year.
Considering the success you've had at the World Tour level as a wildcard, do you feel the new World Ranking plays to your strengths? If you pull a few top places at a PRIME or two and you could be promoted at the next cut.
My points from World Tour wildcards don't count towards ratings points to qualify unfortunately. Even though I don't really understand the new ranking system, I think it still just boils down to the same thing no matter how you structure it: If you're surfing well, then you will be rewarded.
Your new film, "Scratching the Surface," is set to release in September. Have you finished filming for it so you can concentrate on qualifying for 2011, or are you mixing the remaining filming sessions with events?
I have finished the bulk of filming but I'd be lying if I said there weren't a lot of things still to think about, as well as the PRIMES and Star events. I'm really looking forward to the release and getting it all locked away