Byron Bay pro surfer Matt Wilkinson got off to a great start with a win in round one of the Outerknown Fiji Pro, the fifth stage of the 2017 World Surf League Championship Tour.
The waves came to the party for the start of the event with two-three metres, long and peeling lefts and tricky, fast barrel sections over the razor-sharp reef with the end section breaking in knee-deep water.
Wilkinson defeated Jeremy Flores and Ethan Ewing in round one, carving some big rail turns on the large, clean faces at Cloudbreak and then went on to dominate his round three heat against Brazil’s Miquel Pupo, securing two excellent scores with some long, deep tube rides to move into round four where he will face Julian Wilson and Ian Gouveia.
Lennox Head’s Stuart Kennedy had a slow start in round one coming last up against Julian Wilson and Connor Coffin and he looked a bit off with his timing and wave selection.
In his round two heat he had a tight battle with Hawaii’s Ezekiel Lau. Kennedy bagged a nice long tube in the first half of the heat and then backed that up with a short ride and gained priority to hold off Lau in the dying minutes of the heat.
He moved into round three where he will be up against former world champion Adriano De Souza.
The event has been on hold with organisers waiting for favourable wind conditions to get the competition back underway.
Owing to a lack of swell on the final day of the event window for the Outerknown Fiji Women’s Pro, commissioners Kieren Perrow and Jessi Miley-Dyer worked out an historic plan to run the women’s final on Sunday, before the men’s event kicked off.
Miley-Dyer explained: ‘The concept behind the OK Fiji Pro is to have both the men and women challenge themselves in solid, critical conditions.’
‘We can’t always promise that and, while we’ve had some impressive surfing already this week, conditions deteriorated too rapidly to complete the event. While the waves were much bigger for the final, Tatiana Weston-Webb and Courtney Conlogue battled tricky low-tide conditions with lots of close out sections’.
Conlogue took the win in the low-scoring final.
‘This has never been done before and the decision to allow us to showcase our surfing in bigger waves was incredible and especially in a place such as Fiji,’ she said.