Matt's bid for survival at Pipe Masters
BYRON BAY surfer Matt Wilkinson is in a re-qualification battle after a surprise first-round win at the Billabong Pipe Masters in Hawaii.
He needs a strong finish in the final event of the year, being ranked 24th with the top 22 surfers re-qualifying for next season.
It was a big effort first up from Wilkinson with his three-man heat including world No2 Filipe Toledo.
"It's always stressful this time of year and being on the bubble is definitely a little scarier,” Wilkinson said.
"But I'm just taking it as it comes. Waking up here every day we hope to get big tubes but today is about as tough as it can be.
"I just wanted to do two backhand re-entries and find a little tube to try to beat the other guys in the water.”
Wilkinson has hit some form recently with a quarter-final appearance where it took tour leader Gabriel Medina to eliminate him at the Rip Curl Pro at Portugal in October.
He had been disappointing this season with with his best result before that being a fourth-round finish at the Quiksilver Pro in France.
He won tour events and finished fifth overall in 2016 and 2017 including a Quiksilver Pro runner-up finish on the Gold Coast against former Lennox Head surfer Owen Wright.
Wright faces the elimination round in Hawaii and despite being out of world title contention has comfortably re-qualified, ranked at No 5.
His younger brother Mikey and Suffolk Park surfer Soli Bailey will join him full-time on the tour next year.
Meanwhile, 2012 world champion and former Pipe Masters winner Joel Parkinson has advanced to the third round in Hawaii.
Parkinson, who will retire following the event, is in a great position on the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing rankings and will shoot for a big finish to his professional career.
"It was a tough day and I'm lucky I found a good opportunity,” Parkinson said.
"I've been here with my family and listening to my wife and daughter speak last night (at his retirement party) was really amazing and emotional.
"The love and support I've received from everyone including the fans has been overwhelming.
"I can't wait for the next chapter and let's go out with a bang.”