One name has been conspicuous by its absence from the surfing calendar this year: Julian Wilson. The 20-year-old has taken a year off to make a movie, one that’s taken him to some of the greatest surf spots in the world.
Produced by the Irons brothers, filming on Scratching The Surface began last March in Western Australia, before moving to Bali for a month, followed by a month on boats in the Mentawais and then on to South Africa, France and California. “Then I get to go home and I’m finishing the year in Hawaii,” says Wilson.
How did you choose the locations for filming?
I’ve been travelling since I was 10, so I’ve already been to most of these places and figured out where the best spots are for waves. These are favorite spots of mine, for sure, and I scheduled it so we’d be in those places at the best times of the year.
Why was 2009 the right time to take off?
I really enjoy competing, but I figured this was the right year to take a bit of time off and only do a few events because I knew that next year I’d be competing pretty much all year again. But I’ve still done a few and got some good results. I just figure that as long as I do a few I won’t lose that competitive drive. It’s all good.
And it’s not like you’re on your own either, you had some big name surfers and young pros with you.
Well, it gets pretty boring surfing by yourself, so it’s best to have good people in the water with you. They’ve got to be friends who are fun to surf with. In Mentawais I had Taj Burrow, Dane Reynolds and Dusty Payne, which was pretty fun. Taj was pretty much my idol since day one. As soon as I moved into short boarding, he was my favorite guy to watch. It was really cool having a guy like that on the trip, being able to learn a little bit from him and get to know him a bit better.
You and Dane are part of the new generation of surfers. Does having talented rivals make you raise your game?
It’s cool. Everyone gets along, everyone’s friends. Michel [Bourez] is a really good guy. It’s fun to come through with something fresh that other guys on the tour aren’t used to. They’re coming along with raw talent and lots of air. Michel’s in his rookie year, Jordy [Smith] has had a year or two, and I think Dane’s the best surfer in the world. Really exciting to watch. Being out in the water with guys like Dane really pushes your surfing and makes you try things you wouldn’t normally try.
I have a few good friends I like to surf with, but Dusty and Matt [Wilkinson] are the two guys I travel with and surf with a lot.
What’s been the best trip so far?
Well, probably the boat trip. The Mentawais are probably my favourite place to go for waves. It’s rare that you get to go there, but when you do, it’s a pretty special place. We were out there for two weeks and had fun waves for the first eight to 10 days, and then we kind of saved the whole trip on the last few days when we got pretty much perfect waves. With only four surfers on the boat it was pretty special.
So how do you fill the time when the waves aren’t right?
It can get frustrating waiting for the good waves, but you find ways of finding fun stuff to do to kill the time. We’re going to these places at exactly the right time, so you’re pretty much guaranteed the time, it’s just a case of waiting for it.
And if the waves still don’t turn up?
Well I really enjoy playing golf, so I’m on the golf course as much as possible. Most places I go I know someone who plays, so it’s a good way of killing time. There’s a few surfers who really like golf.
You’ve been travelling to surf competitions since you were 10, but is it fair to say you’ve been surfing since as long as you can remember?
Yeah, I was born into a surfing family. Two older brothers, mum and dad… they all surf, and with me being the youngest, I was thrown into the ocean and onto a board pretty much as soon as I could walk. So it’s in my blood. My two older brothers ride longboards, so we used to go to longboard contests together as a family. I got into short boarding a little more and started to compete. Now, my middle brother Bart looks after my stuff, which is kind of cool. Mum draws on all my boards. It’s pretty cool. It’s hard to put color on your boards when you travel, so it’s cool to have your mum do that.
Earlier this year, Adam Melling won a claymore [sword] and a lordship at the Coldwater Classic in Scotland. What’s the most unusual prize you’ve ever won?
Last year – no, maybe it was two years ago – I did an O’Neill Mission in France and it was kind of like a two-week deal where everybody got filmed while they surfed. At the end of it, you all cut together your own film and the winner got $20,000 and an axe – a kind of medieval axe – I won that, which was pretty cool.
What would you say is your career highlight?
Well, I won a world title when I was 18, which is one of them for sure, but I think beating Kelly [Slater] on the Gold Coast in front of a home crowd, probably the most people I’ve ever surfed in front of, was pretty cool.
Kelly famously also appeared in Baywatch. With all the filming you’ve been doing, is there a TV show you’d like to star in?
Maybe Entourage, that’s pretty cool. I don’t think you’d see me in any Baywatch stuff.
All over the world, there are grommets dreaming of being the next big surf star. What’s your advice to them?
It seems like a lot of really young kids are getting into training, but up until you’re 18 or 19 all you need to do is surf every day and really enjoy it. Don’t get too caught up in it too young, just go out and enjoy it.