Though only 28, he’s wowed surfing fans on the professional circuit for the best part of the last decade and has also been labelled a hero for his brave darting into the fray when fellow traveller Mick Fanning found himself in a scrap with a Great White at the J-Bay 2015. An ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation as well, Red Bull athlete Julian Wilson is one of the all round top blokes of Australian sport. We caught up with him at the Australian Open of Surfing in Manly for a chat about surfing, style and what it takes to win a pro competition.
What exciting you most about the current season?
Getting things up and running now – we’re coming off the biggest break we have for the year, about 2 1/2 months – so I was able to get some good time at home and relax a bit. The years kicking off for me a little early ‘cos I’m down here competing at Manly and yeah, there are waves and it’s what I want to be doing. I love competing. I’ll basically compete from now until Christmas, with a few breaks in between but it’s about 14 events. It’ll be a pretty steady kinda schedule from here until the end of the year.
What do you think about when you’re sitting out there waiting for waves in between sets?
When I’m competing I’m thinking about where I’m at on the heat, what needs to be done. It’s all about being in the moment of the heat – it’s a totally different feeling to when you’re free surfing. It’s just about what needs to be done, when’s by best opportunity to get the right wave and what’s the best way to approach the wave and beat the competitors. It’s a very small bubble, I don’t really let much in.
And if you’re not competing?
Haha yeah I’m out there having a surf thinking about anything and everything.
Surfing is famous as a sport where competitors are pretty famous for maintaining strong friendships out of the water, do you find this changes a competition?
It can affect the competition sometimes. There’s only 36 of us competing on the world tour together and we travel around the world together – there’s quite a few guys who know each other because we’re from the same country and we have friendships from when we’ve been competing against (each other) as juniors, but we’re still very individual. Everybody travels on their own and stays on their own with their own support crew around them – especially on the world tour it becomes a lot more individual. Everybody’s after the same thing.
Does it drive friendlier competition?
It’s great because there’s a great camaraderie and respect between all the surfers but the best guys aren’t everybody’s best friend as well. They’re after one thing and thats winning and that doesn’t always sit in the same place as being mates with everybody.
What’s been your favourite competition to date?
I’d have to say the pipeline masters in 2014 when I won – that was a highlight event for me. The waves were really good and that would have to be a highlight.
Anything left to tick off on your surfing bucket list?
There’s a wave in Namibia – it’s a really long left hand wave that breaks on sand. Probably one of the longest barrelling waves in the world and I’m yet to get the opportunity to surf a swell there. Definitely a bucket list wave – but I’ve been able to tick a few off so far as well.
Do you have a non-surfing bucket list?
Yeah – I ticked one off the other week. I got married. That’s definitely a bucket list tick. I’d also love to go to the Super Bowl. I don’t follow it but I definitely respect what that event does to the country (USA) and the world.
Any particular looks you like to rock when you’re off the board?
I spend a lot of my time in the clothing that I’m endorsed by – there’s no choice around that, but I recently had a great experience getting my suit made for my wedding with P. Johnson – they’re some young guys in the city and I was pretty happy with the way my suit turned out – the style and yeah, it was great.
Was it a classic black tux?
I went with a cream jacket, white shirt, white bow-tie and navy blue slacks with adjusters instead of a belt. And dark brown shoes. My wife was happy so…
Any style heroes?
Johnny Depp. I think he’s got a pretty cool style and every time I seem him I think he’s got it goin’ on.
Who are your non-surfing sports heroes?
Mathew Haydn’s a major one, he’s a good family friend of mine and I’ve always looked up to him, especially from my earlier days growing up surfing. Adam Scott – he’s also a good friend of mine but I think he’s a great role model for any athlete and presents himself really well and he’s obviously achieved great results.
What’s the best country to visit for a combination of awesome waves and a great time out of the water too?
I’d have to say France – The South west of france is one of my favourite places for sure. For a mix – the food, the wine, the bread is exceptional and the cheese – and the waves are like here but you don’t see a vacant spot for your surfboard.
What do you get up to when you’re not in the water?
I’d have to say my guilty pleasure is riding my dirt bike. One of my favourite things to do. I don’t get many opportunities to ride it and it would be a guilty pleasure ‘cos it’s not really supported by anybody other that myself.
Do you see any crossover between surfing and dirt biking?
I do, I actually do. Especially when you’re competing in a competition with waves of consequence and the adrenaline’s up a lot and you have to make good, smart decisions, I do see crossover in that. If I’m going to Tahiti to compete at Teahupoo or Hawaii to compete at Pipeline I will try to get on my bike so I get that feeling. The waves are tiny where I live and surf so there’s no way I can create that relevance on the board.
Final question – what makes Australians so much better at surfing than the rest of the world?
Haha – We all live on the coast. I think we’ve all grown up on the beach. We all love a good Aussie BBQ on the beach and our lives all revolve around the coast.