Relieved Wilson survives big test in Hawaii
Julian Wilson has kick started his bid for a maiden world surfing crown in style by winning his opening heat in messy conditions at the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Hawaii.
The 30-year-old expressed relief after advancing through the "uncomfortable"
conditions thrown up for the first day of the event which will decide the 2018 men's world champion.
Wilson's advantage is he is the only one of the three men in contention to win the world crown who has won the Hawaii event previously, with a victory back in 2014.
"It feels good to have got that won done and won," he told News Corp Australia.
"It was hard, tricky out there. That's about as uncomfortable as it gets."
While world No. 1 Gabriel Medina also won his heat, the only other surfer in the world title race, fellow Brazilian Filipe Toledo, has been sent into the elimination second round after an upset in his first surf.
The Pipe Masters was finally activated at Sunset five days after its window opened.
In a low scoring heat, Wilson (8.07) beat Brazilian Tomas Hermes (6.40) and local Seth Moniz (4.57) to advance directly to round three.
If Medina makes the Billabong Pipe Masters final he will be crowned world champion.
If he falls short and finishes third, Wilson or Toledo can claim the title by winning.