SURFING: Former world champion Mark Occhilupo believes Peregian Beach's Julian Wilson can claim Championship Tour glory this year, but says he'll need to go all-out to do so.
The 28-year-old is third in the rankings after eight of 11 events and is in some form, heading into the Quiksilver Pro France, which is due to start on Saturday.
Wilson's likely never been better placed to win a world title and Occhilupo, the 1999 victor, reckons a breakthrough could be on the cards.
"I love the way he competes in France and Portugal really suits him a lot because it's got a big barrelling wave and then he's got Pipeline, where he's won before so I believe he can (win the crown)," he said.
There's a log-jammed leader-board, in which a selection of surfers are within striking distance.
"I really think out of the four or five of them someone is going to have to go on a tear to win that world title and get it off (reigning champion) John John Florence...and I wouldn't be surprised if it was Julian." Occhilupo said.
Florence is second at the moment, behind South Africa's Jordy Smith.
Wilson has been on tour since 2011 and has showed plenty of promise in that time, with a best season-ending result of sixth.
But now, it appears he's really hitting his straps. He's finished fifth, third, first and ninth in his past four outings to storm up the rankings.
"I'd always been a big fan of Julian's surfing, from the day he qualified and honestly I thought he would do a lot better than he has done so far, even though I think he's really coming of age just lately," Occhilupo said.
"Without being a totally big guy, he's got so much power and it's his airs (which impress) and he's so good in big waves.
"The win at Tahiti (in August) was epic. I've always touted Julian as being a world champion and he'd be a great one. He's a great ambassador and he's really good for the sport and hopefully he gets there."
Wilson is due to meet Brazil's Caio Ibelli and Australian Ethan Ewing in round one at France, where Occhilupo has experience.
"It's a really stop-start event with massive tides there so you've got to adapt to all the different conditions," he said. "You've got to be pretty on it there but he can do it."
"It's got world-class waves if the swell comes up and they find the right sand banks."
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