Top 10 Pipe push
By STEVE SPINKS
BYRON Bay professional surfer Danny Wills is on the brink of forcing his way back into the world's top 10.
He's so close.
In fact, going into the last event in Brazil, Wills was sitting in 10th spot.
But family duties called earlier this month.
Wills' three-year-old daughter Symone was hospitalised for eight days following an asthma attack that turned into an infection.
It forced the 29-year-old to miss only his second World Championship Tour event in eight years and subsequently saw him drop to 12th on the ratings.
"She (Symone) went into hospital the afternoon before I was meant to go," Wills said.
"I delayed leaving, but then I dismissed the idea of going to Brazil.
"I couldn't just leave.
"It felt weird not being there (Brazil) and I was checking the internet for results all the time, but I was happy to be around her."
However, all is not lost.
The goofy-footer has one last opportunity to sneak back into the top 10 with the tour's last event the famed Rip Curl Pipeline Masters in Hawaii starting on December 8. He will head to Hawaii to start preparation in the next week.
Pipeline is probably the most famous surfing competition in the world and it's an event Wills is yet to conquer.
"I've done pretty well there and I've got a couple of ninths, but I've never broken into the quarter-finals before," Wills admitted.
"My main goal is to win it, but there are lots of little hurdles to jump on the way."
If Wills can push into the top 10 it will signal a return to form for the Byron local.
Last season, for the first time in many years, the jockey-sized powerhouse dropped to number 17.
It was a far cry from when he stunned the world in his second year on the tour to finish third.
"That year (when he came third) came as a shock," Wills said.
"I got on a roll from the first event and just went bang.
"I didn't soak it in as much as I should have."
Since those heady days, Wills has solidified himself in the top 10 even though the skill level of professional surfing has risen.
"Surfing has got a lot stronger," he said.
"Back then it was only Kelly (Slater) who seemed to be two steps above everybody.
"Now everyone has caught him ... it's (surfing) so much stronger.
"It seems 10 times stronger."