Friday, June 24, 2022 |
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There’s no doubt now that Gabriel Medina is the top professional surfer in the world.
Whatever questions remained going into Monday’s final day of the Billabong Pipe Masters were answered resoundingly by Medina’s unyielding day-long performance at the most famous and revered breaks on the planet. The Brazilian, who will turn 25 Saturday, tore it up all day long to sew up the world championship.
Whatever it took to push through, Medina did it, and there was no such thing as slowing down. After clinching the biggest of surfing’s prizes for the second time in his career with a semifinal victory over South Africa’s Jordy Smith, Medina had one final task, and he pulled that off, too, becoming a Pipe Masters champion for the first time.
To do that, Medina had to vanquish the only other man who had a world-title shot entering Monday — Australia’s Julian Wilson — in the contest final. That turned into a heated duel in which they traded big scores until Medina netted the needed wave, a 9.57, for a steamrolling, lengthy tube ride at Backdoor to make the final difference in the 18.34 to 16.70 victory.
“There was a lot of confidence,” Medina said when asked how he surfed so brilliantly in four grueling rounds and when the chips seemed down. “I knew I needed to perform good and I was focused on me. I was just wishing for good waves and we had great waves the whole contest, so that made me feel even more comfortable. It was God’s plan. He made this day for me and I felt that. Everything was working my way. Julian is a great surfer. It’s always a tough battle against him. He’s gotten me a couple of times. I’ve gotten him a couple of times. It’s always fun to compete against him. He pushes me to my limits. Winning the Pipe Masters … a dream come true. As a fan, I used to watch the Pipe Masters. Today, I am one of them.”
Wilson, who did not exit the world-title picture until Medina’s semifinal victory over Smith, was beaming afterward in spite of the loss. He never faltered, instead settling for No. 2 on both fronts due to Medina’s prowess.
“It was a really good year for it to come down to the third-to-last heat of the year,” Wilson said. “I was hoping it would come down to the last heat and then I would have had a chance. It was an awesome event and we had such good waves. Today was really special. He (Medina) brings out the best of me.”
Wilson had major work to do to make it to the final, getting past 11-time world champion and seven-time Pipe Masters titlist Kelly Slater.
“To beat Slater in pretty awesome conditions today, that was special,” Wilson added.
On Sunday, Slater, 46, bounced Brazil’s Filipe Toledo from the world-title race with another in an ultra-long list of big-time performances.
Had Medina been subpar Monday, he could easily have lost to Conner Coffin of Santa Barbara, Calif., in the quarterfinals, leaving his world-title hopes in much doubt. Coffin got off to a super fast start, with wave scores of 6.83 and 7.43 for a 14.26 total. Hard numbers to come back from, but Medina nailed a 9.43 and a perfect 10.00 on a Backdoor cavern to get it done.
Brazil’s Jesse Mendes captured the Vans Triple Crown trophy, which goes to the best surfer in the three season-ending contests combined. He placed fifth at the Hawaiian Pro, second at the Vans World Cup and ninth at Pipe.
As for the best pro surfer out there in 2018, questions are no longer being taken. For anyone who has a hint of a doubt, just take a look at these eight scoring waves from Medina’s four rounds Monday in the ultimate wave of consequence, also known as classic, big and steaming Pipeline — 8.57, 8.53, 9.43, 10.00, 7.17, 9.10, 8.77 and 9.57. You can take that 8.89 average to the bank where Medina will be cashing his $100,000 first-place Pipe Masters check or to the garage where he will be parking his new Jeep for winning the world title.
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