Gabriel Medina: Brazil’s First Champ

Junior Faria, Brazilian surf journalist, on Medina's impact

Photo: Lowe-White

Gabriel Medina, the new No. 1 in the world. Photo: Lowe-White

It's official—Gabriel Medina is the new World Champion. For the first time in history a South American holds the WCT World Title. The 20-year-old phenom from the beachbreaks of São Paulo, Medina now joins Kelly Slater as one of the two youngest World Champions ever. He takes home a trophy that thousands of passionate Brazilian surf fans dreamed about since Victor Ribas finished in 3rd place in 1999. A lot of celebration is expected in Brazil.

Since his first appearances in ASP world tour events in 2011, Medina's radical and flawless approach has shocked the world. Brazilians have won lower-tier world titles before, in the ISA World Surfing Games, ASP Pro Junior, WQS and in longboard events. But now Gabriel Medina has made history and brought to Brazil the ultimate jewel of the crown. The cultural contrasts between surfing's ruling regions (the USA, Australia and Hawaii) and Brazil have kept Medina inside a fog of amazement, incomprehensibility, and sometimes prejudice. But this haze has slowly faded as Medina advanced towards the number one spot in the rankings with an unstoppable blitz. Even though the international press has had trouble thoroughly understanding Gabriel's character, in Brazil things have always been crystal clear. Medina represents the ultimate surfing competitor: talented, passionate, and hungry for victory.

Medina is a surfer that is not afraid to admit that winning is his main goal. None of the "I was just trying to have fun" clichés. And at the same time, he’s talented enough to erase the stereotyped version of the Brazilian competitor. Medina's popularity has pushed surfing's notoriety in Brazil to new levels. His career path has a lot of similarities to big names in soccer, like Neymar Jr. But now Medina has a title that slipped through Neymar's hands in the last World Cup. And that is one of the reasons why Medina is becoming bigger than surfing in Brazil.

Medina comes from a humble family. He is a local hero at one of the country's most famous surfing spots and has earned worldwide recognition through sheer talent. A life story that has many similarities with Brazilian soccer superstars. And although soccer engulfs more than 90 percent of sports media coverage in Brazil, important media vehicles like TV Globo now portray Gabriel as a sport celebrity—something that has never before happened in Brazilian surfing.

This year's WCT event in Rio de Janeiro was a perfect example of Medina's popularity in his homeland. Instead of stoked out surf groms, sixteen-year-old girls were screaming and fighting for a chance to take a selfie with him at the beach. But outside the hype created around his rise to the top, Brazilian surf fans see this moment as redemption. A landmark. Undoubted proof that Brazil now owns a spot among surfing's most important nations. Although Fabio Gouveia, Neco Padaratz, Peterson Rosa, Victor Ribas, and Adriano de Souza already established themselves as some of Brazil's most important surfers of all time, Gabriel Medina has conquered the ultimate goal: Bringing home the Title and proving the world wrong.

Raise the green, yellow, and blue flag up high, Gabriel—with rage, passion, and a big smile on your face.

—Junior Faria