Brazil’s favorite son has done it again. Just minutes ago, in the semifinal of the Pipe Masters against Jordy Smith, Gabriel Medina clinched the 2018 World Title—his second, having won his first after a blitzkrieg season in 2014.
The smart money was always on Medina to take the big win today. If you’d seen any one of Medina’s heats during the Pipe event thus far, you saw him sniff out makeable tubes in a sea of mostly closeouts, and then track down bonus air sections for good measure. In these pressure cooker situations where a whole year of training and competing comes down to a single day of surfing, Medina keeps a steady hand on the wheel, and today saw him practically in cruise control on his way to his second title win.
In the title-deciding semifinal, Jordy Smith drew first blood with a solid backdoor tube for an 8.50, starting with plenty of momentum. Commentators Martin Potter and Joe Turpel talked about his cool confidence, the time he’d put in on the North Shore since buying a home there and how unlikely it seemed that Medina would be able to knock Smith out of rhythm. Fast forward a few minutes and Medina is selling Smith on an elevator drop of a closeout, gaining priority and all the momentum in the heat. Smith’s mistake paid dividends for Medina when a Backdoor runner opened up, and Medina put on a technical tube riding display for a 9.10. Smith later pulled into a solid Pipe wave that was about a half point shy of taking back the lead, and the hooter sounded while Smith was was waiting for a last chance that never came.
Throughout the whole Pipe Masters, Gabby has looked like a competitive surfing machine. He's had flawless wave selection and heat strategy. Earlier in the day commentator Ross Williams said about Gabby's title campaign that he "had that smell about him."
"I put a lot of work in this year. I'm really happy right now, I can't find words," Gabby told Rosie Hodge in the post-heat interview after acknowledging the hard-fought campaigns of fellow title racers Julian Wilson and Filipe Toledo. "Everyone is pushing the limit. The level is really high on the tour right now."
There's still more work for Medina to do at the Pipe Masters, as he'll face this year’s World Title runner up in Julian Wilson in the final. Stay tuned for a detailed report of the Pipe Masters finals day.
Congrats to Medina on his second and hard-fought World Title.