Just minutes ago, Medina blew straight past Kelly Slater in their Round 5 heat and into the quarterfinals, intensifying an already electric world title race with World No. 1 John John Florence. It was an odd heat, to be sure, starting with Slater suffering an uncharacteristic fall on a gorgeous Backdoor drainer, which was later chalked up to Slater potentially avoiding a sea turtle collision (there was clearly a turtle in the wave, but whether or not Slater even saw it is a mystery).
But things really got interesting about halfway through the heat when a trailing Slater knifed the drop on a Backdoor runner that could have easily gotten him out of combination and back in the heat. Instead, Medina used his priority to block Slater, airdropping right in front of the GOAT and turning into him, forcing Slater to straighten out and squashing any hopes of a solid score. You could hear gasps on the beach, but Slater seemed rather amused by Medina’s aggressive (and very savvy) competitive tactic, with Slater turning toward the beach, sticking his tongue out and waving double shakas toward the crowd.
With Medina’s burn, the man who everyone guessed would wreak havoc on the world title race instead went quietly into the night. Perhaps his lingering foot injury slowed him down just enough for Medina to usurp him at his favorite venue, or maybe Medina’s eyes are so firmly locked on the world title prize that even the GOAT can’t stop him. Click below to watch the pivotal Round 5 encounter between Medina and Slater.