All week long the entire 96-man field in the Nike Lowers Pro put on a display of performance surfing rarely seen in competition. While the waves themselves take center stage at many competitions, Lowers truly puts a surfer's repertoire on display.
When it came down to the semifinals, it seemed like it would all come down to Gabriel Medina and John Florence. Both had been standouts all week and seemed destined to meet in the final. But on the final day John was clearly not surfing as effortlessly as he had in the days prior, falling on a number of waves that could have easily got him the scores needed to advance into the finals. He was eventually defeated by a surging Glenn Hall in the Semis.
Gabriel Medina, on the other hand, kept his string of incredible performances rolling when he faced Adrian Buchan in his semifinal. In a strong statement heat, Medina battled with Buchan for the first wave without priority. Gaining position, catching a bomb left, Gabriel dismantled every section en route to the event's only perfect 10. Ace was left with no answer to the variety of airs, carves and tail blow maneuvers. After posting a 9.80 later in the heat, Gabriel brought his total to an incredible 19.8 out of 20.
When you look at Gabriel's body of work over the last five days at Lowers, you have what has to be one of the highest heat score averages for a non-tuberiding event. The only heat that was even remotely challenging for Gabriel was when Brett Simpson had him beaten. Needing an excellent score with no time on the clock Medina locked in the score with an aerial maneuver on a bowled-out left. The maneuver was one of those telling moments when you realize Gabriel will simply not let himself be denied the win and is capable of anything.
What did I take away from Gabriel's blazing form at Lowers? If there were more lefts like this on tour, Kelly's 12th world title wouldn't even be a possibility. But the way the tour is set up, this year will be very hard to stop Kelly, and in the coming years, Gabriel will have a difficult task matching John John and Kolohe's frontside aerials and tail blows on his backside at many locations. That's not to say that it can't be done, but as we've seen from the freakishly talented goofyfooter Owen Wright, it isn't as easy to get the results or scores on your backside as it is for the regular footers.
The level of performance continues to rise every year, at every event. This evolution requires constant changes to a surfer's strategy and the Judge's scale. At Lowers it became apparent early on that the judges expected you to give them the best of both worlds--equal parts power and progression. Getting the heat winners correct day after day was great to see. And after two or three years of mixed signals from the judging booth, the surfers and the fans can finally look forward to a legitimate title charge from surfing's new guard.