Gabriel Medina Wins Rip Curl Pro Search

Gabriel Medina's man-sized hack. Photo: ASP/Kirstin


The Inertia

Ladies and gentleman, brothers and sisters, I have seen the future of professional surfing and its name shall be called Gabriel Medina.  Not until you have seen this electric, 17-year-old goofyfoot in person does his talent sink in.  Webcasts reveal a quick, small and limber acrobat, flipping his tail all over the place, but surely too light, too young to be a threat in serious surf against serious surfers.  I am here to tell you that Senhor Medina is the real deal.  In overhead, absolutely thumping Ocean Beach surf, he annihilated first Taylor Knox in the semifinals then Joel Parkinson in the final of the Rip Curl Search.  Neither heat was close.  Nobody in the media tent could quite believe how thoroughly dominating Medina’s heat wins were.  Time after time, set after set, the young charger careened over the ledge and swung huge arching hacks under anvil heavy lips, following heavy carves with fin free blasts and weightless airs…and it seemed impossible for him to fall.  Rights, lefts, – didn’t matter.  Not only did he outsurf Taylor and Joel, he caught more and better waves, all over the wildly shifting and incredibly difficult contest zone.

In the semifinal Medina opened with a 6.83, worrying the Knox supporters right from the opening horn.  After Taylor clawed back into the heat, Medina crushed the 40-year-old veteran with two 8s – both involved tail-free snaps followed by critical airs.  The final was even more anticlimactic.  Minutes into the last heat, the lithe Brazilian had a 7.5 and a 9.0 to Parko’s 1.0.  I was sitting with some ASP biggies in both the semis and the finals, and we were all left gasping at Medina’s performance; he was surfing so hard and so aggressively. And he just wouldn’t fall.

Medina also beat Wilko and Slater in closer heats today, though Slater seemed uninterested in competing.  Kelly surfed far to the south end of the contest area, leaving Gabriel alone for most of their heat, while Wilko put up a couple good scores, but caught only three scoring waves to Medina’s six.

Today was Medina’s day, and it looks for all the world like this will be Medina’s World Tour to lose for years to come.  He’s the embodiment of a postmodern, high-risk for a high-reward, fluidity be damned, raised on rapid-fire surf video clips where the maneuver is all that matters, cutting-edge pro.  Two event wins in four tries after the new mid-year call up is impossibly impressive.  He could use more seasoning in pointbreak surf to help smooth out the time spent between big hacks and orbital airs; as it is it seems that he is uninterested in the space between turns.  If he starts linking those ridiculous moves together, he’s a 21st century Rob Machado, with a more varied bag of tricks.  Scary.


  • Al Baydough

    The kid is gnarly. When he starts packing on muscle it’s really gonna be impressive to watch. Looks like Andino is gonna have to step it up if he wants to manifest the Great White Hope everyone is putting on his shoulders; he needs to work on the spontaneity factor that Medina appears to have.

     When was the last time we saw someone so young be so dominating so quickly? Pottz? Occy? Horan? Medina could be the first to break Slater’s “youngest champ” record. That would be some feat.

    • Anonymous

      More than half of the events of 1992, 19-year-old Slater’s first title, were held at beachbreaks.  Unless the ASP has more beachies in store over the next couple of years, if Medina were to win a title at 18, it would be in heavier surf than Slater’s first title year.  Though having said that Slater won Pipe in 1992, so he could obviously have won the title in any kind of surf, but still, an interesting observation. 

      • Stu

        Don’t think it’s fair to start the Slater/Medina comparisons.  Slater was groomed for years for his starring role.  I’m not aware that Medina, or any of the Brazilians for that matter, have access to the sponsors, coaches etc. that Slater did.  Remember, Slater surfed with Curren on RipCurl before Quik got him.  If anything, Medinia’s that much more impressive simply because he’s doing all this without years of pampering first.

        • Matt O’Brien

          Stu your joking right? let’s give Medina credit, but HE does have a coach – his dad (just like Pupo). You can see it with the new Brazilians coming up, they totally have been coached. Otherwise they would surf with the “standard” Brazilian aggression, rather than the flow and style that us Western Surfers have come to respect. That is my take on it anyways. 
           Also, Medina and crew of youngsters had Kelly and His Gen to look up to for radical progressive aerial surfing – Kelly and Gen did not. Fact – they created the world we now today concerning Pops Spins AND Such. 
          That being said – let’s take anything away from Medina – I am a fan. BUT Let’s keep things in perspective.
          cheers

          • Stu

            Fair enough Matt.  But let’s remember that Slater had Curren, who’s arguably better than Medina’s dad, as an early mentor ;-)

            I’m not suggesting he’s better than Slater, only that he’s doing what he’s doing without the sickening level of support of say a Kalohe Andino or the various other rising stars from the US and Oz.  I find that refreshing.

          • Matt O’Brien

            first off I meant “let’s NOT take anything away from Medina”, whew typo’s can kill a thoughtful post (thanks Stu for getting back to my post and not “correcting” my grammar) 

            Totally agree with your reply, I too find Gabriel Medina (GabREAL that is) is very refreshing in those regards too. I just want to make sure that his story isn’t turned into some kind of immaculate conception, but is a story of in fact Hard work and dedicated fathers/influences – much like that of early pro’s from other surf backgrounds (i.e. AUS USA HAW). thanks again for responding to my reply of your post because I really do enjoy having thoughful discussions regarding surfing and Pro surfing. cheers…

          • Whaaaat??!

            Your comment about the “sickening level of support”, Stu, has the stench of jealousy emanating from it.  And more than a touch of double standards, too, unless you’re saying that the mentoring, coaching and material support of – matched by countless hours of hard work by – any young person is always “sickening”, no matter where, when and how it occurs.  In which case you should expect howls of derision from countless would-be paragons from countless sporting, academic and artistic disciplines.  

          • Stu

            Support is fine.  But surfing parents have taken soccer moming to a new level.  And let’s be real – “hard work” surfing is just surfing.

          • Al Baydough

            You do realize there are many very wealthy Brazilians who pamper the hell out of their groms, right? 

             

          • Stu

            Fair enough Matt.  But let’s remember that Slater had Curren, who’s arguably better than Medina’s dad, as an early mentor ;-)

            I’m not suggesting he’s better than Slater, only that he’s doing what he’s doing without the sickening level of support of say a Kalohe Andino or the various other rising stars from the US and Oz.  I find that refreshing.

          • Nick Carroll

            Yeah mate, you want to take a surf trip down to Brazil some time. The country is still in a fairly early stage of surfing development compared with the big Western surf nations (Hawaii, the US, Australia, Sth Af) … yet it has the profound advantage of youth. What everyone seems so suddenly stunned to see in Gabriel isn’t so much the result of coaching as it is the result of growing up in a big, energetic, emerging surf culture full of kids surfing more or less just like he does — without too many older guys sitting on top of ‘em in the lineup.

            These kids have all had mentors, every good surfer does. But from Adriano on down, this is Brazil’s emergent generation, the ones who’ll leave a deep distinct mark on global surfing for the first time. If you want to compare them to a similar crew in the US or Australia, you’ve have to go back a coupla generations.

          • Stu

            Nick, it’s interesting that you included South Africa in your list.  I know they’ve had very successful pro surfers (with ST being the most obvious door-buster, and Jordy more recently), but they’re not really a rich surf country when compared to the US and Oz.  Indeed, most saffa pros struggle to make it through even a few years on the QS.  Sean Holmes is the most striking example – I recall his story about sleeping in airports because he couldn’t afford a hotel while doing the QS.  To me, New Pier is the ultimate breeding ground.  Aside from just the $$ issue, what do you think has held saffas back the most?

        • Al Baydough

          So I take it you know everything about Medina’s family and upbringing? Please, enlighten us with the details.

        • FlavioCD

          Actually Rip Curl started his sponsorship a long time ago. I agree with you that is way too soon to compare him with Slater. But the fact that Medina could break Kelly’s youngest world champ record is a reality.

          • Al Baydough

            I’m not comparing Medina (or Andino) to Slater – or Occy, Pottz, or Horan. On the raw talent side of things those surfers were innovators. I don’t see the same X factor in Medina so much as his ability to (obviously) compete and win at the highest level consistently at such a young age. His wins mark a competitive emergence that has not been seen in quite some time. It will be interesting to see how this confidence propels him and whether or not it frees him up to experiment more or simply be a highly technical competitive machine (which is what I see in Andino).

             Truly great innovative surfers don’t telegraph their moves, but they often don’t kill it competitively either.

  • Whaaaat??!

    Hmmm.  I like a writer that uses understatement. viz.   ”I have seen the future of professional surfing”. ”He could use more seasoning in pointbreak surf to help smooth out the time spent between big hacks and orbital airs; as it is it seems that he is uninterested in the space between turns.” 

    Only a brave man or a fool would  so quickly overlook Wright and Wilson.  Both are extremely hungry.   Both have the big hacks and airs of Medina; both also have that ineffable flow that is as yet missing from Gab’s repertoire.  

    If nothing else, it will fascinating to see who’s left standing when the going gets really heavy.  
    Bring on the North Shore season.  

    • Luciano

      I like flowy stilish surfers like Curren, Occy, Pottz and even Carroll. – I never liked Kelly’s style. I think that Frankie Orbenholzer from the Rip Curl movies surfs (surfed) like 10 times better than Kelly and all his generation. I think John John Florence has more style than 90% of the surfers on the World Tour. I think judges can’t give 8, 9 and 10s to Medina airs because they are much EASIER to do than some barrels that Jonh John is surfing. Barrels deserve 10s, airs deserve 7s.

      • Anonymous

        Frankie Oberholzer ripped.  

      • Brainchild

        Yep, I like John John too.  Particularly his little slidey takeoffs from behind the peak.

    • Al Baydough

      Wilson and Wright have a number of years over Medina so we’ll have to wait and see how he’s performing in his twenties to make a valid comparison.

       BUT, Wilson got a freaking BOMB on the tow day at Chopes. Instant legend. Absolutely nothing more to prove other than whether or not he can dominate competitively. In my book that isn’t as important.

  • ctwalrus

    I seem to remember Bobby M  spewing in NYC  how it was unfair for the ASP to put young kids onto the WT before they had earned their position or even had a chance to go for a title.    Looks to me that maybe Bobby was a bit scared that he could not cut it against the up coming batch of Brazilians.    not to sure i like his style, but the kid sure seems to have his act together, 2 wins in 4 events, pretty dam good, i’m thinking……

    • Whaaaat??!

      Bobby who???

  • Chuck

    If I may add something in here, especially coming from Brazil myself, allow me.
    *Don’t worrie, I’m not a crazy brazzo fan. I actually cheer for surfers, rather than country.

    Anyway. Yes, some of our kids have coaches and are well sponsored, but we are nowhere near the level of support us/aussies groms get. I’d say we are in the middle stages on this game(the big stage being you, of course).

    For instance, a really while ago Medina only had support of his dad in matters like physical preparation and, well, pretty much everything else. Just like Pupo with his dad (but he was a pro). Same to Adriano/Jadson with Pinga.
     
    In Medina’s case, It was just when he show up in the KOGroms that Rip Curl really paid attention. In fact, they only started to send him out to real travels by then. Not saying that Rip didnt do much, but just the usual actions for Brazzos groms, which include allowance to live and travel to competitions or short local trips.

    The point is there isn’t much coaching going around here. Kids have to show up in the international scenario to get a break. Then they get proper attention.

    But we still manage to have a very strong local circuit here(Brasil’s economic strength is on the local market in all areas) and adding that to a 200M population in a very unfair overall system (in all ways) the result is a great competition anger and self preparation for it. Stakes are high for some kids here. IMO that’s why they look so ready.

    Not sayin that there arent exceptions. I know a great deal of kids who could be living a regular midle-high class life and chose surfing with money support from family.

  • Anonymous

    Bingo.

  • Matt Dun

    Yeah the kid rips, no doubt about it.  But, I don’t think that you can call him the next messiah just yet.  His wippy little speed burn’s that the commentators were absolutely frothing over as the turns of the century were just that, wippy and lacking any real power or rail to rail gouging.  Again the kid has a lot of talent and will develop this as he matures and fills out.  I would have to say this yours tour has been one of the most exciting to follow for sure but it worries me a little that there has been such a massive shift in the judges perspective of what scores well these days.  A massive technical air is amazing to watch but if you can’t link a wave with committed rail to rail surfing as well then you shouldn’t be scoring nine’s or tens.  I wonder what Taj Burrow’s point of view on this matter is?  he can more than match it in the air and has perfected his rail to rail surfing over the years as well.  I feel there were way too many tens thrown around this year and a massive difference in scores for similar waves from heat to heat.  It felt at times that the judges got caught up in the hype of it all.  I just hope they don’t stray too far from an overall balanced approach to surfing. 

    • Anonymous

      Watch the semis and the final again.  Medina won them both with committed, on a rail surfing.  

      • Al Baydough

        Committed yes. But he wasn’t laying it on a rail. I think you need to watch more Occy, Carroll, and Knox. Throw in some Richard Cram for good measure. THAT’S laying it on rail and those cats were doing it before 17. 

  • Eric

     Gabriel Medina is a wunderkind.  Agreed.  The kid just doesn’t fall.  France, Portugal and OB..all beachbreaks, all fitting his style of surfing.  Let’s see how big his boardshorts are at Pipe.

  • FlavioCD

    Al, as you can see in title of my message, my reply was not to you, was to Stu – agreeing with him about the Slater/Medina comparisons. But anyway, i’ll have to disagree with the X factor thing. With only 17 years, the guy can fly as no one else, do carves and turns with so much fluidity, is quick as hell, very progressive, and believe me, he IS a tube rider! Ok, he probably will not win Pipe this year, but I would bet an “all in”  that at some time he will. And Teahupoo. So, even not considering his barreling ability, the kid have something else (X factor) or what? 

    • Al Baydough

      X factor means reinventing the form. He has yet to do this. Time will tell. 

       And I can’t recall if I meant to reply to Stu or you. I’m pretty much in love with Stu so I’m guessing the former. You were likely a mistake – the bastard love child of Stu and Al’s impossible and misguided passions. But don’t give up hope, estrangement could be just around the corner (derangement arrived long ago).

       Pepe Le Pew would approve. 

      • FlavioCD

        Throwing airs on regular basis (and creating new airs) on WT heat’s it is a reinvention of the form. the ASP had to re-think their judgment criteria cause of him. Well my friend, if this is not reinventing the form I don’t know what it is. 

        • Al Baydough

          What new airs has he invented? I’ve been watching the kid pretty closely and I haven’t seen him do anything that others before him haven’t already done. Dane and Jordy were more inventive at 17. So were many others. Slater was perhaps the greatest performance innovator I’ve ever seen; you just never knew what he was going to do on any given section. Hell, he’d change the move halfway through it. Medina shows promise but he has yet to manifest it with regards to pure creativity.

           I should throw Garcia out there. Before he started packing on too much muscle he was the most innovative and spontaneous surfer of his generation. I watched him utterly smoke the field in everything (except Carroll at Pipe). It was gnarly. Perfect example of how too much muscle can wreck a good act.