How many times have people said the Brazilians have arrived? Well, say it again. Photo: James Booth/Charlie Hardy

How many times have people said the Brazilians have arrived? Well, say it again. Photo: James Booth/Charlie Hardy

The Inertia

This was. One of. The greatest. Wins. In surfing history. A 21-year-old goofy footer, from the beach breaks of Brazil against Joel Parkinson, former World Champion and the undisputed king of Behind the Rock Snapper – one of the most technical, dangerous pieces of right point in the world – at that very place. And he did it, convincingly so, leaving the Australian answerless with still two minutes remaining in the final.

Parko began the event leagues ahead of the field. It’s his home, but he isn’t so much influenced by the wave at Snapper Rock, as much he is it. As a heaving five-footer doubles up and prepares to surge behind the rock, Parko is there, surging with it. As it throws into a spastic tube, Parko is air-dropping with it. He descends with but a millimeter of fin in the water, catches a rail, stiffens up and under the lip, pumps as the backwash hits, gets over the wedge, the wave breathes, he holds on, it spits, and he comes out behind it. It is a sight to behold. Current Big Wave World Champion, Peter Mel, who was calling the action from a jet ski in the channel, couldn’t believe it. The final, like the semi-final, had seemed a foregone conclusion. He was no less damaging out on the face, hooking, jamming, swiping and gouging every bend and curve Snapper could throw at him. But he lost. Lost to a kid who, two short years ago, had one of the worst backhands on Tour.

I was there when he made his debut, standing on the rocks, not ten meters from the supposed Brazilian wunderkind, as he flapped and bogged his way along the frothy Snapper burgers he, for reasons only he knows, kept deciding to catch. He was terrible and had you told me he would have one day beaten Joel Parkinson at Behind the Rock Snapper, I would have said, “Damn, Brazilian man, you gotta give up that jiu-jitsu. All them headlocks be messing with your head.”

Medina’s poor form on his backhand had been all the more shocking considering he’d just come off the back of two World Tour event wins in the past six months (on debut, Medina having qualified during the mid-year change over). The hype on the kid was stupendous, and the world rushed to feather his scrotum, peel his grapes and fan him with palm fronds. Especially considering both wins had come in left beach breaks in which Medina could simply execute his patented ultra-corked frontside air reverse over and over and over until they… nope they’re still amazing.

But come Snapper, it looked like he’d forgotten to learn how to go the other way. And yet today it happened: he beat three of the best surfers to ever surf Snapper (Mick Fanning, Taj and Parko), a group who count between them four World Titles and six Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast victories, and who more importantly, are all natural footers. He did it against all the odds, on two occasions taking off without priority in the dying stages of the heat to get scores in the excellent range. It was gritty, clutch surfing, but on top of that, it displayed beautiful technique, as Medina relentlessly and critically smashed the Snapper coping with what was a backhand shaved sharp as a razor. There will be those crying foul over the victory, who will claim Medina wasn’t getting barreled whereas Parko was and that Medina shunned the Behind the Rock Showdown altogether. But understand this: surfing Behind the Rock Snapper on your backhand on a day like this might well be impossible. I’ve never heard of or seen a guy able to deal with Snapper backside on a day like today, and I’d be pretty well positive Parko wouldn’t be able to either if his stance was switched. Luke Egan might tell you he can do it, but he’d be lying. It was a test of the ASP judges, no doubt, matching two very different strategies and two fundamentally different approaches to the wave, but the panel of five international adjudicators went with the Brazilian. Who am I to argue?

How he turned his greatest weakness into his greatest strength in this short amount of time is quite simple, actually. He wants it baaad. Hailing from a working class family of four from the Brazilian biggish wave spot of Maresia, Sao Paulo, he has traveled the world since 15, paid for with the meager takings from his father’s humble surf shop. He is driven to progress more than you could imagine, as I found out the day after that first loss at Snapper when I travelled with him to watch him surf Stradbroke Island (north of Coolangatta). He surfed for five and a half straight hours, all the way through the baking midday heat, tirelessly whipping himself into wave after wave and putting that backhand too work. What you saw today was two year’s worth of that. The Brazilians have arrived… for real, this time. They were on fire this event – Medina, De Souza and Pupo – two of them putting on backside displays equal to any seen at Snapper.

– Jed Smith

  • Alfredo Z

    Right on!

  • Stan-Malo Gesnel

    Congrats Medina but please don’t associate his harwork to Sousa’s total lack of sportsmanship. Faking a fall to penalize someone is the sneakiest thing I’ve ever seen in a comp, it looks like soccer.

    • Gus Hansen

      You’re wrong. Adriano intention was to simply block Jeremy. He did it after seeing Jeremy first big move. Adriano reaction had a delay, Jeremy’s reaction too, as he saw Adriano take off. Both did not change direction, so they colide.

      In fact, Adriano was competitive smart, Jeremy did not.
      Jeremy should eject or leave the way, he had able time for that. But he choose to keep in the wave for a sure colision.

      IMHO, Jeremy tried to make Adriano look bad.
      But the true is that Adriano was smart.

      Sorry my poor english. Peace.

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    “The surf industry, (pro surfing), is not surfing, my brief forays into the dark sickly heart of the matter have reminded me of that”. Lewis Samuels

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    The best waves ever ridden on the planet, by a so called pro or anyone, will always be the waves you catch and ride youself, whether its 2 feet or 20. Peace…

    • Yeah but how do you REALLY know that if you didn’t get points for them? I caught some fun waves this morning. But then afterward I was like, “wait, WAS that actually fun? I don’t even know! I wish someone had given me points for each wave, then I could tabulate the funfactor to determine if I beat that other guy who was sitting 150 yards from me.”

  • Jed, in Medina’s 2nd win, he surfed the entire final on his backhand –
    and it was against Parko (ok, that was a beachbreak, but he didn’t do a
    single air)

    • Jed Smith

      It was still his air game that was the foundation of that win, even though he pulled out a few backhand cracks on a mushy French beachie in the final. In any case, there’s no denying Medina’s backside was nowhere near World Tour standard come that first event at Snapper.

      • Ghee

        Sorry but this was in San Fran and not France. The mushy French beachie was the scene of Julian’s head caving in, not Parkos

        • Jed Smith

          My recollection is of corked air-revs doing the damage in both events, as I’ve written above, interspersed with some generally apt beach break surfing. The sort you’d expect from a Brazilian.

      • Peters

        When I started reading this article, looks like Jed was giving his two cents.. Somehow it reminds me reading one of those millions comments you can find anywhere under any good or not surf article where people write their shits/beliefs even if they doesn’t know much about what was going on and don’t give a crap about facts… Although, the fact is: Medina got second at macking Sunset 2 years ago, smashed Parko surfing on his backside on a final (I know he trilled his way to the final doing airs). And he’s 20, not 21!

        • Jed Smith

          As I’ve already written below, that Sunset final was a year after his debut at Snapper, in which his backhand was revealed to be far beneath a world class standard. Beating Parko with a couple of good BS cracks on a rippable beach break does not change what the world saw during that first turn out at a world class right.

          *Maths was never my strong point.

  • Dave Price

    Man, that first paragraph is pretty far-fetched. I agree that Medina won it, and it’s a nice win for him. He did make his way through a gnarly set of heats to do it. But one of the greatest wins ever? I’d say it’s a great surfer looking like he might be back on track to meet the expectations heaped on him years ago. Not to mention that if Joel just rides his 7.27 a little later in the heat when the judges award the late in the heat, drama induced, extra half point, he gets a high seven and wins with room to spare.

    • frothdog

      A-fukn-greed! he didn’t win convincingly, he wasn’t surfing the most dangerous, technical part of the wave…it was close, he won by a fraction of a point. and the judges gave him the last ditch buzzer beater points. the whole article is a bit out of touch with reality. maybe a case of some one overly keen to feather a scrotum.

    • Bruno

      Expectations heaped on him years ago? He just turned 20, how many years of expectations are we talking about here?

      Future world champ… De Souza too. Nevermind the haters, Adriano de Souza rips harder than almost anyone in the world, and is rather ridiculous to hear criticism coming from good surfers who land one air out of one hundred, and would have to do 20 carves to throw the amount of water De Souza throws in one gouge.

  • Felipe

    Medina is 21. Born on dec.22.1993

  • Bruno Sapha Olivieri

    Well done Gabriel. It was a very exciting contest. And it really seemed to me that somehow it was meant to be. What a great start for the WCT. As Kelly predicted, Gabriel will be a title contender this year. They are saying Gabriel got mature, and I agree. But I missed those insane aerials. He just sent us a message everyone knows: snaps are easier than landing full rotation aerials, if they are underscoring aerials, ok, I can adapt my surf.
    For the title race, it seems to me quite unfair starting the year with 3 contests in a whole happening in Austrália.

  • HeyZeus

    Good enough to shit all over the undisputed king of rights in the final of a WCT event

  • Jed Smith

    Three backhand snaps is not going to win you an event at Snapper. There were glimmers of potential in his early career for sure but upon his debut at Snapper (which I observed firsthand and in which he was bundled out of the contest in round two) it was clear he had A LOT of work to do to get to a point where it was not going to be a major weakness. Go back and watch his highlights from that contest.

  • Ben

    Wrong. Medina placed runner up in macking Sunset in 2012. Sunset is, last I checked, a right. And very far from a beachbreak.

    • Jed Smith

      Yeah dude, almost 12 months after he was bundled out in RD Two at Snapper on debut. Evidence of the progression of backside attack though.

  • Bruno

    Someone else wrote this, I’m just copying and pasting:

    parkos first wave : nice but kinda messy keg, a mellowish swoop around then a filler roundhouse with no real rebound and bogged on the whitewater, turn three was nice, turn four was filler and then the late closeout reo/float was realistically pretty average for a pro = 9.0 most of the score from the keg at the start.

    medinas first wave : completely murders the first turn, blows the tail and recovers with full speed pretty much into another heavy tail out top turn right in the pocket, slight bobble over the ledge and straight into another big hook off the top in the pocket again followed by another one just before the closeout = 8.5

    parkos second wave : late tricky drop under the lip and straight out from a half second cover up/chandelier into a pretty nice albeit pretty stock top turn, then into three section connecting foam climbs/lip tags followed by a slightly wonky desperation gouge = 7.27

    medinas second wave : nice but not overly critical tail waft(still right in the pocket though), straight into a floater over the section and again straight into a foam climb/reo, followed by a pretty heavy off the top straight into a solid upside down off the top on a really steep bowl and then a quick tweaked floater to finish = 7.83

    medina was tight in the pocket pretty much every turn and blasted it with quality critcal turns,
    parko surfed pretty laterally, parko lost.

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