Okay, this is just weird. Or totally genius. Probably both. The irony, of course, is that it was a repeat of the drama from Portugal in late October where Gabriel Medina, without priority, dropped in on Caio Ibelli and lost a heat on an interference call. Well, it just happened again at Pipeline – but with Medina benefitting this time (on a not-so-subtle shot across the bow).
In his round of 16 heat, Medina, knowing his combined heat score was high enough to beat Ibelli even if he had to lose a wave on an interference, dropped in on his fellow Brazilian to prevent him from getting the score he needed. Medina pulled the trigger and went full snake sans priority.
“He is the most competitive mind ever,” said four-time Jaws Champion Billy Kemper as he came into the booth as a guest to join the webcast team.
Pete Mel reported from the channel that he could hear Gab’s stepfather Charlie yelling at him to burn Caio during the closing moments of the heat, which Ibelli confirmed. “‘His dad was like: ‘Now you can burn him, now you can burn him,'” Caio said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. It shows what kind of competitor he is. He plays hard, he plays dirty but I think that’s the mindset of a champion.”
So while Ronnie Blakey, Barton Lynch, and everyone on the beach was wondering what the hell just happened as one of surfing’s golden rules was blatantly broken in the name of competition for the second time in as many months (by the same guy), Medina calmly acted as if it was routine.
“I wasn’t sure, that’s why I went,” Gabriel said after being asked if he thought Caio could get the score with that last wave. “You got to play the game. If it’s in the rules you got to play the game. (Even if no one else knew) in my head I knew what I was doing, it’s all good.”
The only problem is if the WSL finds that Medina violated “The Unsportsmanlike Interference” rule in its book where it states surfers can be seriously penalized for “interference during an Event (deemed) intentional, unsportsmanlike and of a serious nature.”
That didn’t seem “unsportsmanlike,” though, as he knew he had an interference to give. So he took the one-wave penalty.
Bring the hate if you must but from where I sit, that was some serious competitive genius right there. He outsmarted the whole beach and basically the entire world-wide web with his mid-heat calculations.
Update: Italo Ferreira is the 2019 World Champion. Read all about it.