Gabriel Medina just won the Billabong Pro Tahiti. At the tail end of what many are calling the best contest ever, spectators had a grand opportunity to officially witness a definitive clash of old vs. new. After a semifinal for the ages with John John Florence, Kelly Slater claimed a perfect ten to move into the finals again Brazilian, Gabriel Medina, who surfed gorgeously all event – eager to prove his prowess in conditions of consequence.
In a disappointing start to the heat, Slater struggled to channel the timeless performance from just minutes earlier. The semi-final again JJF came down to one final wave, with Florence needing a 9.88 to win. When the scores came in for his final wave, he had a 9.87. Since Slater earned a perfect 10 early in the heat, he moved on.
But while Kelly struggled to find his game early in the heat, Medina, on the other hand, had it it in spades. After a priority mistake by Slater early in the heat, the young Brazilian world number one took the reins. With ten minutes left, Slater needed a 9.33, and Medina was absolutely demolished on his first real wipeout of the final – and event. He pulled into a monster, tucked in, and didn’t quite get the score. Judges gave him a high eight, which, given the waves of the previous heat, made sense.
As the clock ran down, the ocean went flat. With two minutes left, a bomb appeared on the horizon. Slater pulled in. On a wave that surely would have been a perfect ten, he disappeared behind the foam, and reappeared with the spit. He didn’t quite make it.
“That was the best wave I would have got in the contest,” he said in a post-heat interview. “It would have done it easily. It was a little slower heat, but it was amazing. I made a paddle mistake early in the heat and that set the tone for him to get a good one. I paddled for one I shouldn’t have paddled for and I lost priority.” A final wave rolled in, with ten seconds left and Slater needing a 9.33. A long barrel, but not a huge wave, compared to others in the event, at least, netted him a score of 9.30.
This was a big final for Medina. “I don’t really know what to say, you know,” he said. “I went home to talk to my mom and the words she said to me really inspire me. She said no one is bigger than God… I don’t know what to say. I’m so happy right now.”
Sitting at number one in the world, a win in Tahiti gives him a solid points lead going into the Trestles event, and into the back half of the Tour. And as for all the naysayers? This proves it: Medina’s not just an air guy.