The window for the Billabong Pro Pipeline opens up on January 29, and if the last few weeks are any indicator, we’re in for a show. It will be a show, unfortunately, that won’t include Gabriel Medina. According to the World Surf League, the three-time world champion announced his withdrawal from the event.
“The past few months have been a difficult time for me personally and it has taken a toll,” said Medina on Instagram. “As such, I’ve decided to withdraw from the start of the 2022 WSL Championship Tour.”
The decision likely wasn’t one that Medina came to easily. Although there was some speculation from Medina himself that he would take a break in 2022, it appears that he had reconsidered and planned on competing.
“I had every intention of competing for the full season, had made all the preparations medically (I took my COVID vaccination during my holidays) and mentally and physically,” he continued. “But I’m not in a place where I believe I can perform against the world’s best surfers right now and I need to focus on my well-being.”
Although the reasons for Medina’s withdrawal aren’t entirely clear, the World Surf League is standing behind his decision. “The health and safety of our athletes is of the utmost importance, and we fully support Gabriel’s decision to prioritize his well-being,” said Erik Logan, WSL CEO. “We want to put the world’s best surfers in front of our fans to start the season, but we certainly respect his decision. We’ll obviously miss having our reigning World Champion at the 2022 CT kick-off at the Billabong Pro Pipeline, and we will be here to welcome him back when he’s ready.”
Rip Curl, one of Medina’s sponsors, released a statement backing Medina as well. In it, they hinted that he would likely return later on in the year. “Gabriel is our number one surfer and we will do anything to help him return to his best personally and professionally,” said Neil Ridgway, Rip Curl’s Chief Marketing Officer. “For many world champion sportspeople, the pressures of winning at the highest level are great and the Olympics and WSL Championship Tour are tough crucibles to thrive in. We have seen the ups and downs with many of our finest World Champion surfers and we support Gabriel 100 percent in his plan to recover in full and be ready to rumble later in the WSL season.”
Ridgeway went on to encourage anyone struggling, either physically or mentally, to reach out. The last few years have been trying ones for everyone. “We would also like to say to his many fans that it’s okay to reach out for help if you’re struggling physically and mentally and seek help from the many organizations across the world, which have really come into focus during the pandemic,” he said. “The other thing to do is surf more. The ocean is a great healer and we know Gabriel will be out in the lineup as part of his recovery. We wish him well.”
Medina will be replaced by Caio Ibelli (BRA) at the 2022 Billabong Pro Pipeline. Watch it live on Worldsurfleague.com.