Yesterday–in what was one of the more debated finishes of this years Tour–Julian Wilson bested youngster Gabriel Medina at rightly contestable Supertubos in Portugal. After a stop and start event, due to varying poor conditions, Contest Director Damien Hardman was able to pull it all together and finish the contest one day before the waiting period was set to end. Sure, the results of this years Rip Curl Pro Portugal may have alienated a few Brazilian fans, but that doesn’t mean it was any less exciting and important.
Battles were fought and won (and lost) in the wonky, unpredictable surf as the ASP’s top 32 went toe-to-toe in the second half of the Tour’s European leg. Raoni Monteiro single-handedly extended the Title race with his Round 3 spankin’ of Kelly Slater (9.20 to a meager 5.27). Joel Parkinson and John John Florence were among those in good form this event, taking out competitor after competitor until they met in a well surfed Quarter Final that saw Parko come out on top. To say Gabriel Medina was in form is an understatement. He links together air reverses and Larry-laybacks as though it was nothing, he skateboards a wave. That is the only way to put it; the kid is like Shaun White with fins instead of bindings. Unfortunately Medina wasn’t alone in his domination, as Julian Wilson dismissed Raoni, Owen Wright (twice) and Adriano without ever dipping his heat scores below 14.46.
The final was a wave-filled affair, led mostly by Medina. Though Wilson put up a solid fight, Medina’s two-wave total bested him until the final moments. Having ridden 14 waves–just one under the heat maximum–Julian still needed a 7.55 to take 1st place. With the clock ticking down, 35 seconds left, Julian took one last wave, backdoor-ing a chandelier barrel, and then providing three solid hacks to the beach as Gabriel looked on from the line-up. The minutes following on the beach were tense to say the least as the judges finalized their scores.
Gabriel’s family was on scene (quite a few of them), and were very enthusiastic as he skated his way through the event. In all their Brazilian boisterousness they were dead silent at the end of the heat. No one was immediately chaired up the beach as a solo Julian stared down the judges booth and Gabriel’s father hugged him in hope. Several minutes of silence went by, both the competitors sure they had bested the other and then the score came in. 8.43 and well above what Wilson needed to come out on top. Gabriel was visibly rattled, instantly throwing up his hands in disbelief. Julian later said, “I only expected a 7-point-something but they said 8.43…That was my big goal this year, to win a World Tour event is really unbelievable. These are what dreams are made of, I’m so so happy.”
The ceremony was euphoric as usual, but this time there was a slight stench of sore-loser. Sure, Gabriel was beaten last second on a wave that could or could not have been an 8.43. And sure, he is the Brazilian Wonder-Kid who won two events in his first half a year on Tour. But that doesn’t mean he should react so poorly when he comes up short. Tears flowed from his eyes, he reluctantly accepted his second place trophy and failed to remain on stage to (as is tradition) shower Julian in champagne. He didn’t even smile for the post-event pictures next to Julian. If Gabriel’s surfing is next-level amazing, then his attitude surely left something to be desired.
Athletes of his stature must learn to win, learn to lose and be able to embrace everything in between. He is an ambassador for the sport in Brazil and becoming well known world wide, but his impact on surfing will undoubtedly be much smaller if his attitude is contingent on results. As cliché as it sounds, keeping a positive attitude (at least in the public’s eye) is something he owes the next generation of surfing. Our sport is full enough of sour-pusses and localized breaks, we don’t need another bad attitude to bring us down. But I digress…
World rankings were altered with Kelly’s early Round 3 exit, so that now less than 10,000 (the score received for 1st at a ‘CT event) separates the top four World Ranked surfers. In first we have (title-less) Joel Parkinson, followed by (surprise) Ke11y Slater, who is chased by a relentless Mick Fanning and an awe inspiring John John Florence, respectively. With the way the rankings sit, we are now guaranteed a Pipeline Masters finish despite the outcome of this year’s first WCT Cold Water Classic in Santa Cruz beginning November 1st.