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Gabriel Medina pipeline

Gabriel Medina is the 2018 world champion.


The Inertia

Gabriel Medina just won his second world title at the 2018 Billabong Pipe Masters. “I can’t find words,” he said. “It’s all about God’s plan. In every single heat, I had faith. I’m so happy to do it again.”

He was comboed in the second heat of the quarterfinals. Conner Coffin had him on the ropes for a few minutes, and the surfing world held its collective breath. If there were two waves of the event, however, that proved why Gabriel Medina is the 2018 world champion, it was the next two. In the span of 120 seconds, Medina turned the tables completely, scoring a 9.43 and a perfect 10.00 for a Backdoor bomb that one has to see to believe.

Of course, it’s never just one heat that makes a world champion. It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of work. It’s a day-in, day-out effort. It’s having your head screwed on tight and your eyes focused solely on the light at the end of the tunnel for an entire campaign.

“He was a dangerous guy to have in that heat,” Medina said of Coffin in a post-heat interview. “I’m stoked to have found that right. That was the best ride I’ve had at Backdoor. That was really good when I came out. I had to pump a little bit when I was in the tube. When I was inside my board was shaking because the foam ball wanted to get me, but I escaped.”

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When Medina took that win over Conner Coffin, it moved him into the semifinals, which meant that Julian Wilson had to win the whole event to win the world title and Medina had to falter against Jordy Smith.

Coming into the 2018 Billabong Pipe Masters, there were three scenarios that were likely to play out: one of the top three on the leaderboard was going to win a world title. Gabriel Medina, who won it back in 2014, marking the first real gust of wind from the Brazilian Storm. Filipe Toledo, who has the most perfect tens in the last five years of anyone on tour, and who Kelly Slater recently called “the fastest surfer to ever live.” Or Julian Wilson, who took the Billabong Pipeline Masters from Gabriel Medina the same year Medina won his world title and who put on his best competitive performance ever in 2018. Medina, according to analysis the WSL released, had a 91 percent chance of winning it all.

Kelly Slater, freshly healed after almost an entire year off tour, showed up and pared the field down to two. In a heat with a bit of magic that only Slater could have produced, Filipe Toledo found himself at the end of a year’s worth of hard work. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Toledo, but as he knows well, that’s part and parcel of pro surfing. So then there were two.

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Julian Wilson ran through Joan Duru easily in the fourth heat of the quarters, then Gabriel Medina faced off against the big South African, Jordy Smith. It was the biggest heat of the year for Medina, because a win meant a world title. With five minutes left, the ocean went flat for Jordy Smith, who was chasing a 7.78. The wave he needed never materialized, and after a masterclass in competitive strategy and technical tube-riding, Gabriel Medina, the pride of an entire nation, clinched his second world title.

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