Last year's bear claw, courtesy of Gabs at the mercy of a shallow duck dive scrambling towards the shoulder at Lowers.
Does The World’s Most Famous Surfer Earn The Right To Any Wave?
The continuous tales of Gabriel Medina's pre-contest warm ups.
No one likes to get burnt. But, occasionally everybody lights a match.
In the grand scheme of things, fighting over a wave is silly. But, people do. They “take it to the beach,” because surfing’s not free love and “doobie suckers" anymore; it’s a testosterone fueled snake pit. It’s rude words, rare physical altercations, a board flick, a dramatic splash, and claustrophobia in the lineup around you.
Yesterday, we got sent a clip of Gabriel Medina burning a guy on a yellow board in San Clemente. The guy falls, paddles back out and backhands water in Gabs’ face. Gabs brushes it off with the dignity of man unashamed and gazes into the horizon. When I saw it, I could barely contain my excitement. “Let’s whore this one out!” I thought. Nothing makes thumbs dance over six-inch screens like Gabby—or any Brazilian, really— burning someone. Surfers on social media are beautiful, reactionary, and deranged.
You can watch the incident above. If you’re like me, you’ll watch it at least ten times, and still laugh.
While I’d written Lowers off for the summer—after making the familiar mistake of surfing it in the dead summer heat, during the year’s first significant south swell, on a Saturday—for the better half of the month, I’ve been hearing stories of Gabriel, The Serpent. The stories have been passionate because, everyone short of Adam and Eve, takes pleasure in writing off a snake. Remember when Dane got dropped in on at Sandspit, and the internet took to poor Chucky Rigano like, and I quote, he “spit on Dane’s baby”? But, Dane, like you, like me, like everyone who has ever spent quality time in the ocean has at some point in his life looked at someone taking off deeper than him square in the eyes, and thought, Not. A. Fucking. Chance.
Which raises the question: Does a World Champion or World Tour surfer earned the right to any wave they want? It’s Gabriel’s job as a professional surfer to get waves—to practice, to perfect; to be a champion! His paycheck’s are riding on it, and right now he’s having a whatever season, rallying after his best finish of the year (second place at Chopes) and is fired up. Yes, he is a notorious snake no matter his World Tour rank, but does being the World’s Most Famous Surfer (if you’re going by Instagram following) give him the right to any wave he wants?
Surfing’s unlike any other, er… sport… in the world. Michael Jordan never had to battle to shoot hoops. Roger Federer doesn’t have to wait in a queue for a court. Tiger Woods’ adultery may have been rampant, but that never kept him from walking onto any green he pleased.
Surfing, however, is done in a public place. The week before a comp is miserable; the week of the comp is even worse and if you’re surfing the comp site, shouldn’t you expect to be on the tail end of the world’s best?
So, does this right apply to surfing? Is how a professional surfer acts in foreign lineups before a competition a testament to their character? Or, is it their job to be prepped for the battle that lies ahead, get as many possible waves under their belt at whichever locale, and go for the kill?