Breaking: Gabriel Medina Is Seeking a New Surf Coach
Here’s why he’s split with Charlie after 16 fruitful years.
On a recent episode of Stab CUSP, Stace and I speculated about which surfers would sit where on the WSL’s private flight to Australia. We figured Gabby would sit up in biz class with his new missus ($6k per seat) and his coach and step-father Charlie would likely be relegated to economy ($2.5k a seat)—a sign of increasing independence from our 27-year-old, two-time Champ.
Boy, did we get it wrong. Charlie wasn’t relegated to economy—he didn’t even make it on the plane. This is because, according to an interview Medina recently gave to Brazilian surf site Waves, Charlie will no longer be his surf coach.
A Brief History
The story of Gabriel and Charlie is well known.
Gabriel’s mother and biological father split when he was young. Gabriel’s mother then remarried Charles Saldanha Rodrigues, who was an avid surfer and surf shop owner. As a means of bonding with his new step-son, Charlie taught Gabriel to surf. When Charlie saw how naturally talented Gabriel was in the water, he invested the majority of his time and energy grooming him into an elite surfer.
Medina became globally recognized won the Quiksilver King of the Groms at age 15, with a perfect-20 final. He then won a major QS event in Brazil at 16 and qualified for the CT at 17, winning two events in his first half-year on Tour. By 2014, a 20-year-old Medina had won his first World Title (making him the second-youngest male surfer ever to do so, just a couple months behind Kelly Slater). In 2018, he won number two.
Charlie was there every step of the way, often with soggy shoes. The man was so invested in Gabriel’s success that he occasionally found himself wading past the waterline mid-heat, with hopes that his physical proximity to Gabriel would beget the desired result.
Once, Charlie was even suspended by the WSL for expressing his emotions in a way they deemed inappropriate. But his high-watermark as a surf coach came on the final day of the 2019 Pipeline Masters, when Charlie—an apparent math whiz—screamed at the top of his lungs for Gabriel to drop-in on his competitor, Caio Ibelli, in the dying minutes of a World Title heat. Having full faith in his coach, Gabriel obliged, incurring a priority interference but blocking Ibelli from earning the required score. It was a brilliant if arguably unsportsmanlike move, and Charlie was the mad genius behind it.
A new rule has since been implemented to deter such tactics, but at that point it was too late. Charlie had done his job and done it well.
What’s Happening Now?
Despite Charlie’s unbridled devotion to Gabriel, or perhaps because of it, their coach-athlete ties have officially been severed.
In an interview with Waves, Medina said:
“It’s gonna be a different year for me. It’s my first time without Charlie. Over the past 16 years, he’s prepared me for the time I would be independent. Now Charlie is gonna direct his focus toward [my sister] Sofia’s surfing, he’s been working with her very closely.”
Medina went onto explain that with the pandemic, everything changed. He learned to enjoy simple pleasures like staying home with his now-wife, Yasmin Brunet—far from the party life and media attention. In this time he learned the guitar, played video games, and “felt like a normal person, which was good for me.”
Brazilian media has speculated that Gabriel’s recent marriage to Yasmin Brunet has impacted the relationship with his nuclear family, and especially Charlie, who as a coach and step-father, was typically the one by his side. Whether or not that has anything to do with Gabriel’s decision to relieve Charlie of his coachly duties, we cannot say.
Who’s Medina’s New Coach Gonna Be?
What we do know, however, is that Gabriel is actively seeking a new coach for the Australian leg of the CT (at a minimum). He told Waves:
“I have to prepare myself for the Australian Tour, which has always been challenging for me. I don’t have a name yet, because I’m still working on it, but I plan to make an announcement about my new coach soon.”
So let’s play a little game. Who’s it gonna be?
Will Medina and super-leprechaun Glenn Hall bury the hatchet after their 2015 blow-up and become the most dominant surfer-coach pairing in history?
Will Medina go for John John’s knees (too soon?) and recruit his nemesis’s main man, Ross Williams?
Will Medina try to pull Jake Paterson out of a Methoxydibenzoylmethane-fueled retirement?
Or will Medina go completely outside of surfing and hire someone unconventional like Wim Hof, Phil Jackson, or my personal preference, Dennis Rodman, to channel his competitive brilliance?
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