Gabriel Medina Bests Julian Wilson In A Remarkable Day At Pipeline
The now-2x Brazilian Champ takes Julian's dreams and stomps them to a pulp.
Finals day at pumping Pipeline with a World Title, Triple Crown, and Pipeline Masters on the line.
For the avid surf fan, it doesn’t get better than this.
We started with the three-man Round 4 heats, of which Jordy won the first.
When asked about his motivation to succeed at this event, Jordy first mentioned his CT top-five bonus (reportedly $300k across all brands) along with Pipe Masters and Triple Crown titles. Jordy would need to make the semifinals to achieve the first goal, and he’d need to win Pipe to achieve the others, which with the surfers left in the draw would be no easy feat.
Speaking of which, Medina came out swinging in Round 4, dropping an eight right on his opponents’ heads in the opening minutes. After this this first wave, it seemed ridiculous that anyone could beat Medina today. He backed it up with a high-six and breezed into the quarters.
Fuck this guy is good.
Yes, Pipe was firing today.
Julian came up next, facing the Triple-Crown-chasing Parko and requalification-hunting Yago Dora. With Julian vying for his maiden World Title, everybody in this heat had something to fight for and it showed. The trio fought tooth and nail against each other, trading left and right tubes in some synchronized rhythm.
Joel dropped a six, Yago two sevens, Julian an eight.
Needing to improve upon his low-four backup, Julian threaded a small, reef-hugging tube at Backdoor, squeaking out the doggy-door only to be blown up by the whitewater. If it were a clean make, this wave was a seven all day. But the judges have gotten stingy with what constitutes a “completed tube” in recent years, so instead he got a three.
This left Joel out the back with priority, needing only a mid-six to defeat Julian and get through the heat.
What a position to be in.
On one hand, it was Joel’s last-ever contest and he clearly wanted that fourth Triple Crown. On the other hand, Julian is Joel’s good mate and he’d be gutted to ruin Australia’s one hope at a World Title.
When a set finally came, Joel let Julian go on the only wave that had a half-decent shape. Julian didn’t make it, but that’s not the point. Joel’s inaction was as concerted as it was noble.
Parko was greeted by Jules at the waterline, along with Occy, Mick Fanning, Dingo Morrison and more, who helped chair Parko up Pipeline’s famously unforgiving sand, with the Aussie champ high-fiving people along the way.
“Yeah, it’s all over,” an emotional Joel said in his post-heat presser. “And I’m so glad it’s over. Surfing has given me everything – such a good lifestyle, so many ups and downs... I can’t wait to hang it up and surf at more of an even keel.”
Slater squeaked through his Round 4 match to cap off the quarters.
Gabriel Medina, 2x World Champion and now a Pipe Master.
Somewhere along the lines Dorian dropped this little diddy:
“I think Brazilians weren’t given the credit they deserved in the 80s and 90s. It was like, ‘They’re really good, but… but they don’t perform well at Hawaii, or whatever,’ and I feel like the Brazilians today use that as motivation. Now you see someone Gabriel, who is surfing better out here than all the best guys. And you just can’t deny it.”
Please Dorian, say it louder for the bigots in the back.
Jordy squeaked past Seabass in Quarter 1, pocketing himself a cool $300k in sponsor bonuses. That’s like 10 years of income for many people earned in the space of one heat.
Conner Coffin got the early lead on Medina in Quarter two, and what a terrible mistake that was. As we’ve seen throughout the years, Medina loves nothing more than chasing down his prey and methodically tearing them limb from limb.
In less than three minutes, Medina had dropped a 9.43 and a 10.
The nine for a late-drop left into a massive frontside punt. The 10 for a deep Aints Bowl right, which bounced and jumped and somehow let Medina skip out the end.
Fuck this guy is good.
“Me-di-nah! Me-di-nah!” sang the crowd as Gabby did his Backdoor runaround.
The second I looked back up from my notebook, Gab was flying out the back of another post-Pipe tube. Then he went Backdoor and did another runaround. Somehow he got back out in time to catch another wave, on which he alley-oop(s)ed into a bodysurf barrel, which he rode out of despite the surfboard tethered to his leg.
As far as freak ocean talent goes, Medina is starting to verge on Slaterian levels.
Speaking of the old coot, he went on a chest high wave while hold priority in his quarterfinal against Yago Dora, which I found rather odd. While Slater suffered the repercussions of that decision, Yago made him pay with a seamless Pipe wave, coming in at a mid-six.
Not only did Yago get the best of the exchange, but he arrived out the back much more quickly than Slater, who was stuck dealing with endless Aint’s Bowls on the dome.
Pipe pumps unadorned, albeit briefly, after the Pipe master was crowned.
Yago took that priority and wasted it on a sleepy left hander, thus gifting Slater the best wave of the heat.
Slater slipped easily into the dark blue wedge, stalling off the bottom and setting his preferred line into nature’s womb. After a brief disappearance the bald man was deposited into channel like nothing had even happened.
This was a dream wave in every sense of the term, which is why Slater got a 9.93 instead of a 10. At some point you have to look like you might not make it to earn double digits.
He obviously advanced.
Joan tried to extinguish Julian’s flame with a late-heat eight in their quarterfinal, after which the Frenchman only needed a four to steal victory.
By some Australian miracle, that wave never came for the in-priority Duru, but for Joan, who by this point had secured his spot within the CT top-22 and will grace the Snapper lineup this coming April.
So long, Frederico.
At this point in the day I became oddly depressed.
Here were two of surfing’s greatest athletes, both performing at the peak of their abilities in incredible Pipeline surf. Yet somehow, thanks to surfing’s current rating system, there was no possible way that we could see Medina and Wilson face each other for the ultimate surfing title.
For comparison, imagine if Frazier and Ali’s ability to beat one another was determined not by a head-to-head match, but instead a relatively benign point system that tracks their success against lesser opponents. In this theoretical sitaution, Frazier and Ali would never have to face each other to determine who is truly the best, and even if they did decide to face each other, it would be for some default prize.
That’s the situation we faced at Pipeline today.
Julian and Gabs could only ever meet in the final, but if Medina made the final, the World Title race was over.
Despite what some “purists” may think, the WSL’s plan to alter the competitive season in a way that leads to “playoffs”, where the top six competitors go to the Mentawais and compete head-to-head to define the annual champion, is an amazing one.
Wave quality aside, imagine the surfing we’d see from six individuals who have a very legitimate chance at winning a World Title. And when I say a chance at winning, I mean that in the true sense of the word. There would be no default champion. In order to be the best, you’d have to beat the best, straight up.
Yes, I do believe that’s what surfing needs.
Jordy started his semifinal right on the buzzer, threading a multi-section Backdoor tube for a 7.33. Taking off of the very next wave, and having heard those Jordy-spawned cheers from the crowd, Medina pulled into an equally impressive left, which spat him into the gums bowl for a 7.17.
Minutes later, Jordy sped through an even throatier Backside tube, nearly tripping out of the exit but diggin in his toes for an 8.5.
That just pissed Medina off more.
The Brazilian demonstrated this anger by goading Jordy into an over-vert bomb, forcing the South African to jump from three body-lengths into the shallow depths. Medina then caught the next Backdoor bomb, sliding through two sections and doggy-dooring before the explosion.
Medina took everything Jules could've won today.
Needing an 8.6, Medina’s wave clocked in at a 9.1.
Commenters have since questioned this score, and now in seeing it on the Analyzer I can understand why. Jordy’s right was bigger and thicker, if slightly less long than Medina’s double-section tube. There shouldn’t have been such a gap between the 8.5 and 9.1.
Nevertheless, Jordy came back with a Pipe nug of his own, escaping from the pit and kicking out with double peace signs.
Jordy needed a 7.8.
The score came in at 7.2.
“Boo!”s echoed from the crowd for the first time all day.
A rip ran through Pipe for the remainder of the heat, pushing waves left and right but never to poor Jordy.
And just like that, Gabriel Medina had won his Second World Title.
As this reality was embraced by the beach, Medina’s prolific crew of flag-wavers huddled around Charlie Medina, who wa shaking and crying with excitement.
Before Gabby could get anywhere near the shore, he was met by dozens of family and friends who forsook their clothes, cameras and phones in an effort to congratulate their biggest sports hero.
Medina was then chaired up the beach and given a celebratory champagne baptism.
Jordy’s loss also meant that Jesse Mendes would win the 2018 Triple Crown. Which raises the question, does anybody remember seeing him in any of the events?
No, no, no, let me not fall into the trap that Mr. Dorian so deftly described earlier today. Congrats to Jesse Mendes, as it takes an incredible amount of courage and skill to win a Triple Crown.
In chasing the Gabe Train I missed a good chunk of the second semifinal. What I did see was a ridiculous Julian drainer, on which he needed a nine but got an 8.77. Julian then backed it up with a five and, after a few Hail Mary attempts from Slater, the heat was over.
Wilson would face Medina in the final with nothing at stake other than their individual pride. And that really sucks.
The Women’s Pipe Invitational paddled out between the semis and final, and boy did those gals go hard.
Carissa Moore, Coco Ho, Alessa Quizon, and Zoey McDougall made up the four-woman heat, along with the caddies that followed them into the lineup. While never fully explained, they were there presumably to coach the gals into position and make them comfortable at the world’s deadliest setup.
Alessa caught one of the first waves of the match, going hard over the falls.
Shortly after a red-jerseyed figure, who should have been Carissa, slid through a medium Pipeline tunnel.
Hey, wait a minute… Carissa’s not bald!
As it turned out, Slater had invited himself to stay in the lineup after his semifinal loss, and he managed to sneak a cute left nugget under the gals. Rather than taking that wave to the beach, Slater proceeded to paddle back out to the lineup and swing on another Pipe wave – this time behind Carissa Moore, who seemed less than enthused to have Slater nipping at her heels.
“Kelly, when you get a chance, can you please return to the beach?” asked the reverent beach announcer. “Commissioner Kieren Perrow has asked for you to come in.”
And let's just put this in perspective for a moment.
Can you imagine a world in which Carissa – or any of the Women’s CTers for that matter – having just lost her semifinal heat in Maui, would stay in the lineup and continue to catch waves during the Men’s Honolua Invitational?
It’s doubtful that Slater intended any harm with his actions, but... come on, man! How many hours have you surfed out at Pipeline in your life? And how many hours today? Let the ladies have their shot for goodness sake!
With Slater out of the water, the women were finally freed up to surf.
Alessa and Coco split a particularly pretty wedge, but neither was able to pull up under the hood. Carissa slipped into a small Backdoor runner but couldn’t ride out. Zoe air-dropped into several big rights was never deep enough.
Coco ended up winning the heat by pushing three huge snaps through the Backdoor lip. It was an immaculately surfed wave but it went against the overall purpose of the heat, which was of course to see the gals get tubed.
Regardless, the women were charging. If they put in the hours to get waves out here everyday for a year, they would be damn good at surfing Pipeline. That said, the same waves exist for men and women across the globe, meaning that if the ladies want to improve their barrel-riding skills, the imperative is on them and only them.
It'll be hard to wipe this smile off over the break.
In 2014, Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina shared what the beach announcer called “the best pipe masters final ever”.
Julian Wilson won 19.63 to 19.2.
Where would this year take us?
First of all, right on the hooter, some plucky son of a bitch stroked into a legitimate Wave of The Winter contender at Off The Wall. It was a huge, cornered right and he slipped in and out with ease.
Who are you, brave man?
Looking back to Pipe, Medina had already locked in an eight and six.
Next thing Jules had gotten tubed into a backside full rote, leading me to believe that we had a final on our hands. The judges called it a 7.93, which felt low to me given the technical difficulty of that silky punt.
Medina found an idyllic Backdoor wedge and just sat in it.
Too easy, said the judges.
Now needing an 8.1, Julian slipped under a big right and cruised through the first section, then pulled into a sketchy chandelier and somehow escaped on his feet. My gut said it was enough, and the judges agreed.
Next Medina went uber deep at Backdoor. “I thought he was going Pipe” said the beach announcer. He wasn’t. Medina pumped through multiple sections and came out with the spit.
Another 8.77 and a lead change.
Julian then made a terrible mistake, wasting his priority on a shitty left.
Medina punished Julian for that error, sitting on his ass as a blue, Backdoor cavern wave curled around him. Medina passed through one, two, three whole sections before reaching the wave’s natural end, pushing through the chandelier with the strength and stubbornness of a roided up mule.
Fuck this guy is good.
Just like that, it was over. Medina beat Wilson and he beat him good.
Would it have been better if this final also determined the World Title?
Yes, yet it would.
But if anything, this result also proves that our current system works.
Gabriel Medina is the best surfer in the world this year, and fuck is he good!