Gabriel Medina Wins Rottnest in Dominating Fashion and Morgan Cibilic Enters World Title Contention - Stab Mag
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Gabriel Medina Wins Rottnest in Dominating Fashion and Morgan Cibilic Enters World Title Contention

Finals day at Rottnest Island draws a line in the sand.

news // May 25, 2021
Words by Tim Hawken
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Gabriel Medina and Sally Fitzgibbons have both convincingly won the Rottnest Island Pro. In a day of just six heats, the Australian leg was wrapped up in a barrage of power surfing and failed air attempts. 

Gabriel’s win has rocketed him to a pretty much unassailable lead on the rankings. He’s made four out of five finals this season and simply looks in unstoppable form. Even more impressive is that he won today almost all on turns. While Gabriel leaned on airs at Narrabeen, this was a show of brute force. His ability to read the play and use any tool in the belt to get the job done is pure class. If it were any other year, he’d have one hand on the cup already, ready to raise it over his head. Factor in that the Surf Ranch event is up next (an event only Gabriel has ever won) and that victory would be assured. IF it were any other year. With Trestles now deciding the ultimate winner, excitement and conjecture can stay high right until the final hooter blows there. Imagine the wild scenes if he loses to someone who comes out of nowhere at #5. 

Speaking of which, hello Morgan Cibilic. 

“My gameplay’s pretty simple—pick the best waves and go 12 o’clock. Photo: WSL/Dunbar

The unlikely saviour of Aussie surfing has done a rocket act of his own. The rookie has flown out of obscurity on the QS to become the main Australian contender for a top 5 finish. His second place behind Medina at this event has seen ‘our Morgs’ leap up six spots from #11 into the bracket of the best. That means he’s Australia’s best shot at a world title in 2021. If Morgs manages to hold form through the tail half of the year, he could be the unlikeliest Australian since Richie Lovett to win Trestles, take The Rail and the Holy Grail in September. Doubters beware. Morgan seems to have a knack of defying expectations. His maturity and tactics were spot on at this event. The kid racked up a score early in the final, needing 8ish points to get the lead. Morgan then dropped anchor, waiting for that magic wave to appear. The wave didn’t come, but the nerve he held all the way through showed a resolve he’ll need if he can hold onto his spot on the rankings too. 

The other name that has to be in serious title discussion is Italo. He couldn’t connect his hail mary airs in the semis this time, but has still landed firmly at #2 in the rankings with an 8,000 point buffer between him and Jordy in #3. It seems like the first two spots are basically taken, with the remaining tickets being anyone’s game.

Italo and Gab have truly separated themselves from the pack this year. No one else comes close. Photo: WSL/Dunbar

On the women’s side, Sally’s win at Rottnest has bumped her up a massive four slots on the rankings into World #2, right below Carissa. Sal was steady in both her heats, easily getting past Tyler Wright who struggled in the early morning conditions. One of the most exciting heats of the day was Johanne versus Carissa in semi two, though. The French surfer blasted some amazing turns to win against the in-form surfer of the event. Carissa surfed well in the match up, too—just not well enough. Johanne’s heroics looked to have drained her though. While Sally had plenty in the tank, racking up a couple of sevens, then a solid eight, her opponent struggled. Johanne got herself within striking distance with a well-surfed smaller wave, but ultimately all the momentum was in Sally’s corner to take one of the most coveted trophies in the surfing world — The Search Globe. Sally was all smiles after the win, reaffirming it’s her goal to be there at the end of the year, in with a shot at her first World Title. Her win here takes her one step closer to her dream. 

A la the early 2010s, Sally Fitz is within range of a maiden World Title. Photo: WSL/Dunbar

The overall cut off for top 5 in the women’s still remains fairly open. Aside from Carissa, who, like Gabby, has one hand on the WSL Title by now, it’s conceivable the rankings could look very different in September. Caroline Marks is in 7th, but has a win under her belt so will jump up with any other good result. Bronte Macaulay could seriously surprise with her tube-riding skills at Mexico and Teahupoo. Johanne is #6 now on a countback behind Steph, but is incredible in the pool. Anything could happen.

Surf Ranch is the very next event where we could see that shake up. It’s now a well-earned break for the CT surfers, with four weeks until that event. If they’re not going to El Salvador for the ISA titles, they’ll be catching up with friends, putting filters on their Quokka selfies, and gearing up for more predictable waves. Can’t wait for it all to start again.

The Rottnest Search, a great success. Photo: WSL/Dunbar

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Women’s Final Results: 
1 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.24
2 – Johanne Defay (FRA) 11.23

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Men’s Final Results: 
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.50
2 – Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 7.87

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Women’s Semifinal Results: 
HEAT 1: Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 15.43 DEF. Tyler Wright (AUS) 7.64
HEAT 2: Johanne Defay (FRA) 13.50 DEF. Carissa Moore (HAW) 12.83

Rip Curl Rottnest Search Men’s Semifinal Results:
HEAT 1: Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 10.67 DEF. Liam O’Brien (AUS) 8.33
HEAT 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.70 DEF. Italo Ferreira (BRA) 7.17

WSL Women’s Championship Tour Final 5: 
1 – Carissa Moore (HAW) 36,055 pts
2 – Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 28,185 pts 
3 – Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA) 27,540 pts 
4 – Tyler Wright (AUS) 26,050 pts 
5 – Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 24,645 pts
5 – Johanne Defay (FRA) 24,645 pts

WSL Men’s Championship Tour Final 5:  
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 38,920 pts
2 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 30,325 pts
3 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 22,505 pts
4 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) 22,065 pts
5 – Morgan Cibilic (AUS) 21,290 pts

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