Gabriel Medina is the 2014 ASP World Champion
And it’s official: Gabriel Medina is the 2014 ASP World Champion.
Today at definitely-not-perfect Pipe and Backdoor, things kicked up when Gabriel beat Dusty Payne with two 8.83 rides in round three. If you're going to win the title, that's the way to do it. Gabs combo'd Dusty in possibly the most hyped up heat of the year. Not only did he rule Pipe in that heat but he ruled Backdoor, too. He made a clutch decision when he decided to take the Backdoor wave off Dusty. He surfed and looked as though it was just any other heat, high five-ing fans afterwards and enjoying the moment.
He then clocked a 7.00 and 8.67 against Filipe Toledo and Josh Kerr in round four, skipping round five and bouncing straight into the quarters. At one point, Filipe Toledo almost blocked Gabs. Not intentionally, though – Filipe did everything he could to stay away from Gabs in their round four heat. He took of on closeouts and somehow came out of them. A surfer most would dismiss at Pipe went out and ruled his countryman, until Gabs stepped up again and got two high-scoring waves in a matter of seconds. Filipe might not realise it now but it was probably the best thing that could ever have happened to him. If he’d knocked Gabs out and Mick had gone onto win… certain death! But Gabs' round four win left Mick Fanning needing to win the Pipe Masters... something he’d never done before.
But Mick lost in round three and had to fight in round four – a task he couldn't complete. Mick lost to Alejo Muniz in the fourth round and after that, nothing else mattered: We had a new world champ, a Brazilian world champ, a deserving world champ! And an appropriate end to the first year of the new ASP. Gabriel Medina is the new best competitive surfer in the world. And after Filipe Toledo, Mick Fanning was the second person to hug the kid.
Gabs still had a heat to surf, but the crowd was having none of that. After reaching shore to celebrate with Charlie, Gabs was chaired up the beach in a throng of green and yellow. "It feels amazing," Gabs told Ronnie. "I don’t know what to say right now. I love the crowd, I love this sport, everything pays off right now."
"Yeah, I need to go surf! But I really wanted to celebrate with all these people. I’m so thankful to have the job I have. I just reached my goal. As I always say, this crowd and this support helps, not bring me pressure.
"I don’t know what to say man, it’s my best day ever!"
There’s been some severe head noise for Gabs to deal with since Pipe started. After his round one heat, he was followed by a 15-pack (media and fans) down to the Rip Curl house along Ke Nui road. At one point, a group of Brazilians all wearing yellow t-shirts with 'Vai Medina', yelling exactly that from the beach outside the RC house, wouldn't continue up towards Pipe until Gabriel came out on the balcony. When he did, they straight-up melted.
Despite the fact that from 6am onwards there wasn't a parking spot from Sunset to Waimea, there were notably less people on the beach this year compared to last. But regardless, no one cheers louder than Gabriel’s fans. You’d know whenever Gabriel was taking off cause the beach would erupt. The Brazilians cheered for their surfers but they also cheered for the surfers from other countries. Besides a few in the pack, they were very good sports.
Despite the head noise, Gabriel knows just how to distract himself, too. One evening, a Stab correspondent spotted Gabriel, his little sister, Sophia, and Charlie playing around in the shallows below the Rip Curl house. They were running around, as if playing tag – Gabs was in total family zone.
Mick, on the other hand, has been in the lineup more than anyone. He has been surfing all day, every day, with trainer Phil on the beach filming every session. And when not surfing, he’s been incognito, spending most his time in the Rip Curl house and not much time out and about. Which is unsurprising – the Rip Curl house has had a chef cooking dinner every single night, bringing in fresh produce and crafting up huge meals.
Rip Curl had two boxes of t-shirts delivered to that house, too. One for if Mick won, and another for if Gabriel won. Housemates Matt Wilko and Kekoa Bacalso played a little prank by putting Mick’s shirt on Gabriel’s door, and Gabs’ shirt on Mick’s door.
The Pipeline itself played a big part in all this, too. Joel Parkinson said that Backdoor looked more like a rip bowl at Woolamai in Victoria than it did Backdoor. The sand has been a go-to conversation starter on the North Shore if you ran into someone but had nothing of value to say. "Man, I've never seen so much sand on the reef." This was probably the most sand the Pipe Masters has ever seen. After a fairly slow Pipe season there just wasn’t a big enough west swell to get rid of the sand. North swell after north swell built up the sand and this caused a bit of havoc in the lineup, with random rips tearing through the peak and sets going to waste. It did make it exciting for the spectators, though. Pipe has always been close to the beach but this year you could throw a stone and hit a surfer in the barrel. Not that you'd wanna do such a thing.
And Kelly Slater. This was never in his control. Gabs and Mick had to lose early for Kelly to still have a chance, and that was never realistically gonna happen because determination. Interestingly, the first wave Kelly caught all season in Hawaii was an 8.17, because he'd been injured.
All in all, the ASP pulled it off. It wasn't huge Pipe but it was good Pipe and Backdoor. Kieren Perrow and the ASP got a ton of heat about calling the event off on the second afternoon but in retrospect, they made the right decision. It made it an even playing field for the world title to unfold and added a bit more pressure on the surfers by shortening the heats to 30 minutes and making the winner surf six heats. That would be a total of three hours of surfing for the winner. After a long year and a ton of good surf they certainly kept the excitement and tension levels high.