Who's gonna beat this guy? Photos: WSL
Gabriel Medina Will Win The World Title In 2019, And It Bores Me So
A pre-Portugal analysis from an indifferent super-fan.
The surfy surfy contest in Portugal should start today and I'm primarily indifferent.
Two main reasons:
1. The time zone is atrocious for American viewers, and
2. The (male) World Title Race is essentially over.
My first point is fairly objective. The only thing more boring than watching a surfing event in real-time is watching it after the fact. Reason being, in certain circumstances, a wave that scored just 3.5 points could have a surf fan jumping out of their seat and erupting with Brazilian-like fervor. But without the context of Titles, careers, and personal fortunes on the line, a 3.5 is a 3.5 is a 3.5.
In the WSL's terminology, fair surfing.
In ours, meh.
Depending on the conditions, even waves that score six, seven, and eight points can be boring to watch on the Heat Analyzer, where we already know the end result but are curious as to how it was achieved. For those reasons, the European leg, along with J-Bay, are pretty much a write-off for me as a surf fan. I'd imagine the same is true for most non-nocturnal Americans.
For Australians, however, I've been told it's more than ideal and one of the Tour's premier legs. Different tones from different zones, as they say.
My second point, the one about the World Title race being "essentially over," is more subjective and certainly debatable. But before you start promoting racist rhetoric ("Brazil hater/lover") and hollow platitudes ("Kolohe still has a chance!") in the comments, let's look at the current World Title scenarios and use a dose of logic.
My belief that Gabriel Medina will win the World Title is predicated on basic arithmetic and applied logic.
Arithmetic-wise, if we look at the official Title scenarios above, it's clear that a final finish in Portugal will put Gabe in a position to win the Title this week, should Filipe, Italo, Jordy, and Kolohe fail to achieve certain results. While my gut says that the Title will probably come down to Pipe, it actually wouldn't take that much for Gabe to earn the crown at Supertubos.
Logic-wise, Gabriel's nearest competitor, Filipe Toledo, has one major factor against him at each of the remaining events: in Portugal, he's dealing with a prolonged back injury that will make competing in shifty, beach break conditions all but impossible. And at Pipe, well... it's Pipe. Filipe Toledo at Pipe.
On the outside looking in, we have Kolohe and Jordy. Both surfers are capable of winning at the two remaining venues, but both will fail to do so on account of chronically coming up short. Jordy has crumbled in every Title Race he's been a part of, and Kolohe has still yet to win a CT event in eight long years. I don't see either of those facts changing in the next two months, although I've been wrong before.
Then we have Italo Ferreira—the only man talented, fearless, and care-free enough to challenge Medina come year's end, in my eyes. Italo won Portugal last year (beating Medina in the semis) and has all the necessary skills to excel at Pipe. The only thing about Italo, and feel free to cauterize me in the comments if you disagree, is that he doesn't seem "World Title ready" just yet.
Honestly, I don't even know how I would define "World Title ready," but it's the same thing I said when Wilko won the first two events in 2015. And look how that turned out.
But then again, this is surfing—a sport ruled by the moods of wind, tide, and Kelly Slater—so anything could happen.
In fact, some factions within this very brand believe that Medina will fall early to a Rip Curl Pro wildcard—perhaps Crosby Colapinto or Vasco Ribeiro—and leave the door swinging wide like an old-timey saloon.
Fair enough. Stranger things have happened on the fabled Portuguese coast. Like Miguel Blanco's coffee complexion, or the how-many-marshmallows-can-you-fit-in-your-mouth contest that spawned the Portuguese language.
My question is, when push comes to shove, who's gonna beat Medina at Pipe, where it actually counts?
With John and Julian out of the picture, probably nobody. And so, the Title will be his. Which bores me endlessly.
If you've read anything I've written in the past few years, you'll know that I'm a huge Medina fan. But there is a minor caveat.
I love Gabriel Medina for his surfing, yes, but even more so for his sheer ruthlessness and ability to perform under pressure. To use an automotive analogy, the man is more clutch than the third foot pedal. But when there's no one around to genuinely challenge his eminence, it's kinda like... who cares?
(Also see: Nyjah Houston in Street League.)
This is a round-about way of saying that we need John Florence back, and we need him now.
Filipe, Italo, Jordy, etc. are all fun to watch throughout the year, but if we're being honest, there are two surfers who dominate today's competitive scene, and one of them has been injured for the past two years.
Medina needs a foil—both for us, as fans, and himself, as a competitor. He performs best under pressure, and we want a genuine Title race.
John, please come back.