Gabriel Medina Wins The 2016 Fiji Pro
His first victory since France 2015.
Finals day and according to Kieren Perrow, “it’s absolutely pristine out there, it’s as good as Cloudbreak gets.” The commish Perrow doesn’t fall victim to hyperbole, so when the former Pipe Master makes a statement of such merit, we’re inclined to agree.
Update: Gabriel Medina is the 2016 Fiji Pro Champion.
Final: Gabriel Medina vs Matt Wilkinson: With 23 minutes left of a 45 minute heat, Wilko sits on a 2.30 and Gabs sits on a 1.90 total… has Cloudbreak over-ripened? Wash throughs are constant and both surfers are exhausted. Wilko picks off a smaller, foamy one and delivers three charged hooks for a 4.17 – which could be tactical genius in this lineup, and especially against someone as crafty as Gabs. Gabs then knifes a runner and pops an old school non-full-rote oop to layback, recovering and getting a better score (7.33) than Wilko on the wave behind him, who’s too deep and gets swallowed. Gabs gets a smaller, frothy one but it’s more technical and he races from deep to find an exit (plus unnecessary claim) and an 8.27. Again, Wilko is too deep and gets swallowed on the following wave. Gabriel now has Wilko combo’d with nine and a half minutes. A bomb rolls through and Gabs bails, snapping his leash, while Wilko duckdives and surfaces unscathed. It’s the only exchange Wilko’s got the better of in this heat. Gabs kicks out of a small one, handing over priority to Wilko, but needing a 15.61 combined total with six minutes remaining, it’s looking bleak for the Central Coaster. The timer reaches zero and Gabs takes a well-deserved win.
Semifinal Heat Two: Matt Wilko (13.33), Ace Buchan (12.00): It’s hard not to root for Wilko when he looks so good in that yellow jersey. We’re almost waiting for Ace to lay over and let his mate into the finals. But the surf is too good right now and Ace finds a tunnel to a long drawn out carve for a 7.83. Wilko answers back with 10 minutes to go, slipping deep into a Fijian hallway and coming out into a gliding layback to take the lead. Wilko surfs into his third final this season. Gabby vs Matty… and we’re ready to watch this spin.
Semifinal Heat One: Gabby Medina (14.67), Kelly Slater (12.07): Oh, how we adore Kelly at Fiji in pumping Cloudbreak in the semis. But Gabs is looking unbeatable. This event, he’s been spot on. His heats are intelligent, he’s executing the competition, hugging close to his competitor and maintaining priority. The confidence from the young Brazilian is scary. In his post heat interview, Wilko can’t unglue his eyes from the lineup and Gabs in the early minutes puts up an 8.40, Kelly answering with a six and letting the reef peel back another one of his Bananas. He gets a fresh craft from the channel and rolls back out into the lineup. Gabs is squeezing the udders of each wave, milking anything that’ll push his heat total higher. With five minutes remaining, the King’s hunting for an 8.18… One comes through, it looks promising, but Gabs has priority. Kelly drops in, Gabs hops on the shoulder, Kelly’s forced to kick out and takes the lip on the head. Gabs kicks out and regains priority. Kelly’s hopes are dashed. Five seconds after the buzzer Mr Slater finds the wave he needs, pulls in, stalls deep and looks back as he exits. It would’ve won him the heat.
Quarterfinal Heat Four: Matt Wilkinson (14.63), John John Florence (10.93): The tide’s dropping, Cloudbreak’s growing and we can’t tell who we’re picturing next to Ace in the semis. It’s Mr Florence vs Mr Wilkinson. The heat’s been a bit slow, the man with the yellow jersey and the Taj Burrow cut’s proving to be a conceivable force for the title. Hell, a good result here will keep him a few shelves above the rest. He’s currently sitting with a 7.73 and a 6.9 and John’s going have to hook into Cloudbreak’s hollowed out property… he paddles deep into one at the three minute mark, gets smoked, paddles back out for another shot, parks in deep again and the wave clamps – Wilko moves on to the semis and all previous discussion of Wilko being lucky seems a farce at this point. He’s just beaten John John twice at this event in idyllic JJF conditions.
Mr Buchan slid into the biggest box of competition and sliced the win from beneath Mick’s feet.
Quarterfinal Heat Three: Mick Fanning, Ace Buchan: Oh my, Ace! That bomb was audible from the comfort of pixels. An absolute cavern! He shot out of it with rattling speed before having to push through the back. Ace in big tunnels can’t be ruled out, and yes we previously claimed Mick to win the heat and still think he will. He backs up with an eight vs Ace’s 8.27 (with two of day’s largest waves) — he’s got the lead at the moment of writing but one solid score from either of the two long-serving CT gents will pry open the lock to the semis. With few sleepy minutes, Mr Buchan finds a six-point ride to take the lead. Mick pulls into a wave that doesn’t materialise — our prediction was wrong but as the WSL will tell you between adverts for John John’s jersey: You Can’t Script This…
The King has resurrected. Oh Kelly, how we’ve missed you!
Quarterfinal Heat Two: Kelly Slater (18.70), Wiggolly Dantas (6.40): That’s it! Some scores into the excellent range and coming off a perfect 10 and a win yesterday, Kelly’s back. Give the King waves and he’ll prove he’s one the top three backside tuberiders in the world, next to John John Florence and Jamie O’Brien. Halfway through the heat, Wigs is combo’d and Mr Slater has a 9.8 and an 8.9. And even after his rocky start to the year, Wigs vs Kelly in pumping Cloudbreak is like watching a stuffed rabbit in the mouth of a German Shepherd. Kelly spent the heat wagging his tail, surfing smart, utilising priority and chasing waves with determination. He was packing closeouts for the hell of it – this is the best result from Kelly since his semifinal finish at J-Bay last year. Kelly and Gabs are matched up for the semis. Kelly hasn’t had a heat total less than 16 this event and right now, we’ll assume Mick’s victory over Ace and a world champion loaded semis: Kelly, Gabs, Mick… and the Jeep leader, Wilko, along with Mr Florence.
Quarterfinal Heat One: Gabriel Medina (10.86), Adriano de Souza (8.83): Well, the Jetski cam is a new thing — after Gabs double arm dragged beneath the lip, exited, buried his rail, found a section over the reef and planted a straight air for a six, we had the pleasure of looking straight into his high-def, glaring eyes as he whipped back out to join ADS in the lineup. Gabs and Adriano have gone head to head six times and Gabs has only been victorious once. Brazil’s two heroes put on a lacklustre heat – after the hype of Cloudbreak being “as good as it gets” the two gents’ average heat total of 4.92 was underwhelming. Quality waves are out there however, and we’ll stop making comparisons to Rio, Margies and Bells… Gabs pushes into the semis and secures his second ever win over the world champ.
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