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Here's The WSL Rule That Could Strip Gabriel Medina Of A World Title, Even If He Wins It

Today we have a World Champion to crown, and the WSL points leader was in heat one. Italo Ferreira slipped past Peterson Crisanto with ease despite the morning's slow, misshapen sets. 

Italo’s win knocked Kolohe out of Title contention and put the impetus on Gabriel Medina, who needed to match Italo’s heat wins throughout the day to keep his third Championship alive.

Coming up against his lifetime rival and newly minted arch-nemesis, Caio Ibelli, Medina’s heat was fascinating on paper. Despite their minuscule heat scores, reality eclipsed the projected intrigue times ten. 

Let’s skip the first 40 minutes of the heat because nothing really happened. With about five minutes to go, Medina used his priority on a peaky righthander and snagged the only “real” score of the heat, a low-four. 

This left Caio with priority and needing a five to win. Keep in mind if Medina lost this heat, he would lose the World Title. 

By now, you probably know what happened. 

With 50 seconds left, we saw Medina sending a "thumbs-up" signal to the beach. The announcers assumed that this was in response to the beach announcers who had delivered Gabe the current heat situation. We’d later learn that this "thumbs-up" was meant for Charlie Medina, who was yelling frantically for his step-son to drop in on Caio Ibelli. Seconds later, a mid-sized left came straight to Caio, giving him one last chance to surpass the 2x Champ. 

With the type of steely nerves reserved for someone who already knows the mathematical outcome of a particular situation, Gabriel Medina took off in front of the surfer with priority, earning his second priority interference against Caio Ibelli in as many events. 

Every single person watching around the globe had the same exact reaction: jump out of their seat and shout, “What the fuck!?”

Some figured it out quicker than others—this little inside joke that Medina had just shouted to the world. Even the WSL commentators struggled to comprehend what Gabby had done, or rather, why he had done it. That the 2x Champ was acting on a mathematical equation. 

Here's how it works:

A priority interference subtracts the assailant’s second-highest score. In the current situation, losing his back-up would leave Medina still in first place, and with just seconds on the clock, Caio wouldn’t have time to get back out in the lineup and catch another wave to take the lead. 

Charlie Medina knew that if Gabriel burned Caio, there was no way he could lose. If, however, he let Caio go on that last wave, there was a chance (no matter how small) that Caio would turn the heat. 

Charlie, a noted pragmatist, instructed his pupil to take the shortest possible course between A and B. So Medina burned Caio, shocked the world, and still won his heat.

Reactions were mixed. 

Most fans reviled the Medinas’ tactics, including Caio Ibelli, who called the maneuver, “dirty,” then softening the blow by saying, “but that’s what makes him a champion.” 

Others, myself included, found the drop-in equal parts entertaining and genius.

Barton Lynch called it, “Maybe the smartest tactic in the history of professional surfing,” and Billy Kemper agreed. 

Then I got a DM—several, actually. All of them sharing the WSL Rule Book’s Article 171.11. Please read below:

Screen Shot 2019 12 19 at 11.06.14 AM

And… holy shit. If I’m understanding this correctly, the WSL could review Medina’s interference, and if it is deemed to be, “intentional [which Medina admitted in his post-heat interview that it was], unsportsmanlike, and of a serious nature,” they could either re-surf the heat or strip Medina of his highest event score of the year, which would immediately make Italo Ferreira the World Champion. 

Medina could literally win the event, and therefore the Title, but then have the Title stripped retroactively.

Italo Ferreira just won his quarterfinal and Gabby is set to surf in 30 minutes.

We’ll update this story as developments occur.

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