Stab Magazine | Owen Wright Just Medina'd Medina At Chopes!

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Owen Wright Just Medina’d Medina At Chopes!

And the title race opens wide.

news // Aug 29, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 8 minutes

No one ever tells you that being a surf scribe is so damn exhausting. 

Your author was up til 3:50 am local time putting the finishing touches on yesterday’s 3,000-word wrap. I only intended to write 1,500, but it felt impossible to ignore any heat, any major quote or Title implication of the most entertaining day of the 2019 season.

Is that call biased by our proximity to this comp? Maybe. I remember the big Bells day and the Box day being damn exciting too, but for me eight-foot west bowl Chopes takes the crème brulée. 

That is until Lemoore rolls around… of course. 


Yesterday we watched 24 official and one specialty heat. By way of those eliminations, we whittled the field down to eight surfers for finals day. 

Owen Wright
Jadson Andre
Adriano de Souza
Jordy Smith
Gabriel Medina
Jeremy Flores
Seth Moniz
Caio Ibelli

Comparatively, the top half of the draw was much easier than the bottom. Owen Wright was the clear favorite there. 

The bottom was much trickier. Medina, as last year’s champ and a two-time Teahupo’o winner, was the odds leader But Jeremy is also a past winner and a quasi-local. He also beat Medina in the Billabong final to earn his trophy, which creates a psychological aspect to their match.

Meanwhile, Seth and Caio were all green and giddy from yesterday. Seth has the backside barrel thing on lock from Pipe, and Caio Ibelli was numerically the best performer of the day yesterday. 

I went tentatively for Medina, but it’s not something I’d’ve put money on. 

So, how’d it play out?

Andre JTahiti19Dunbar3117

Quarterfinal one was exceptional. The swell had clearly dropped since yesterday arvo (it looked about the same size as yesterday morning, actually), but Owen and Jadson picked the eyes out of it, finding every azure gem that gurgled and lurched, putting up heat scores well into the excellent range. 

Jadson earned the first seven, followed by an Owen nine for a foamball rodeo. Jadson pushed back with another seven, taking the lead and leaving Wright in need of a five. Like Julian yesterday, Owen had no interest in “getting the score.” He wanted the hero wave, and after letting Jadson go on the first of the final set, he got it. 

Knifing under the lip on a second-reef ledge, Owen set his line and hit cruise control straight toward the channel. Having nabbed an incredible ride of his own on the wave prior (judges later rewarded him a nine), Jaddy got lost in the moment and sent Owen a hand of encouragement from the channel. 

And, if that’s not what surfing’s all about, I’ve got the wrong job.

Despite his excellent performance, Jadson ended up combo’d when the panel announced a “10” for Owen Wright. This is the second ten of the Men’s CT season, the second of this event, and the 11th of Owen’s career. Behind Slater and Medina, I believe Mr. Wright has the most perfect scores on Tour. 

Wright OTahiti19Dunbar3092

Q2 was a relative sleeper. Jordy and ADS traded lowly numbers until the only important exchange. 

Adriano, who had priority, kept an eye on Jordy as a short, thick, mid-sized set wave approached. Likely thinking he could block Jordy if need be, while also wanting to see if the second wave was better (as it has typically been over the past two days), Adriano granted too much space between himself in the big man, allowing Jordy to swing late under the curtain and ride a short, curdling tube into the channel. 

This nine would be the only notable wave of the heat, and Jordy, who spent his winter practicing backside tubes in Hawaii, made the Teahupo’o semifinals for the third time in his 12 years on the CT.

Smith JTahiti19Dunbar3584

Jeremy Flores paddled for a wave at the beginning of the heat, when priority had not yet been established, and the commentary crew couldn’t figure how/why priority hadn’t been given to Medina. The thing is, Jeremy didn’t “block” Medina from catching the wave, so there would be no justification for granting Gabe control of the lineup. You can paddle for waves, even ride them on your belly or knees, without forfeiting priority in a non-priority situation.

Unlike the commentators, Jeremy knew that, and he continued to play the game with Medina right up until the “restart” mark of the heat. Then, with just three seconds remaining before the theoretical restart, Jeremy caught a tiny insider to make sure that time addition wouldn’t happen. 

Don’t think for a second that Jeremy’s decision to take that wave had anything to do with getting a score. He took that wave solely to limit Gabe’s time in the water, which is something that you do when you genuinely fear a competitor’s abilities in relation to yours. For Jeremy, at Teahupo’o, the list of surfers to whom that applies is shorter than his temper. 

But Medina is at the very top, in Helvetica bold

So, did this tactic work?

Not at all. Gab nabbed a couple mid-rangers while Jeremy waited for a bomb that never came.

The Frenchman’s purposeful block of the restart ended up working against him, and Medina advanced to the semis. 

 Moniz STahiti19Dunbar4195

Caio Ibelli dropped a high-eight for one heroic channel chase, making a semifinal finish seem momentarily realistic.

Needing a six, Seth waited for a bomb and took off diagonally toward the channel, offering two quick pumps before relaxing into a state ecstasy. He got a smaller score than Caio but had a bigger back-up, hence the Hawaiian’s advancement.

Kaipo broke into a beautiful soliloquy about Medina.

“If you can go and win at a long right point like Jeffrey’s Bay, then come to a lefthand slab and also perform, then go to the wavepool in Lemoore and do well there, you’re truly proving yourself as the world’s best surfer.”

He’s not wrong. 

Meanwhile, Owen was getting busy against the other tallest guy on Tour, Mr. Jordan Michael Smith. Helmet got an eight, then some sixes and sevens, and left the Saffa in need of a hearty number.

Jordy didn’t have much of a choice but to sit and wait. He needed either a bomb or nothing, and nothing ever came. 

O-Dog to the final. 

Wright OTahiti19Dunbar3419 

Medina and Seth paddled each other up the point in the beginning of their heat, resulting in a couple no-makes on their opening rides. Medina secured priority after that exchange, allowing him to choose the second wave of the first real set and take an early lead. 

Seth used his priority on a late knife under the lip, but his railed skipped near the exit leading to an unfortunate spill. Except, wait! Seth was back on his feet, resulting in a heightened cheer from the crowd. Upon further inspection, it appeared that Seth landed on his belly in the foam but popped back up while still underwater, fooling the fans but not the judges.

Medina surfed two waves in less than 30 seconds, their cumulative score being 8.83. A waste of two priorities.

Seth got himself back in the heat with a five, then used his priority on an over-vert drop to fin-slip. This could have been considered a waste, but it actually set him up to nab an inside drainer with 15 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for Seth, someone must have soaped his tailpad this morning, as his exit included another slip onto his tummy.

Seth hung his head in shame, but he’ll remember this event fondly. A semifinal finish at cooking Teahupo’o in your rookie season is nothing to scoff at. It also means he’ll requalify for 2020, and the Olympics have become a real possibility. 

Just like that, we had a rematch of the 2018 Teahupo’o final. Exactly what Owen wanted. 

But you’ve gotta wonder, what lessons could Owen take from last year’s loss to give him an advantage today? Is it as simple as not using priority on the first wave of the set? Or would he have to resort to head-butting Medina with his Gath?

Somehow, I feel like the Terminator would win even a battle of that nature. He’s so beautifully hard-headed. 

 Medina GTahiti19Dunbar3904

Gabby let Owen have the inside position. “This is very unlike Gabriel,” Barton said. 

Was this a gesture of respect or part of a larger, and largely cunning, plan? History would suggest the latter. 

Nonetheless, Owen sold Medina on the first fatty burger, earning himself priority in the redemptive rematch. This felt important. 

Medina nabbed a high-four under priority—a smart move given the lethargic swell.  

Owen removed the price tag on a deep set wave, drawing an aggressive line through the backdoor but ultimately succumbing to a thousand-pound chandelier on his head—the result of another wave “between reefs.”

An interesting stat sheet came up during the final. It showed that Owen has made at least the quarterfinals at Teahupo’o every time he’s surfed in the event except for once, in 2009. It also showed that Medina has defeated Owen in his last three Teahupo’o events. Not sure if Owen consciously knew that fact, but you could tell there was a history between them, and that Wright had a score to settle.

Owen nabbed a similar insider to Medina’s under priority and scored a low-six.

Medina took off on a bigger, longer, but flimsier tube out the back, standing tall amongst the pillows for a 7.83.

Owen, needing a 6.5, used his prio on a shouldery little number; no dice. 

Nineteen minutes remained.  

The biggest set of the heat went through with no takers. The boys were too deep, too far inside. Medina caught the third, smallest wave of the bunch and slid in and out with ease, earning himself a 7.1 and tightening his grip on Owen’s long neck. 

Two minutes later, Owen took off on essentially the same wave and read it identically. The judges saw it as slightly better: 7.7. His requirement fell to a seven. 

Under Medina’s priority, Owen stroked his way into a warping inside ledge. The same type of wave that saw Kauli Vaast rip the yellow jersey from Kolohe’s back. In this case, it was Owen taking the honor from Medina. 

To my knowledge, the WSL didn’t mention this tidbit on the webcast, but had Medina won this final, he would have moved to World Number One over Filipe Toledo. 

As it were, Owen earned a low-nine and put Gabby on the ropes. Then he hit him with another 7.93 on a similar four-footer. Owen’s two final scores were gained in the last four minutes of his forty minute heat, and as the clock struck zero, the helmet reigned supreme.

Poetic retribution, Kaipo called it.  

Owen had successfully Medina’d Medina, catching high-scoring waves at the end of the heat under priority, and in the process earning himself 10,000 points; $100,000 USD; and a hopeful Olympic bid, as he is now several spots ahead of the next top Australian. 

Medina moved to number four on the rankings, behind Filipe, Jordy, and Kolohe. What do his odds now become on winning the Title? Who’s betting against him?

Despite losing John in Brazil, or perhaps because of it, this year is leading up to another remarkable World Title race.

Would you fault me for saying that I can’t wait for Lemoore?


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