Cut through the heat with Sprite: Medina debuts Brazil
All photos by Joli Sprite’s ‘Cut Through The Heat’ is an ongoing series of fabulously awkward moments in surf, some of which you haven’t heard. Yes we’re talking the behind the-scenes stories of some of the most famous incidents and mishaps in surfing’s rich history and the eventual resolutions. Here we remember the sound, the […]
All photos by Joli
Sprite’s ‘Cut Through The Heat’ is an ongoing series of fabulously awkward moments in surf, some of which you haven’t heard. Yes we’re talking the behind the-scenes stories of some of the most famous incidents and mishaps in surfing’s rich history and the eventual resolutions. Here we remember the sound, the colour, the music, the passion that was Gabriel Medina’s 2014 World Title win.
The pressure was immeasurable. At just 20 years of age, Gabriel Medina stood on the precipice of claiming his nation’s first ever world title. He’d have to overcome 14 world titles’ worth of experience to get there, in the form of Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning, both of whom would be in contention. And he’d be doing it at the most intimidating wave on the planet, Pipeline, a venue which hadn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Brazilian.
Adding to the pressure, Gabriel entered the Pipe Masters on the back of a poor run of form through his favoured European leg and began the final day of the season facing none other than Backdoor specialist Dusty Payne. Dusty spends his winters in the presidential suite of the Volcom House overlooking Pipeline. He surfs it as good as anyone on his day, and has continued the proud tradition of Hawaiian-born Volcom team riders who’ve made careers on the back of the wave, the likes of Bruce Irons among them.
In what amounted to a shot across the bow of his title competitors, Gabriel easily accounted for the Hawaiian. He did it going right and left on the reef, locking in an 8.83 for a thundering left before a long, slabbing Backdoor right handed him the same score for an easy victory. The win also meant sayonara to Kelly Slater, the 11 time world champ, who required Gabriel to lose in the third round or sooner to give him any chance of victory.
When history looks back on Brazil’s first world title, it should not discount the role of Gabriel’s countrymen. The Brazilian Storm, as it had been coined, arrived in earnest in 2014 and the supporting cast would play an integral role on the final day of the Pipe Masters.
Gabriel’s biggest threat was childhood hero and three time world champion, Mick Fanning. Gabriel had shared a house with Mick the year prior, Gabs drinking in the inspiration as Mick threw down one of the great clutch performances in Pipe Masters history to claim the title.
“Mick is an inspiration for me, I always look up to him,” said Gabriel. “The way he is, just so focused… I watch everything pretty close. If I was him (in that position) I was going to get so nervous.”
His nerves would get a respite as round five concluded, with countrymen and close friend Alejo Muniz set to take on Mick. For Mr Fanning to lose would hand Gabriel the title, while Alejo would be surfing for his World Tour future. The young Brazilian masterfully out strategised Mick in the opening stages and as the final set of the heat approached, the Australian required a 5.5 to keep the title race alive. Holding priority, Mick was confronted with an agonising choice – take the first or the second wave of the set. From where he sat it looked a 50/50 proposition. He took the first, dropping in and setting his line only for the wave to change shape on the reef, fill up with foam, and close out. Mick could only watch as the second wave cannoned perfectly across the Backdoor reef with Kauaian style master Sebastian Zietz standing tall in its womb (Zietz surfing in the following overlapping heat).
Pandemonium reigned on the beach as the scores were announced. The huge Brazilian contingent on hand in Hawaii mobbed Gabriel at the water’s edge as he prepared for his quarterfinal against countrymen, Filipe Toledo – Mick’s loss sparing the two friends an awkward title-deciding heat. Gabriel was chaired up the beach. But in a bizarre scheduling bungle, Filipe was alone in the lineup to contest the first 15 minutes of the quarterfinal by himself. While Gabriel soaked up the adulation and media attention, Filipe, in a stirring show of sportsmanship, refused to catch a wave. Waiting instead for the newly crowned first ever Brazilian world champion to return to the water before the scoring commenced. Gabriel took his time, even doing an interview before returning to the water. He would then take the quarterfinal with a small left at Pipe before going onto become the first Brazilian to make the final at the Pipe Masters since the late, great Pepe Lopez in 1976. He would lose narrowly to Australian Julian Wilson in a dramatic last second exchange of near perfect rides.
Stay Tuned for more of Sprite’s ‘Cut through the heat’ moments; a brief history of some of surfing’s most heated moments and their icy resolves.
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