Gabriel Medina (BRA) claimed victory today at the Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o, Stop No. 7 on the World Surf League (WSL) Men’s Championship Tour (CT). An exciting Finals Day witnessed Medina take his first win of the 2018 season in clean three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) waves at the famed South Pacific reef pass.
Medina, 2014 WSL Champion, earned his big win today by defeating Owen Wright (AUS) in the Final, Jeremy Flores (FRA) in the Semifinals, and Italo Ferreira (BRA) in the Quarterfinals. Since his first Tahiti Pro win in 2014, Medina never dropped below third place, and today the Brasilian superstar stamps his second win at Teahupo’o.
“I’m just so happy to win here again and, first, I just want to thank God,” Medina said. “I came here and trained a lot, and I was just waiting for the victory. I love Tahiti and I’ve had some great Finals here. I’ve won here before, two second-place finishes, and another win now. I have a great family here, which is incredible. Now I can kind of start thinking about winning a World Title. I think anything is possible. There’s a couple of events to go and I just want to keep giving it my best.”
Medina’s victory moves him up from 3rd to 2nd on the Jeep Leaderboard, 6,300 points behind World No. 1 Filipe Toledo (BRA). In last year’s World Title race, Medina fell short of the win against John John Florence (HAW). Now, with a win in Tahiti and second on the rankings, the 2014 World Champion is well within striking distance of capturing a second WSL Title this year if he maintains strong results in the final four events.
“I was just praying, ‘God just give me one more, one more,’ and Owen (Wright) had to go on the first one, but if he didn’t I was going to go on that one,” Medina added. “I’m really happy right now, but I know Owen’s got the same feeling I had last year, which was horrible for me, but it’s competition and that’s why we love competing. I feel blessed to have been in the right spots at this event and now I’m going to enjoy this moment, then I’m focusing on the next event.”
The start of the 40-minute Final saw Wright get the inside of Medina to capture the matchup’s first tube for 6.50 (out of a possible 10). Medina battled back quickly with an air for a 6.17. The two continued to attempt superior backup scores, and at the halfway point, Wright punched out of a tube for the lead. With ten minutes left in the heat, Medina held priority needing 4.54. In a failed attempt to escape a barrel, the Brasilian lost his priority and handed control back to the Australian. A final exchange in the dying minutes of the heat saw Medina steal the win with a critical tube, defeating Wright by 1.43 points.
Wright’s runner-up finish today marks his best result in Tahiti and his best result of the season. To make his first Final in Tahiti, the Australian took down Jeep Frontrunner Toledo in the Semifinals and Wade Carmichael (AUS) in the Quarterfinals. Before Tahiti, Wright sat at 11th on the Jeep Leaderboard, but his result now boosts him up to 6th.
“It’s a sting, but it’s just nice to be back in the Final,” Wright said. “Right now, it’s a hard loss to take a second, but it’s been an incredible week. It all came down to those last two waves. I made the wrong decision and I’m already feeling that deep burn and drive. I’m stoked for Gabby, well-deserved win for him after it got taken off him by Julian (Wilson) just last year. Congratulations to Gabby.”
Current Jeep Rankings Leader Toledo fell just short of his third Final to eventual runner-up Wright in a hard-fought Semifinal bout. Toledo’s impeccable form throughout the event, including a brilliant Quarterfinal win over rookie Michael February (ZAF), finally gave way during his Semifinal matchup. The Brasilian will retain the Jeep Leader Jersey into the next stop, the Surf Ranch Pro.
“I feel really happy and proud of myself with all the hard work I put out here, and a Semifinal result in Tahiti is definitely a keeper,” Toledo said. “I’ve been on the Tour for six years now and this is one of those years where everything is clicking and everything’s happening. I’m just making sure to capitalize and get the job done. It’s important to just keep the focus on what I’ve been doing – my training, my surfing and not worrying about the outside world.”
A critical heat in this year’s World Title race unfolded in Quarterfinal Heat 3 between contenders Medina and Ferreira. Medina took control of the all-Brasilian affair early on with a brilliant barrel ride into three forehand maneuvers, showing variety and power, to earn a 7.67 and didn’t let go of that lead, taking the edge over Ferreira en route to his win.
“I’m happy to make the Quarterfinals with my injury, and I think it’s an amazing result,” Ferreira said. “I hope to get stronger than ever and we still have four events left so I’m ready. Hopefully, I can get more out of the rest of the year and I’m so excited for the Surf Ranch to see what I can do there.”
The next stop on the 2018 WSL Championship Tour will be the Surf Ranch Pro pres. by Hurley in Lemoore, California from September 6 – 9, 2018.