The Brazilian world champ-elect (maybe)'s PR problem…
What can I say? I drank every litre of the Billabong Pro Tahiti and I ain’t got complaints. I adored Joey’s sing-song voice, the handsome anchoring of Ron (and Joey and Ron’s matching cuts), Occ’s kooky shout-outs, Striker’s expert earnestness, Mel in the channel, Rosie’s mainstream cute, KP’s brilliant on-off calls, the greatest heat since the last greatest heat (Slater v JJ, in Tahiti, compare it to Slater v JJ at Pipe last year. Same-ish result) and the ability of the judges to split hairs. (Hello Rich Porta!)
But how do we solve a problem like Medina?
Twenty years old. Three wins this year this year and we haven’t even hit his favs Trestles, France and Portugal. And don’t tell me he can’t slug it out at Pipe. When Kolohe paddled Gabriel up the point and out of the lineup in their quarter-final (that Gabriel won) who thought it was the work of Gabs? Yeah, all of us.
But read what the commentariat says about Gabriel (from stabmag.com):
Fred: Medina is a pussy who didnt go on any of the big sets the entire event. Hemay have won, but everyone knows it was only becasue of his gayboy tactics going on the medium sized waves. His highlight reel is gonna be so lame and full of more gayboy claims. suck it faggot.
nicholas1992: The christ the redeemer claim in the semi on a 6ft one was the most cringe worthy thing i’ve ever seen
zbah: Congrats to medina for surfing well and surfing smart but it was a tactical victory. He did the minimum, caught smaller waves, played it safe and smart and won but he did not out surf kelly or Jjf nor did anyone get the impression that he likes charging heavy pits. One might wonder if his wipeout had something to do with letting slater catch that last wave. The judges should have given kelly the score just for that question mark alone. Medina still has an asterisk next to his name and will not be a popular champion and it isn’t because he’s brazilian.
Charlie Conway: I actually had the same thought, I bet since he finally tried to get deep on a big one and got smoked he was scared shitless.
Green Light Go: Really poor judging on Slater’s last ride. He turned on a wave ever bit as big as Gabriel’s 9.63, and Gabriel had priority and was deeper. Judges need to take into account if a surfer decides to not go on a wave (whether he pussed out or just miscalculated) and that should be an extra tenth of a point in your favor. Getting an excellent ride under priority should be rewarded.
Fadethetrade1: I can’t stand his asshole step-dad Charlie. Charlie knows Gabs is his retirement check. Its pathetic. Back the fuck off Charlie and let Gabriel do it on his own.
outer banker: Medina is the Miley Cyrus of professional surfing.
JM101: Median “played” the best game, riding non-set low risk waves, compared to almost everyone else. So good for him. Who knew watching Mick Fanning’s “How To Win The World Tour” DVD would resonate so deeply with Gabs. I apologize for the hate (not really) but the most mind-fuck barrel riding ever seen did not get the win, and those fucking claims… I can’t wait til Kolohe snaps and punches that asshole in the face.
JM101: In his one wipe-out of the whole contest, which was due to taking off on the only truly heavy AND deep wave he attempted the whole time, he came up looking for his Dad, with that pouty look he likes to throw around. The other guys claimed with some fist pumps and hand raises after finishing waves that could have KILLED them. Medina flying off the shoulder ten feet in the air after a bumpless 6 footer is lame and annoying. And that’s a microcosm for the whole contest: even at Chopes if you play your cards right you can win without the best waves or having the most surfing skill in those waves. Medina’s very clever and shreds, but its a joke that his waves were considered on the same level as JJF’s, because they weren’t. Disagree with that and you either a) don’t surf, b) are from Brazil, or c) didn’t actually watch the contest.
Comptony: Only a brazzo could do a poo stance while throwing both arms in the air
Gabriel’s crimes (in descending order) are: he’s Brazilian, his style can get a little off-axis (that bubble ass!), big waves ain’t his thing, he travels with his step-dad who ain’t the most charismatic soul on tour and he’s, like, a Brazilian.
Last month, I was swinging around the judging tower at the US Open (read Confession: I was a judge at the US Open here) and met Ricardo Francesconi, the Brazilian video operator for ASP events. Those replays that get cued up so fast? Yeah, it’s Ricardo. And he’s a sharp, cool cat. I like his opinion and so I asked him about the Gabriel PR problem. Here’s his reply (it came via Facebook).
“It’s a racist type of love and hate. We are on the beach at Snapper, the first event of the year. Taj is surfing against Gab at his home turf. Taj stands up and gets booed so loud that you can hear it on the webcast. Brazilian fans are feral and they will do what it take for a win. So I get it where it all comes from.
“Brazil is the country of football, the sport where home advantage is gigantic and the fans want to create that atmosphere. It’s not that I agree with the fans’ action but I was raised in Brazil and moved to California 10 years ago so I have the privilege of witnessing both sides and can tell you it’s so arduous being a surfer in a sport dominated by Australians and Americans. Brazil has been recognised for their soccer, by having beautiful women, on their free spirit, warm-hearted, happy and friendly attitude…
“But never for surfing.
“We are so criticised, it’s baffling. People have no mercy on a Brazilian surfer. If you pay attention to media comments, every time there is a new segment featuring a Brazilian, and doesn’t matter if he’s top-ranked, a charger or a simple freesurfer, the comments are excruciating. They are full of hate and racism. I ask why? Why does everyone talk shit if a Brazilian claims a wave?
“American sports have the biggest claims ever. How ridiculous is that every time a NBA player makes a free throw he high-fives the whole team. Football giants have the weirdest dances every time they pull someone’s shirt (which happens 100 times at a game). And baseball, the biggest claim in all sports.
“But a Brazilian claims and the surfing world hates it. But now every one is doing it so it’s kind of cool. Right?
“I get the Australians. They ruled this sport for a long time. They outnumber every country on tour by miles. They have the current world champ but for some reason Australians hate Brazilian surfers. They feel threatened? I get it. There are only four Aussies in the top 10 right now and that’s not normal.
“Gabe is leading the rating and yet there is still so many people that doubt his surfing. Will it be a good or bad thing if he wins the world title? I don’t know.”
Let me step in here. Two things will happen when Gabriel wins: Kelly will quit but make cameos at Fiji, Tahiti, maybe J-bay and Pipe (but never Snapper or Bells), Kolohe/Nat/John will step into Kelly’s void (yeah, it takes three) and… gradually…like Slater did, Gabriel will swipe away the criticisms one by one.
He’ll add bravado to his game (remember, Kelly was from Florida and big waves didn’t come easy), the style will loosen and we’ll start to get subtitles on our webcasts. Making a kid, who’s a jock, speak in a second language?
Tell me that ain’t cruel…