Or at least top 3 with the Final Day Tahiti 2014 and Smirnoff Pro 1974.
Best day of Pro surfing ever? I say yes. Or at least top 3 with the Final Day Tahiti 2014 and Smirnoff Pro 1974.
Too much? I’ve watched more pro surfing than God himself this year; sat through dreary round two days that made me want to put a bullet through my brain. Been publicly shamed by the owner of the Sport as a dream crusher and hater for doing my level, level best to cover his baby truthfully. Forensically.
To present it to the public as a legitimate sporting activity and not some rinky-dink two-bit marketing activity staffed by semi-literate rejects from a self-help course. Through it all Gabe Medina has laid it down, hard. A hard, uncompromising track without an atom of safety surfing involved.
To see him surf four times at close to perfect six-to-eight-foot Pipe and do what he did made me a happy man. Deliriously so.
The day had anti-climax written all over it early when the sun sat low behind Sunset Elementary. It looked more like wonky Indo than Pipe. Jordy won round four on the buzzer.
Medina’s first wave laid down a hard, high mark for the rest of the field. Very deep, impossible tube to alley-oop. A dream start that straight away had a whiff of inevitability. He sat closer to the Sunset side of the reef, nearer the sand-bar, his genius for finding his waves in full effect. His last ride was a high score that gave him an early shower with a minute to go.
He told Rosie he woke early and “I don’t feel pressure”. Compared to Filipe who looked like a shattered refugee begging for clemency after his loss to Kelly yesterday Medina had an inhuman look to him.
Parko started with a casual tube-ride to flyaway kick-out for a six and never looked close to replicating it. Julian had what Pottz called the “whereabouts” to get out of a barrel you could drive a bus through.
Almost ten minutes to go and sets approached every part of the reef. Parko needed a 6.45 to relegate Joycey. Would he throw it?
Two big spitting teepees went through the line-up to gasps from the crowd. No paddlers. Parko had already punched the clock and timed out on his career. The clock ticked down on Parko.
“It’s all over,” he said to Rosie. “I’m so glad it’s over.”
Kelly looked off in heat four. Like the impact of yesterday had taken it’s toll and his recovery was not complete. He packed close-outs and surfed four waves for nothing. Thirteen minutes to go and the GOAT is sitting on a heat score of 3.07, which was, if I’m not mistaken, the score given to his miraculous make from yesterday. A minor cosmic joke on the King, no doubt.
8.25 to go, Kelly paddles into a ledging Pipe wave and with that famous no-hands-back-on-his-heels drop that makes you stop breathing, pulled into a deep tube and emerged with the spit. That’s the wave he needed. Australian and Brazilian judges low-balled it as a low six but the low seen given by others puts it as a high six. Duru has won the heat but Slater is through.
Jordy fired in Quarter One. Looked at home at Pipe for the first time in his career. Too late? During his heat with Seabass they had one of those All-In profiles. Very slick, no? Affecting. Informative. This sport is getting so much right, right now. The webcasting, the profiles, even the commentary with Ronnie and Ross and Dorian and Fanning guesting.
All the wrapping is perfect.
But the thing that needs reforming: the product itself, seems impervious to change. Why?
Connor vs Gabe. Quarter-final two. Best heat in pro surfing history. No? Come for me, bro. I’ll drop kick your acai bowl into next week. Connor tested Gabe’s one weak spot: over aggression with a tendency to interfere on the take-off of the opening ride and Gabe backed off. Connor nailed a pig of a Backdoor pit. Then nailed another, and another. Three dreamy makes to start the heat.
Gabe faltered, then again, and again. I would not call it a “soft combo” but something closer to a chokehold.
Nineteen minutes in and Connor’s close-to-perfect heat has sucked out all the emotional energy out of the largely Brazilian crowd. They are silent. Charlie looks close to death. Like an errant mosquito bite would finish him off.
Gabe sprinted to the crest of a ragged pyramid, whipped it, went straight down and tail stalled into a big round tube. Came out and threw a straight air into the light tradewind. I think, the most outrageous display of skill under pressure all year. To that point.
Paddling back out he sprinted straight past Connor Coffin went over the edge of a threatening wave stretched out to Off the Wall, did two flamboyant no-hands pumps and spiked the deepest throatiest and deepest pit of the contest. Ten, no question. Awarded. The camera shifted to Julian who looked, according to Ron Blakey, “like he was trying to swallow an avocado seed”.
The crowd energy came flooding back in. The combo was reversed with interest. Connor was cooked after surfing the best heat he’d ever had at Pipe.
Kelly took a lot of gas in his quarter-final; against Yago, who had looked, a fair combo of Rob Machado and Gerry Lopez. Even though I hate Lopez comparisons, it’s true. With eight minutes to go Kelly asked for and received a big perfect Pipe wave. The toll taken would determine his next heat against Julian, who accounted for Duru, it must be said, with the help of a Good God.
Semi-Final One. Jordy vs Gabriel. It was stunning, to me, that even this deep into the comp, Julian was still a chance of winning the Title.
What followed was controversial. It began with the biggest broadcast fail of the season. A long ad break ensued, cutting deep into the start of the heat. The broadcast came live on Jordy framed by a rotund backdoor lip, emerging triumphantly. The broadcast had missed three rides. Three critical rides.
Don’t call me a hater, or a dream crusher, Dirk. Those are just facts. With a world title on the line, the webcast missed live, critical action.
Jordy had amassed a heat total of 15.83 in the first 4mins. Jeezus christ!
There were shades of Keramas, when a testosterone laden Jordy out-muscled Gabe in a paddle battle. It was a rare primal display.
And while the victorious silverback tried to digest his meal in the sun Gabe paddled around him. In. Out. He looked seaward, he sniffed the air like a terrier. He paddled right onto Jordy’s shoulder and accompanied him like a guide dog does a blind man, straight into a close-out, ditching his board in the lip and pin diving from crest to trough.
That’s it, I thought. Jordy’s blown it. He bought the worst used car in history.
Earlier, in his presser, Jordy had make a diagnosis for success.
“Just 4 more great waves,” he said.
Yes, and he had already ridden two of them. But he missed something vital. They had to be better than the other guys. And no stupid mistakes. Gabe spit-roasted a double sectioned Backdoor cavern with a highly technical outside knee stall. That stalling technique he learned, and perfected at the Wave Ranch. It’s made him the most technically proficient backside tube-rider on earth. Or any other planet.
Was the score highballed?
Did Jordy get the mid-range seven needed on his next ride, a double peace signed no hands tube?
I thought, yes.
It was a call that could have gone either way… just one of those emotional artefacts of a subjectively judged sport when it encounters the irresistible force of a human being making magic.
Don’t be sad.
Jordy can be sad. But you have to earn the right to an over-score, and Gabe did that. And then some.
Three minutes to go, I could not watch. I paced the halls. The clock ticked out, Gabe did it. Cosmic justice restored. Or, as a commentator noted when 49’er’s Quarterback Joe Montana returned to the fold “the world is turning right”.
Kelly looked cooked to me in his curiously impotent semi against Julian. The heat was there for him to win. Nine mins to go and with priority, needing a four and he gave control of the heat to Julian riding a toy little Backdoor wave , then spent precious minutes battling to get back out. He gifted the final to Julian.
How’d you like that Final? I enjoyed, very, very much. Gabe hit the gas pedal. Hustled the shit out of Julian and forced him into a closeout, then threaded an impossible tube at Backdoor for a sketchy make out the doggy door.
A make? Yes. Judges agreed. 9.57.
He threaded them front-side and backside and threw a little back-flip into the victory wave.
Very fine. Best day ever.
That concludes the coverage. I’m off to get my skin cancer cut out then a leisurely afternoon on pain-killers and beer.
Thanks for reading, it’s been emotional.
Billabong Pipe Masters Final Results:
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.34
2 – Julian Wilson (AUS) 16.70
Billabong Pipe Masters Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.27 def. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15.83
SF 2: Julian Wilson (AUS) 14.20 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 11.17
Billabong Pipe Masters Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.16 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 6.93
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.43 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 14.26
QF 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.53 def. Yago Dora (BRA) 10.17
QF 4: Julian Wilson (AUS) 13.50 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 10.07
Billabong Pipe Masters Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 11.50, Conner Coffin (USA) 9.43, Ryan Callinan (AUS) 7.93
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.90, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 11.93, Michel Bourez (PYF) 6.57
Heat 3: Yago Dora (BRA) 15.97, Julian Wilson (AUS) 12.44, Joel Parkinson (AUS) 7.77
Heat 4: Joan Duru (FRA) 10.80, Kelly Slater (USA) 9.20, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 7.00
Men’s 2018 Jeep Leaderboard (after Billabong Pipe Masters):
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) – 62,490 points
2 – Julian Wilson (AUS) – 57,585 points
3 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) – 51,450 points
4 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) – 43,070 points
5 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) – 36,440 points
Final VANS Triple Crown of Surfing Top 5:
1 – Jesse Mendes (BRA)
2 – Joel Parkinson (AUS)
3 – Jordy Smith (ZAF)
4 – Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
5 – Joan Duru (FRA)
Gabriel Medina’s 2018 WSL Championship Tour Results:
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast – 13th
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach – 3rd
Oi Rio Pro – 5th
Corona Bali Protected – 9th
Uluwatu CT – 5th
Corona Open J-Bay – 5th
Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o – 1st
Surf Ranch Pro – 1st
Quiksilver Pro France – 3rd
MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal – 3rd
Billabong Pipe Masters – 1st
Gabriel Medina’s Championship Tour Career Rankings:
2018 – 1st
2017 – 2nd
2016 – 3rd
2015 – 3rd
2014 – 1st
2013 – 14th
2012 – 7th
2011 – 12th