Scottish surf gambler falls under spell of man he once hated…
At some point during the Bells event I had an epiphany. I was violently affected by Gabriel Medina.
Suddenly, I recognised that he is the most complete surfer in the world. He is the most naturally gifted, the most progressive and the most powerful. He is not just a double world champion, but the future winner of many, many more titles. He is the GOAT in waiting.
And what a transition. What a character arc. Where once he was the Night King; now he looks like the rightful heir to all of the Seven Kingdoms.
He’s come a long way from the moment we shared in Portugal. Minutes after a buzzer beater defeat in the final by Julian, Gabby and I were alone, behind the event scaffolding.
We locked eyes: his filled with tears; mine with joy.
I wanted to see him cry then. I wanted to see the bubbling little Brazilian baby crying his dark eyes out at the unfairness of it all. But we’ve changed, both of us.
Today, I would snivel and snotter with and for him.
Sometimes, exceptionally talented people are hard to like, especially if they are young. But you can hardly blame them for brimming with the self-confidence that supreme talent affords.
It must be difficult.
Given even a national level of athletic talent as a teenager I would have been an unbearable cunt. I can’t imagine how you rein things in if you’re world-class. Top talents are often polarising, Kobe, Tiger, Floyd Mayweather, Neymar, Michael Schumacher, Lebron, Shaun White.
For all the adulation, there are millions who yearn to see them implode. We all love a fallen idol.
Lots of surf fans hate Medina, primarily because of his nationality. Or because he’s the one surfer in the world better than golden boy John Florence on any given day.
But, racist or American or not, you should consider the objective facts.
When Medina joined the Tour in 2011 as a seventeen year old (during the experimental and short tenured mid-season rotation) he blew the doors off.
There’s a reliable, early way to determine superstars in the NBA – they don’t start slowly. The good guys are nearly always good right away. Same with surfing. Think Kelly, think Parko and Mick both winning events as teenage wildcards. Think Gabriel Medina. There is no weakness in his game, none.
He won two of his first four events outright and made the quarters at Pipe.
His aerial surfing changed the game. He was banging out perfect 20s on the WQS and carried that form onto the CT. Judges hadn’t a clue how to score him.
No-one was doing airs like Medina.
There’s a reliable, early way to determine superstars in the NBA – they don’t start slowly. The good guys are nearly always good right away. Same with surfing. Think Kelly, think Parko and Mick both winning events as teenage wildcards.
Think Gabriel Medina.
There is no weakness in his game, none.
He can win on any day, at any wave, in any conditions. He is tactically savvy. (For pure, cinematic brilliance, sending Jordy over the falls at Pipe last year was a tactical masterstroke that will never be bettered.)
He cares about winning. He loves competing. He has the optimum level of cunt in him. And he’s an absolute beast. A physical specimen who could rag doll the best of us.
You might poke at his style, but you would be naive. Style scores nothing, if anything it might cost you a point or more.
Medina surfs at the absolute apex of the given performance criteria. Why would he do anything else? I’ve heard Parko refer to him as “the most talented human I’ve ever seen stand on a surfboard.”
And remember the goatpool? Remember what happened when everyone was given the perfect canvas to showcase their skills? All of a sudden the gulf between Medina and everyone else looked even greater.
At Pipeline last year he was masterful. I’m no pro surfing historian, but I can’t believe many performances have ever been so dominant, even in the eyes of the layman.
Recently, Ronnie Blakey said that he thought Medina might have been studying the form of some of the great Bells performers of all time. He reckoned Medina might have got better. That’s a terrifying prospect. If true we could see a period of competitive dominance like the Slater era.
I was apoplectic Medina didn’t win at Bells, but I realised that in the grand scheme it will not matter. Ultimately I believe that he will not only win the world title this year, but he might have it wrapped up by France. (Even allowing for the inevitable juiced scores of the Golden Child).
My mortgage is on it.
Longtom put it best in his Chelsea grin of a rebuttal to Sam George: what Medina did at Bells is yet to be understood.
Gabriel Medina is playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers.