Keeper of surfing's history explains why Brazilian world champ holds the key to his heart…
My work productivity, and maybe yours too, was WAY down last week during the final two days of the Tahiti Pro.
A WCT contest in great surf will always tug at my attention. When the surf is both great and death-defying, like it was at Teahupoo, I hold on to my laptop as I go about my day the way my son used to hold onto his stuffy, and do not miss a single moment.
I want the ups and the downs and everything in-between.
I want the hair-outs and the shoulder-rides as well as the perfect scores.
Unless something happens that needs explaining, however, I do not want to hear a thing. The mute button is Viagra for my WCT attention span —the quieter it is, the longer I last.
And the longer I last with a contest like the Tahiti Pro, the more it seems to become a movie or a play, writing itself as it goes, with plots and subplots and twists, and characters of every description, many of whom I have strong if temporary feelings for. Not real feelings. Sports-fan feelings, which are subject to change year to year, event to event, sometimes even heat to heat.
Bringing me to Gabe Medina.
Medina does not want to charm you or win you over. He is tactical and skilled and remorseless, picking off one surfer after another on his way to who knows how many world titles. I find it refreshing, purifying even, that Medina goes about his work with so few fucks given as to what we all think about him.
Not everybody swoons for his surfing. I always have. Riding aside, what I appreciate about Gabe is his lack of pretense. He does not want to charm you or win you over. He is the Bride, except male and dark-haired; he is tactical and skilled and remorseless, picking off one surfer after another on his way to who knows how many world titles.
I find it refreshing, purifying even, that Medina goes about his work with so few fucks given as to what we all think about him.
Then last April I saw Gabe on a video chat with Jair Bolsonaro and Bibi Netanyahu and Neymar, and you know me, I’m so left I can barely turn right at the corner to get my quad-soy latte each morning.
Ever since I’ve been trying to maintain the righteous dislike for Gabe I felt after watching that grinning four-way reacharound of a conversation.
But I’ll tell you something, and I’m at a loss as to whether this makes me proud or ashamed. As a WCT fan, surfing beats politics.
Watching Tahiti last week, I gave up. Gabby is still my guy. He met Owen Wright in the final, and with Owen holding a lead going into the last few minutes my eyes locked onto the screen, trying to conjure up a set.
It didn’t come.
Owen first, Gabe second, and me still sulking later that evening as I pulled the cork on a nice dry Alsace Reisling.
Being a fan means never having to say you’re sorry.
(Editor’s note: If you’re a subscriber to Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, which costs three dollars a month with a twenty percent discount if you take it over a year, your Sundays will be gifted with a long email from Warshaw himself. This story is pulled from today’s letter, which also includes a link to a thirty-three minute cut of the 1968 World Championships, and which was won, controversially, by Fred Hemmings.)