From the first contest of the 2014 World Championship Tour, Brazilian wunderkind Gabriel Medina emerged as the surfer to beat. On Friday, at the iconic Bonzai Pipeline in Hawaii, Medina won his first WCT title.
Medina, who turns 21 today, dominated competitions held during the first half of the season, earning wins at Fiji, Tahiti, and Australia’s Gold Coast. His championship title marks the peak of a gradual ascension that began in 2011, his rookie year, when he was ranked 12th in the world.
Medina’s early season dominance gave him a comfortable margin of error going into the final event of the season. At the Billabong Pipe Masters, world number two Mick Fanning, 33, and number three Kelly Slater, 42, needed an early exit from Medina (in addition to their own berths) to have a shot at winning the title. They didn’t get it.
Slater lost in round three, eliminating his chance to claim a 12th world title. Fanning, the 2013 WCT champ, exited in round five. Watching Fanning’s heat from the channel, Medina paddled to the beach amid cheers of Brazilian fans chanting “Via Medina.”
“It feels amazing. I don’t know what to say right now,” he told the ASP. “I love the crowd. I love this sport. Everything pays off right now.”