Gabriel Medina and step-dad Charlie arguably caught the whole of the surfing world napping. Did anyone see it coming? With one swift and brazen move, Gabriel exacted revenge on Caio Ibelli for the Portugal debacle, kept his world title hopes alive and made the WSL wonder if they needed to change the rules relating to interferences.             

After the cagiest of low-scoring heats Medina was holding a 4.23 and 2.07 for a 6.3 heat total, with only a few seconds on the clock.

With seconds remaining Ibelli was holding priority and knew he could easily claim the win with a single ride. The camera panned to Gabriel’s step-dad, Charlie, who was screaming instructions from the beach. Caio, who obviously understands Portuguese, later suggested that Charlie was shouting, “Now you can burn him!” Gabriel responded to Charlie’s screeched commands with a thumbs up. It seemed he was just letting his step-dad know that all was ok and that he should settle down.      

However, as Caio paddled into a wave, which likely had the scoring potential to claim the win, Medina took off and mercilessly burnt him. In the first instance, Barton Lynch and everyone else watching was in shock, certain that Gabriel had suffered another lapse in concentration and self-destructed. Then the mathematical reality of his ruthless execution dawned on everybody.

Charlie and Medina had both studied the rule book and knew that a priority interference would mean that Medina’s ‘second counting wave’ was canceled. Despite losing the wave Medina obviously knew that his tally was still sufficient to win the heat and keep his world title hopes alive.

Everyone was still gobsmacked when Medina fronted the cameras and immediately owned up to his intentional interference. Trying to wipe the smile off his face he commented, “I knew if I had an interference they would count my best wave. Sometimes if it’s in the rules you’ve got to play the game… I knew in my head what I was doing.”

Social media automatically lit up with comments on Medina’s ruthless tactic. Some derided it as the actions of grub ( a term often used in Rugby League circles to describe someone who cheats or unnecessarily exploits the rules) while others suggested it was a brilliant use of the rules and well-justified given the context.

Meanwhile, in the box, Barton Lynch suggested it might have been the ‘cleverest move we’ve ever seen.’ Billy Kemper, who is notoriously dogged in heats, came on and called Medina the best competitor in the world.

When Caio fronted the camera he translated the words of Gabriel’s co-conspirator, Charlie (as mentioned above.) Although Caio was obviously rattled even he conceded that Medina’s bold tactics were the mark of a champion. “He plays hard. He plays dirty… That I think is the mindset of a champion.”

How will this moment be remembered?