Gabriel claims the bragging rights in the round one bout between the Title contenders
There were three heats everyone was really interested in this morning as Pipe burped up wind-blown, lumpy, lucky-dip conditions. Let’s reflect on what transpired in surfing’s Game of Thrones.
Pipe Masters commentator, Ross Williams, helped guide John John to a world title and the coach in Ross couldn’t handle the tactic selected by Filipe Toledo and the human harmonica, Filipe’s Dad, Riccardo.
It felt like Ross Williams wanted to charge out of the commentary box and yell at Riccardo, “Tell your boy to go the lefts.”
With the rights clamping and almost bending back out to see the lefts offered ramps and cross-shores blowing into the wave. Typically that’s the land of milk and honey for Toledo, but he stubbornly stuck to the rights as Riccardo whistled him over towards Backdoor. “His pops is leading him in the wrong direction,” screamed Williams from the commentary booth. “This is a strategy mistake.”
It was all falling on deaf ears though as Wilko scrambled through for the win and Filipe was left to attempt suicide floaters on the rights. In those conditions the heat should have been Filipe’s with a couple of backside air completions. Instead it’s sudden death in round two for Fil, who may need to head down to Rocky Point and rediscover his air mojo.
Julian Wilson made his fans wait for deliverance from their anxiety. It would have been easier viewing if he’d nabbed a couple of fours and the hunted down a bigger score, but that wasn’t the way it was going to play for the Great Australian hope. Jules obviously hadn’t been listening to Ross’s critique of Filipe because he adopted exactly the same tactic, doggedly sticking to the rights as the clock tortured his supporters. While Jules waited, Turps delivered another Pottz history lesson, Seth Moniz unleashed a silky frontside carve for a 3.6 and Thomas Hermes turned Pipe into a three-turn beachie. Finally with four minutes to go Julian found a solid, wally right and confidently slammed four to the beach to get the score he required. The positives – it was proof of Julian’s capacity to hold his nerve and his form looked solid on the single, decent wave he did catch. The negatives – we didn’t see Julian perform the new best-move at Pipe – a big air.
If conditions remain scrappy he will have to be able to manufacture scores rather than rely on the barrels.
Medina arrived on the beach, handed over the ear-plugs and I-phone to his brother and from then on it seemed like all he could hear was Pipeline calling his name. It looked like Gabriel was soul-arching when he flew out of his first tube, but in reality he was just uncoiling, twisting his body in acute angles to generate speed and escape the hatchet lip. Just his body English alone communicates a message of supreme confidence.
Medina always looked in control but midway through his heat it seemed like his competitors might have a chance to burrow past him. Conner O’leary momentarily claimed the lead with a couple of mediocre tunnels. The best way to ensure you don’t lose the game is to play a different one – preferably one that suits you better. Emboldened by a judging panel that are now happier to see surfers take flight at Pipe, Medina quickly turned the world’s most famous tube shoot out into an air show, kicking off with a silky alley-oop and almost backing it up with a reverse on the same wave. There was a lot more jumping around from Medina and the scores could have gone higher had he completed a couple of the sky-ticklers he went for; even the most devoted Pipe purists couldn’t deny it was entertaining and a better use of the conditions than simply trying to get tubed. “It’s the first time we’ve gotten out of ours seats,” screeched an impressed Strider from the channel. Ultimately it was a tube to air-reverse combo that went into Medina’s top two and proved emphatically that he can do it all at Pipe.
Joe Turpel isn’t famous for his brief summations of the action but he got it exactly right when he commented astutely, “He’s not surfing like a man who looks afraid of losing something.”
As the other competitors continue to duke it out in lumpy Pipe there is no doubt that the round one battle between the title contenders went to Gabriel Medina.
The best his rivals can hope for is that he runs out of steam – a highly unlikely scenario. If the rest of the event unfolds in bumpy, cross-chopped conditions where tubes must be snatched out of closeouts and ramps are aplenty then Medina, on current form, will be extremely hard to beat.