Tatiana Weston-Webb’s plan is to have fun in the waters of Lower Trestles. In the traditional waves of the city of San Clemente, California, in the United States, Italo Ferreira finds himself in the “largest playground in the world”. Filipe Toledo intends to surf “with happiness”. And Gabriel Medina just wants to do his best, leaving the rest to the sea.
There is no lack of truth in the words of Brazilians, but the effort for lightness does not disguise their anxiety and their thirst for competition. They are in contention for the title of the World Surfing League (WSL), and lifting the trophy from a championship held in an unprecedented format would be a huge reward in a difficult season, also built under unprecedented conditions.
After the 2020 tour was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 competition was held in still very challenging situations linked to the new coronavirus. There were stages postponed, others with the location changed and still some simply removed from the calendar, as happened with the tournament that would take place in Saquarema, in Rio de Janeiro.
Complying with strict protocols and submitting to itineraries that took them out of the house for more than three consecutive months, the athletes managed to participate in 7 of the 12 events scheduled in the classification phase. The top five in the men’s ranking and the top five in the women’s ranking are now fighting for the title in a final stage, in the knockout format.
The window for heats at Lower Trestles extends from Thursday (9) until Friday of next week (17). The organization will observe the conditions of the sea and will define when the clashes will start, which can already take place from 11:30 am (GMT) on Thursday, with free transmission on the WSL website and exhibition also on Fox Sports.
In men’s and women’s, the dispute will start with a heat between the fourth and fifth place in the Worlds. The winner of this duel will take third place for the right to face the second. Whoever triumphs in this semifinal clash will fight for the trophy with the current leader of the ranking in a best of three heats decision.
Gabriel Medina, therefore, is already in the final. The 2014 and 2018 champion shot in first place with impressive regularity and would already have the third championship in hand if the regulation were adopted previously. He doesn’t hide some discomfort with the new format, but he tries to remain optimistic.
“It was a super constant year. For me, what makes the most sense is for the guy who has this constancy the most, to be the champion, regardless of whether it’s me now or the guy who is in my shoes on another occasion,” said the 27-year-old from São Paulo, who, like the others Brazilians aspiring to the title, spoke with the sheet on the eve of the tournament.
“It’s very difficult to stay mentally strong, going through different places, different situations, different types of waves. But, anyway, it’s a test they’re doing. Now, try to enjoy it, because it’s going to give big waves. It’s trying to think positive. May the best win, and may God bless us with high waves”, he added.
With 43,400 points, Medina went to the final with a big advantage over Italo Ferreira, who scored 31,660 and finished second. Defending the title obtained in 2019 and with the morale of someone who conquered the first surfing gold medal at the Olympic Games a little over a month ago, the 27-year-old native of Rio Grande do Norte arrives at Trestles with the possibility of completing a historic season.
“I think ending the year with another world title would be the perfect year of my life. I have already delivered into God’s hands, and His will be done. I’ve been dedicated a lot, I haven’t stopped until now and I won’t stop until I reach it. I’m in the game, I’m in the battle, and the opportunity is there. I’m here to hold on with all my strength”, he declared.
Complete the trio of Brazilians in the fight for the men’s cup Filipe Toledo. Third place in the ranking, the 26-year-old from São Paulo awaits the winner of the confrontation between the American Conner Coffin and the Australian Morgan Cibilic. If he triumphs in his debut, he will guarantee another world title to Brazil, leaving the fight for glory completely green-yellow.
“The business is to leave the cup in Brazil. Can’t let it go. We have a great opportunity. I, for example, have dedicated myself a lot, worked a lot, trained a lot for this moment. So I’ll do my best to try and take the trophy. If it’s not my turn, I’m sure Gabriel or Italo will get it. It’s going to be a surfing show”, he cheered.
Also looking for the title for the first time is Tatiana Weston-Webb. The 25-year-old from Rio Grande do Sul had her best season on the circuit and finished the qualifying phase in second place. Thus, she will have to win the semifinal (against the Australian Sally Fitzgibbons, the also Australian Stephanie Gilmore or the French Johanne Defay) for the right to decide the World Cup against the Hawaiian Carissa Moore.
“I’m grateful for this moment, for surfing, doing my job, really grateful, you know? Because I know most of the world isn’t in the same place. For me, it was just enjoying every moment”, said the Brazilian, who will try to maintain this mentality in California. “If I start putting a lot of pressure on myself, it doesn’t work very well. So, I just want to enjoy it.”
Check out the interviews with Brazilians in the fight for the world title:
After exhaustion, Medina recharges energy to seek the tri
You declared, after second place on the Surf Ranch stage, that you were exhausted and just wanted to go home. After that, there was still the Olympic dispute and the disappointment with the result there. Have you managed to regain energy? Yes. I was very tired in Kelly’s wave pool [Slater]. I had been away for three months, and being away from home, living in this world of competition, is not easy. It was a forced second place because I was already exhausted.
Despite the fatigue, you had a historic performance and are in the final. Do you prefer the opponent to be a Brazilian or is that indifferent? Ah, it doesn’t matter who goes to the final with me. It will probably be a Brazilian final, due to the results, the constancy, the way the people react in the heats. I think I will face a Brazilian, and, as always, it will be difficult. But I did my job, I prepared in the best possible way.
You already start the stage at the end, which is very different from what normally happens. Is there a different strategy because you already have to start the contest at the highest level? I prepare as if it were a final day at another event. The anxiety is a little bigger, but the actions and decisions are the same: don’t make mistakes, don’t fail and be objective. That’s my focus. And it’s not a lot of strategy, actually, in the sense of who I’m going to face. I want to go to the water and do my best. I trained, I tried hard and I hope to be rewarded with another world title.
For Italo, one Brazilian pushes the level of the other
Brazil, which was champion with Gabriel Medina (2014 and 2018), Adriano de Souza (2015) and you (2019), is making another historic year. Does the good atmosphere we see among Brazilians in disputes help with the results? The guys really respect each other a lot, one pushes the level of the other, and that’s cool. For those who admire it, it’s a spectacle to see the three of us trying to win. We push the level and take surfing to another level.
Is it easy to balance friendship and competitiveness with Gabriel and Filipe? These are guys I admire a lot. But when we get in the water, we want to do our best and end up leaving other things aside. It’s an individual sport, so we have to focus on what has to be done. That’s what I think: in the water, I’m yours. In this case, it’s me against myself, it’s my mind against my mind. If I can control it, I can do anything. And if I can do anything, I can beat anyone. So, it’s keeping this flow, this energy, which is what can bring me victory.
Did you like the new format of the championship? It’s something new for everyone, let’s live for the first time. But just break, just surf and enjoy the moment between two guys in the water, in the best playground in the world. I think it’s going to be awesome, my gear is good. It makes me confident that I can make the best grades and catch the best waves.
Filipe smiles again and sees himself very much alive in the fight
You’ve been through difficult times in years past and you’ve even talked about depression. This year, he seems to be in another mental moment, smiling and performing well. How was this change? It was a very difficult two years, psychologically speaking. This year, man, I still started questioning myself a little, doubting a little, but I managed to get over it, it was a very happy year for me. I’m feeling good, I’ve been working with amazing people. And when we are on the side of family and true friends, it helps a lot. It’s been wonderful. That phase served as an apprenticeship, I will take it for my whole life.
This joy was seen in the interaction with the companions. Was the atmosphere among the Brazilians on the circuit even better this year than it used to be? Man, it was awesome, because we hadn’t seen each other for a long time, everyone locked inside the house. Then, when the crowd saw each other, they were all wanting to release that energy. It was totally different from all the years I competed. It was really cool to be a part of that, to have my friends there when I won, to be there when my friends won. You could see that surfing is really different.
Smiling, you put yourself in the fight for the title. Now, do you prefer to think that the cup is there, within reach, or is it better just to have fun in the water? I think it’s a little bit of both. It means taking it as seriously as possible, paying attention to everything that is happening, but at the same time knowing how to take advantage of this process, knowing how to do things with ease. And that’s what I’m doing. Thanks to God, I will be with my complete family in this championship, everything will be the way I imagined. So, now, my concern is not to fall, that’s all. Because I know how to ride waves, I have the ability, I have talent. Has the chance come? I will make. Just don’t fall now.
Tatiana grows up after reinventing her technique
You started the year saying you had revamped your surfing and are now fighting for the title. Was the result what you were looking for? Last year was very different. As there was no tour, I had a lot more time to work on my equipment, work with my technician [Ross Williams], which helped me a lot and gave me confidence to play the game, you know? We had a very specific plan, which worked very well. I’m second in the world going to the finals. It was really cool, because I had time to change boards, technicians, and I was able to enjoy it.
Are you ready to win your first title? Yes, I am ready. My surfing is just getting better. Nobody is in this position of fighting to be world champion in one day. So now I’m just wanting to enjoy the moment and surf well. I’m going to get to match day with a very specific plan and follow that plan.
You enter the dispute in a semi-final. Does it require different preparation? Definitely, because no one has ever competed in this format. Anyone has a chance of winning the title, that says it all. So, as I said, I’m going to enjoy the moment and have fun. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not preparing myself. I’m getting ready, surfing Lowers every day and eating well to be 100%.