Since winning the 2014 world title, the first in the history of Brazilian surfing, Gabriel Medina always said in his interviews that he had a dream: to be a three-time champion and to equal his great idols and legends of the sport. For that day has arrived. And undeniably. This Tuesday, Gabriel had to defeat Filipe Toledo twice in the WSL Finals decision, in Lower Trestles, California (USA) to place himself at the level of his great heroes.
+ Tati loses to Carissa and is runner-up
+ Check out the list of world champions
Entitled to a backflip in the last heat of the final, the surfer from Maresias joined a select group that already included three-time champions Tom Curren (USA), Andy Irons (HAV) and Mick Fanning (AUS). After years of domination by Americans and Australians, Brazil now has 5 world titles in the last 7 years of the Men’s Tour. Still at sea, in an interview with WSL, Medina spoke of this great moment in his career and in Brazilian surfing.
– I achieved my biggest goal in surfing. I’m crying now because it’s a mix of emotions. I am happy, moved. I am happy to be part of this (Brazilian) team. They pull me and I pull their level,” said Medina.
Medina takes off in Trestles to beat Filipinho and become three-time champion — Photo: WSL / Nolan
The WSL Finals defined the world champions for the 2021 season, with the top 5 men and women ranking against each other in just one day of competition. Men’s leader in the regular season, Medina was already classified for the decision and was waiting for the winner of the knockout which included Italo Ferreira (2nd in the ranking), Filipinho (3rd), the American Conner Coffin (4th) and the Australian Morgan Cibilic (5th).
Tatiana Weston-Webb, number 2 in the women’s ranking and the only female representative of Brazil, entered the semis directly, defeating the Australian Sally Fitzgibbons (3rd). But in the final, after winning the first heat in the best of 3, the Brazilian ended up suffering the turn for the leader Carissa Moore, who was crowned five-time world champion.
Final has shark and Medina show with backflip
After waiting and watching a full day of competition, Medina went to his heat in the final against Filipinho, who eliminated Olympic champion Italo Ferreira. Needing to win two clashes to become three-time champion, Medina opened the first decisive heat with a 5, while Toledo got the better of the first exchange with a 7. It was just a warm-up for what was to come in the final 15 minutes.
First Filipe hit a streak of backside hits to take an 8.33 from the judges. In the same series of waves, Gabriel came in from behind, hit a rip and took off to do an aerial frontside grab and land at the base of the wave to get the highest score of the day: 9.
Needing a 7.98 to turn, Filipinho got a great straight 5 minutes from the end, hit two great rips, a floater and even finished at the junction. He changed the second note, made 7.37, but it wasn’t enough to beat Gabriel: 16.30 to 15.70.
The second heat of the final started with Filipe getting the best in the series of two waves that came. The Sufi from Ubatuba got a 7.83, while Gabriel got a 6.33. The future three-time champion’s show began when he took to going to the lefts. The first big note came with a sequence of hits and rips and the finish with an aerial reverse: note 8.50.
With the pressure of not being able to lose the heat, Filipinho started to take more risks and made some mistakes, looking for a 7.01 to turn. With 18 minutes to go, a 2m tall shark was seen near Trestles Peak. The event organizers rescued the surfers at sea with jetski and stopped the dispute for 15 minutes.
With the shark away from the venue, the heat was resumed and the great moment of the entire championship came. After Filipe got an 8.53 on a very well surfed right, Gabriel took a left, accelerated with everything and hit the maneuver that only he had managed to complete in a championship: the backflip. A back mortal worth a 9.01 note. End of heat: 17.53 to 16.36 for the new three-time world surfing champion, who was very emotional and was hugged by Filipinho at sea.
– It’s not every day that you make a dream come true. Every dream seems impossible. Today is a special day for me. I have this for a long time with me. You have to work hard. There is no other way. It has a lot of passion. You have to let surfing do the talking. That day will stay in my life forever. I had to surf a lot to conquer – Gabriel celebrated already on the sand.
Filipe beats Italo in the semis
Italo and Filipe faced each other to define Medina’s opponent. And unlike the quarterfinals, Toledo went out riding several waves. He already opened with a 7.33, with two reverse airs, and then got an 8.50 on a series wave without taking off, only with strong edge maneuvers.
With a 7.27 and a 5.17 on two well surfed backside rights, Italo needed 8.70 to turn. And the Olympic and world champion had the chance to turn the last wave. They risked a full rotation aerial aloft, but ended up crashing on landing.
Filipinho turns on the last wave on the Wednesdays
After hugging his father, wife and friends, Filipinho walked down the stairs from the podium for his debut at the WSL Finals hand in hand with sons Koa and Mahina. The surfer from Ubatuba, who has lived in the US since 2015, showed that he was at home against local idol Conner Coffin, who had just eliminated Australian Morgan Cibilic in the round of 16.
Filipe Toledo defeated Italo and Conner Coffin to reach the final — Photo: WSL / Morris
With the big waves, with more than 2m in height, the American already opened the battery with one of the best waves of the day. There were 3 good rips and a hit on the finish, which earned the note 8.5. The Brazilian took 15 minutes to catch his first wave and got an 8.40, in a wave very similar to Coffin’s. But the American got a 5.5 and left Filipinho needing a 5.91. The Brazilian went for all or nothing in his last wave, hit a full rotation aerial and got the turn with an 8.17.
Check out the results of the WSL Finals heats:
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) 6.70 x 12.17 Johanne Defay (FRA)
Conner Coffin (USA) 15 x 9.84 Morgan Cibilic (AUS)
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) 11.33 x 6.66 Johanne Defay (FRA)
Filipe Toledo (BRA) 16.57 x 14.33 Conner Coffin (USA)
Italo Ferreira (BRA) 12.44 x 15.97 Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Battery 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.30 x 15.70 Filipe Toledo (BRA)
Battery 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.53 x 16.36 Filipe Toledo (BRA)