Medina and the Science of Surfing
Not since Kelly’s Cloudbreak clinic last year has the World Tour witnessed a performance as intelligent and strategically masterful as that which Gabriel Medina’s put down this year. It’s a wave where you can really flex your strategic muscle. So vast is the lineup, with so many take off spots and so many different kinds of waves – down the line runners, bowly rippable ones, bowling rippable ones that offer multiple barrels – forethought and the ability to enact contingency plans is often the difference. Slater showed as much last year in his decimation of Seabass and John John on his way to victory. But it was Medina who hustled his opponents back and forth along the reef this year and had the priority discs on a string. It was masterful strategizing by the 20-year-old. He didn’t just win the event, he won it convincingly, and that’s not something you see very often at this level.
Medina and the Eye of the Tiger
Keep an eye on Medina at the 2:20 mark as he sets up for his 9.87 in the final. Watch as he takes off and eyes the scoop down the line. It extends way out in front of him giving him a shot at an incredibly technical, long, narrow barrel, and he knows it. If you could see a shot through his eyes at this moment, no doubt it would have been filled with all kinds of data and red text, like the Terminator. His line and speed management needs to be flawless and as he lets go of the wall and gradually angles up and into the tube. It has all the machine-like precision of a computer game character. Having watched it several times since, I still don’t know how he did it. He makes the first two chambers easily enough, but how he manages to find the speed and line to burst through that foam ball without so much as getting a rinse of lip to the head is beyond me. The slightest error at any point in that ride would have docked his score and given Nat Young a whiff of victory, which may very well have changed the outcome. Instead, he bursts across the foam ball and flies out straight into a vicious hook before kicking into another tube. The wave combos Nat and seals a commanding win for Medina, the best goofy footer in the world.
The Cali Crushers. Photo: ASP/Robertson
The Cali Crushers
The Monster Energy Drinks are flowing and the fingers are clicking on the streets of Norcal and Socal following Fiji. It was a big event for the American surf culture strongholds, with Santa Cruz westsider Nat Young bludgeoning his way to the final with his no-bullshit brand of power surfing. Add that to the tempestuous NSSA wunderkind Kolohe Andino backing up his Rio heroics with a similarly emotion-charged performance on his way to a semi-final finish, and the atmosphere is ripe for celebration. The pair, who have been best friends since their days on the NSSA, shared a room in Fiji and together are flying the flag for the future of American surfing. Post-Cloudbreak, both sit comfortably in the top ten and there are plenty of signs – especially in Andino’s case – that the fire’s burning stronger than ever over Cali way. Andino rode a wave of emotion throughout the event, taking down the competitive firebrand Adriano De Souza in a gutsy dogfight of a quarterfinal that will surely rank with the best wins of his career. Even the usually ice cold Nat Young bought into the claim game in Cloudbreak, and so he should. Great passion from the Cali kids.
Is the guard changing? Photo: ASP/Robertson
The Guard Changes
Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. With J Bay up next, a wave that heavily favors style, discipline and composure, expect the old heads of Kelly, Mick and especially Parko to surge back up the ratings. At the razor edge setting of Cloudbreak, however, the big four undoubtedly showed their age. Whether it was the brute power and impeccable accuracy of Bourez, which put Slater to the sword; the preternatural tube sense and fin hucks of John John Florence, which diced Taj; the whipping backhand and pure guts of Kolohe Andino that did the damage against De Souza; or the lead-footed power jams of Nat Young which cooked Fanning, the new school tipped the Tour on its head at Fiji. A look at the ratings tells the story. With Medina on top and Bourez in second, the title contender pool has been refreshed for the first time in a long time.
Fuck Yeah, Fiji
It wasn’t the bombing, barreling Cloudbreak of years gone by, but it was every bit as entertaining. Few times in my memory can I recall a surfing contest in which Mick Fanning could put up ten turns on a single wave while a heat later, Medina could jam gouges, use the tube as a transition maneuver and toss up a couple of full-rote alley oops for good measure. Cloudbreak at this size is the ultimate test of technique, repertoire and attention to detail and we were duly given a showcase of surfing at its sparkling, most versatile best. It is the goofy footer’s J Bay and, as you’d expect, it was won convincingly by the best goofy footer in the world.
Read more here: The Inertia