Just the Beginning
Brazilian Gabriel Medina Wins the WSL World Title; Wilson Takes Triple Crown
"MEDINA, CAMPEÃO! MEDINA, CAMPEÃO! MEDINA, CAMPEÃO!"
The cheers rang out from Off the Wall to Pupukea. The green, blue and gold of the Brazilian flag was everywhere. People sang. People embraced. People cried. Gabriel Medina, the 20-year-old sensation, was the first-ever WSL world champion from Brazil.
"This is my best day ever. I really want to thank God first, and my family for all they've done for me," Medina said afterward. This was my dream and now it's a reality. It's amazing."
It was a marathon day for Medina, surfing five heats in pristine – but punishing – Pipeline, after several straight lay days had the event quickly approaching the end of the waiting period. After nerves had appeared to have the young Brazilian surfing without his typical confidence and flawless execution at events in France and Portugal, when the pressure was at its highest and the stakes were the greatest he'd ever faced, Medina proved to the global surfing community that he is, without a doubt, the greatest surfer in the world in 2014.
Medina was actually paddling out for his quarterfinal heat when the moment arrived. Fellow Brazilian Alejo Muniz was in the previous heat with the three-time world champion, Mick Fanning, who was the only remaining threat. When the time expired and the major upset was complete, the shoreline erupted. A horde of Brazilians circled around Charles and the rest of Medina's family, who were celebrating amongst themselves. Medina was alone in the lineup, taking a moment to himself, trying to wrap his mind around what he'd just accomplished. The chants and songs were already at full volume, Charles and the family broke away from the crowd and charged toward Gabriel, anxious for that moment when they could finally celebrate together.
Medina was lifted onto the shoulders of his family and friends and countrymen. As the crowd chanted his name, as the moment grew within him, he appeared at battle with his own emotions. With the Brazilian flag waving from his hand and countless others around him, Medina's face alternated between tears and smiles.
"A lot of [Brazilian] guys have tried [to win the world title], all those guys who have represented Brazil, and I feel honored to be the one to do it," Medina said. "I don't know why it's me, but I'm really happy right now. I'm proud to be Brazilian and to do this for my country."
Despite the overwhelming reaction and emotion that surrounded the world title, Medina was still able to remain composed enough to advance all the way to the final of the Billabong Pipeline Masters. In the final, Medina met up with Julian Wilson, who was riding the high of his own unexpected journey. After a season that left him on the brink of falling off Tour, his Hawaii leg saw him return to the form that had made him one of the most exciting surfers on the planet. Coming into the final day of the event, Wilson had an outside chance at the Triple Crown title, but it was indeed a long-shot.
"After the way my year had gone, I was just hoping to end my season on a high note," Wilson said afterward. "Never did I think that the Triple Crown was a real possibility."
The outcome came down to a final set, a final exchange; Wilson opting for Backdoor, Medina going for Pipeline. Both came shooting out of the barrel, double arms aimed at the sky. Both thought they'd received the score. Medina was once again chaired up to the podium, while Wilson lingered down the beach, awaiting the scores. Wilson's came first, a 9.8. Medina's was a 9.2, which was not enough to overtake the Australian. Wilson fell to his knees and planted his face in the sand.
"Hawaii has a special place in surfing. You always want to perform well here, to prove that you belong in these lineups," Wilson said. "It's the best possible end to my season that I could have ever dreamed of."
Wilson received his own chairing to the podium. When he reached the competitor's area, he and Medina embraced in a way that only champions can. Both had reached an achievement in their career that they had likely strived for as young groms arriving to the professional ranks. The day played out differently for each, but both will end the day with hardware they'd always wanted and memories that will likely drive them all that much harder in the years to come to substantiate what they'd accomplished on the shores of Oahu.