The ultimate showdown. The most intense world title race of the century. The most dramatic surfing season of all time. Adriano de Souza, 28, is the undisputed 2015 World Surf League (WSL).
In the beginning, there were six world title contenders. In the end, only one could win. The most important day of the year for professional surfers kicked off with silky four-to-six-foot waves. It wasn't firing, but the 2015 Billabong Pipe Masters will forever remain in the hearts of millions of surf fans.
Three surfers paddled out knowing they could raise the trophy of their lives. And then celebrate at lunchtime. Gabriel Medina knew that if Fanning reached the semifinals, he would be out of the equation. Adriano de Souza had to finish ahead of Mick.
Medina won his quarterfinal against CJ Hobgood. Fanning survived a tense clash against Slater and narrowed the title race to just him and De Souza. Kerr wanted to help his Australian friend, and but Adriano made sure he wanted to take the game into the dying heats of the season.
Fans in the beach started to get stressed. Gabriel Medina versus Mick Fanning. Does it get better than that? With two minutes to go, the 2014 champion pulls an air, takes the lead and wins the heat. Only Mason Ho could save the Australian.
The pressure was on Adriano de Souza. With a victory against the Hawaiian, "Mineirinho" would clinch a maiden WSL title. But the Brazilian wanted it so much that he ended up stealing the heat from Ho's fins, in a neurotic low-scoring affair. Adriano de Souza is the 2015 World Surf League champion.
It was a bittersweet defeat for Mick Fanning. The three-time world surfing champion lost his eldest brother and put out an incredible performance. The "White Lightning" almost did what he need to do, despite the emotional rollercoaster he's been through.
Fanning put those emotions to the side and conquered thousands of new fans throughout the world. Kelly Slater was backing and supporting Mick. In a single year, the Australian survived everything - a shark attack, superheats, and the loss of a sibling. He is a spectacular runner-up.
A final word for Clifton James "CJ" Hobgood. The Floridian competed for the first time in 1989. Twenty-six years later, he decided to retire. With a world title (2001), multiple event wins, and lots of memories.
"I've lived a dream life. I've been fortunate for the past 17 years of my life with the best surfers in the world. I am happy to leave. The surfers are better; they are better characters. Thank you WSL for giving me the stage to perform. The sport is getting better and better," expressed CJ Hobgood.
Gabriel Medina is also the first Brazilian to win the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
World Surfing Titles | The Best Ever
Kelly Slater (USA): 11 Mark Richards (AUS): 4+1 Mick Fanning (AUS): 3 Andy Irons (HAW): 3 Tom Curren (USA): 3 Damien Hardman (AUS): 2 Tom Carroll (AUS): 2