Julian Wilson just won the Billabong Pro Tahiti for the first time in his career. It came in perfect fashion: he needed to fight his way out of an early combo situation that Gabriel Medina put him in, and he managed to pull it off. “So special to win,” he said in his post-heat interview. “Such a good final. I’m pretty speechless. I’m ecstatic. I’ve got nothing left in me. I’m not going to cry, but I feel like crying.”
Right now in professional surfing, there is no one better than Gabriel Medina at getting under his competitor’s skin. His hassling is exquisite: he’s able to calmly ruffling the feathers of whoever’s in the water with him while his feathers remain perfectly combed. It started with his heat against Kolohe Andino, who, until then, had been full of confidence. Within a few seconds of the horn, though, it became apparent that–like so many surfing events–it was going to be about more than surfing. Medina sticks close when necessary, head fakes like a boxer, and always seems to find the waves that will win the heat. He can manufacture scores like no one else, and in the final against Julian Wilson, he almost did it again. In the first few minutes of the final, he had Julian Wilson in a combination situation, and although Wilson broke out of it quickly, it was clear he was rattled. After an early scuffle in the first minutes of the heat, Wilson was frustrated. “Let’s just leave that one in the water,” he told Rosy Hodge after he won. “He’s tenacious… we’ll just leave that in the water.”
That, paired with an almost supernatural surfing ability, is what makes Gabriel Medina the competitor that everyone should be scared of. For an example of that surfing ability, take a look at his perfect 10.
Wilson’s win at Tahiti has been a long time coming. After his early combo, he found two waves in the nine point range and pulled out all the stops, just like he’d done for the whole event. No one else risked it all like Wilson on those inside shallow sections, and it paid off. He’s never won there before, but this event he seemed to be more on point than ever before.