Brazilian Gabriel Medina pushed high-performance surfing to a new level at the prime-rated Nike Lowers Pro, demolishing one of the largest fields of high-end talents ever assembled to capture the $40,000 and a solid gold trophy valued at 30-grand more.
“I feel better than ever,” said the 18-year-old ASP World Tour rookie after being carried up the beach by a passionate pack of Brazilian fans that invaded San Clemente, Calif. “I don’t even know what to say.”
That’s okay…his surfing did all the talking.
Medina’s relentless assault of aerial antics, blistering snaps, playful tail wafts, and sweeping carves were untouchable all week. His campaign included five of the top 10 highest wave scores, the five highest heat scores, and the yellow MVP jersey(voted on by fans) for three of the five days.
Winning at Lowers, the world’s preeminent high performance wave, is a big feather in any surfers cap. For Medina, who broke into the ASP’s elite Top 32 last year, it’s feels an awful lot like a coronation.
Medina is widely viewed as Brazil’s best candidate to bring home the country’s first ASP world championship ever, and Saturday’s win will give him confidence heading into next week’s next world championship stop in Rio.
His performances also earned him overdue respect with American fans, who couldn’t help but marvel at his surfing as he handily disposed of the beloved Dane Reynolds (right) twice, and doing so playing the very aerial game Dane helped make famous.
Before besting Ireland’s Glen Hall (by way of Australia) in the final, Medina’s closest match was with two-time US Open Champion Brett Simpson on Friday. Their duel was the highest scoring affair of the entire event, with both surfers earning 9.5 scores along the way.
Medina was behind the veteran Californian with 30 seconds to go, when he caught a left and launched himself high over the lip, where inverted and rotating, he soared back down to the mid-face and somehow spun-out of an incredible landing. Game over.
In the end his win was hardly surprising. Medina came into Lowers as a known threat. He won two world tour events last year as a 17-year-old rookie. In fact, he earned his first two tour wins faster than any tour surfer in history (yup, including that Kelly Slater guy).
And while 18-year-old Medina has packed on some muscle and added some power, he’s got work to do to catch Slater in this year’s race for the world title. He had a slow start to the season in Australia. Yet you can bet the Brazilian flags will be waving in Rio next week as Medina takes to the beachbreak surf that he’s actually known for dominating.