Recent winner of the Billabong Pro Tahiti, and not just any Billabong Pro Tahiti edition, what's being widely claimed as the best professional surfing event ever run, Gabriel Medina finally put to rest the idea that the young Brazilian can't perform in waves of consequence.
Leading the ASP rankings and brimming with confidence, the Brazilian now finds himself in prime position to take out the title. Yet at the same time few competitors on the Dream Tour have in recent memory attracted so much criticism from surf fans.
Should Medina claim this year's men's title, he'd be the first Brazilian/Latin American to ever do so. A sign that sport may indeed be opening up, and not just from a sponsorship perspective. But putting aside what's good or not for sport, there's few competitors on tour who deserve to win a world title as much as Medina.
Simply think back to some of his first performances during the King of the Groms for example, where he made winning heats look like kids play... stomping one crazy air after another and appearing leagues ahead of any of the other competitors. His first couple of years on tour proved just as eventful. Although categorised as part of the new school aerial generation, it didn't stop the young Brazilian from going straight on to win a couple of world tour events his very first year on tour in 2011. The Quik Pro France being his first, with another victory at the Rip Curl Pro Search in San Francisco the same year. A clear sign of his precocious competitive nouse that other up-coming Brazilian talents have so far struggled to keep up with. While 2012 and 2013 proved two quiet years in terms of victories, Medina's beginners luck (as lots of surf fans took pleasure in pointing out) has come good again this year with a further three 'CT wins. Furthermore, none of his wins this year have come as a result of his widely feared aerial attack. The Quik Pro Gold Coast he won thanks to powerful backhand performances and Fiji and Tahiti in barrels. Proof that kid really does have it all.
Where it not for the world tour glitch that is Medina, the world tour contenders would once again be split between the Australian and American camps, as it has been since day one on the pro tour. For a world tour that claims to be international, the severe lack of other title pretenders be they Brazilian, South African, Indonesian, Tahitian or anywhere else in the world sits somewhat awkwardly up until now.
In any other sport the need for fresh young blood and new faces is key to their success and there's no reason that surfing should be any different. And this both from an entertainment and financial perspective. The ASP is in drastic need of new sponsors for the tour as they look to open up to non-endemic brands. New champions can surely only help to aid their cause.
Surf fans general dislike for Gabriel Medina clearly extends to the surfing world's dislike for Brazilian surfers. Before Medina came Adriano de Souza. It seems they've been criticised for everything and their opposite. I remember hearing some Australians claiming that the day a Brazilian was crowned world champion they'd give up following the tour. The world tour can of course do without those kinds of fans.
From a purely European viewpoint, Brazilians as underdogs have served to path the way to competitive success on tour through pure determination and hard work. Overscored, criticised for bad style, only being able to surf small waves, the list of grudges goes on and on but none of that's stopped them from rising to the top of the sport.
So should Gabriel Medina go on to win this year's world title, not only would it be great for the sport, we're also hoping it might just silence the haters once and for all.