his first full year on tour, Medina reached the final of the Fiji Pro, his first final since winning at San Francisco the previous November. It was also the year the contest was controversially put on hold during some of the biggest and best conditions ever seen at Cloudbreak. The surf that day was a surreal spectacle of towering perfection, beautiful and terrifying in equal measure; Medina did not feature in the historic free-surf session
that followed, but he was not the only member of the top 32 conspicuous by his absence.
Before and after the waves transformed into thundering behemoths the size of three-storey buildings, Gabriel was outstanding, his performance characterised by impressive wave-knowledge and a remarkable ability to make the most minute of adjustments deep inside the tube. The highlight was his ten-point ride in the third round, when he had been written off by spectators, commentators, and cameraman alike, emerging from the barrel out of shot and almost unnoticed.
It is well worth reminding yourself of. The footage below has been squashed slightly, but is accompanied by the commentary from the live broadcast, in this case essential for the full experience. Then it's worth watching again in slightly better quality
That year it took an irrepressible Kelly Slater – who didn’t record a heat total under eighteen from the fourth round onwards – to stop him. There would be no stopping him this year, however.
In the final he performed a most extraordinary tactical manoeuvre. After engaging Nat Young in a lengthy paddle battle, moving much too far up the reef in what seemed a stubborn and not particularly advantageous attempt to secure priority, he took off on a wave with little scoring potential. It looked like a bad move, but Gabby had seen something we hadn’t: not an approaching air section, but a much better wave behind, for which he had been far too deep. Leaving Nat way out of position in the line-up, he covered a huge amount of distance before kicking out onto his stomach and stroking directly into the best wave of the heat thus far, registering the first significant score. The whole thing was almost seamless.
It was strategically astute and highly effective, but it was also imaginative and inspired and exciting; long-ball surfing it was not. He backed it up with a thrilling display of disinhibited surfing, gathering momentum all the while and building on his 7.33 with a 9.87 and 8.53.
An earlier lay day session, meanwhile, resulted in this ridiculous GoPro footage of a wave Gabby shared with good friend Filipe Toledo.