In total rhythm with the ocean, ASP world no. 1 Gabriel Medina stormed to victory at the Billabong Pro Tahiti for his third win of the season. Photo: ASP/Kirstin Scholtz
The world’s best surfers once again put everything on the line as they battled the world’s most dangerous wave for arguably the best finals day in the history of professional surfing at the Billabong Pro Tahiti.
With another full day of perilous monster 10 to 15 foot drainers on hand, it was Brazilian phenom and current ratings leader Gabriel Medina who came out on top to claim the event in a thrilling final against Kelly Slater.
The win over Kelly counts as Medina’s third WCT victory of the year, after triumphing at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and Fiji Pro, and sees him extend his lead considerably in the world title race.
On his route to the final, the Brazilian dispatched Kolohe Andino and Bede Durbidge (a somewhat easier run than Kelly who faced both Owen Wright in the quarters and John John Florence in the semis on his way to the finals).
“I don’t really know what to say,” said Gabriel Medina. “I’m so blessed to have these conditions at ‘Chopes and surf against all these guys. This is such a special event and I’m just so happy right now. Kelly is a legend of surfing and it’s the best feeling ever to win.”
For Kelly, his second place finish marked his first WCT final of the year, best result of the season and another all-time career highlight. Notching a total of two perfect 10s and 14 excellent nine-point ride throughout the competition, Kelly’s semi final bout against John John (a tie break of 19.70) is being referred to as one of the best heats ever surfed.
“What can you say? The ocean delivered for us today… this week,” said Kelly. “It was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it and today will go down as one of the best days of surfing in my career, no question. Congratulations to Gabriel. He was in rhythm all event and specifically in the final, and he’s on fire this year. We switch gears big time for Trestles and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. There’s a lot of work ahead.”
The result moves Kelly up from sixth to second place on the rankings, putting him in serious world title contention.
The Andy Irons Most Committed Performance Award was awarded to Owen Wright for his commitment, passion and courage during the event. Wright, who was knocked out of the competition by Slater in the quarters, was also another to post a perfect 10 in the contest.
“This feels amazing and I’m so honored to get this award,” said Wright. “During this event so many guys have gone hard. I’ve watched Andy for so long and I can’t imagine what he’d be doing if he was here. To get fifth place here feels so special and this award just tops it off.”
Billabong Pro Tahiti Final Result:
1- Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.96
2- Kelly Slater (USA)18.93
Billabong Pro Tahiti Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.67 def. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 4.17
SF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.77 def. John John Florence (HAW) 19.77
Billabong Pro Tahiti Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 19.87 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 18.43
QF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.27 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.27
QF 3: John John Florence (HAW) 19.67 def. Dion Atkinson (AUS) 17.76
QF 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.80 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 16.10
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.40 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.66
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.53 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 6.16
Heat 3: Dion Atkinson (AUS) 19.33 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 14.77
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) 19.87 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 12.83
Billabong Pro Tahiti Round 4 Results:
Heat 1: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.66, Michel Bourez (PYF) 13.73, Tiago Pires (PRT) 6.84
Heat 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.37, Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.57, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 9.00
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW) 18.16, Kai Otton (AUS) 12.10, Brett Simpson (USA) 8.67
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.44, Owen Wright (AUS) 16.74, Dion Atkinson (AUS) 12.50