Surfboard shaper Johnny Cabianca has been crafting boards for Gabriel Medina (BRA) for the majority of the surfer's career. He has seen the Brazilian wunderkind rise from grom king to World Champ, growing in both talent and physical size. Their partnership has clearly been a winning formula: Over the years, Cabianca said, other than increasing dimensions to match the increasing power of his muse, he hasn't changed much with his Medina model, appropriately called da Freak Kid.
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That formula served Medina well at the Quiksilver Pro France, where he won his first event of the year. Cabianca, who previously shaped under the Pukas label, counts Medina's victory there as the first on his own brand, Cabianca Surfboards. Here he shares insight on Medina's Magic Board and how he has seen the goofyfooter from Maresias, Brazil, evolve after becoming Brazil's first World Champion.
Model: da Freak Kid (dFK)
Dimensions: 5'11 x 19 x 2 7/16
Tail: Round Tail
World Surf League: What are the model and dimensions of the board Gabriel was riding?
Johnny Cabianca: This board he was using at the Quik Pro, is called the dFK (da Freak Kid). He has been using this model since the King of Grommets in 2009: Only the dimensions changed, adapting for his actual biotype. The board he used in France is a 5'11 x 19 x 2 7/16 (28.7 liters) round tail. Gabriel is 180 cm x 80 kg now.
WSL: Beyond his talent, can you explain what about the shape of his board helps him achieve such height on his airs?
Cabianca: The focus is designing a board that creates speed. No airs without velocity. For an average surfer this board can feel a little stiff, but Gabriel surfs in a way that the board is always in movement. Therefore it works so well for him.
WSL: What did you change about Gabriel's boards coming into the 2015 season?
Cabianca: Just the dimensions -- what changed is that I'm doing the boards 100 percent myself: shaping, glassing, sanding, etc. This year I am working in Brazil in my own little factory in Maresias, Gabriel's hometown. I can care about all details of the board construction myself. I love doing this, but it also means a lot more work. As of next year this might have to change again (I am planning to build a bigger factory back in Europe in 2016). But for now I feel all details together can make a big difference.
WSL: He appears to riding fewer swallow tails than he did last year, why is that?
Cabianca: True. His back foot is getting stronger and he is pushing the tail harder. The round tail is giving him more comfort.
WSL: Gabriel has had a tough season, but more than a few moments of brilliance. In your talks with him how does he face the hard moments following up a World Title?
Cabianca: Let's look at the situation: His freesurfing was outstanding since the beginning of the year. But sometimes it doesn't [take] much to lose a heat and the competition is over before he could show his full potential. Talking to [Gabriel's stepdad] Charles I could feel they went to all competitions with the same confidence of doing well.
WSL: Heading into Pipeline, what boards will you be sending with him?
Cabianca: For the Triple Crown and specifically Pipeline I will prepare boards from 6'0 to 6'4. Plus I am ordering some boards with Wade Tokoro for Pipeline. He [has been] helping us in Hawaii since 2011. There is always no or little time to train at Pipe and using boards from the top local shaper gives Gabriel the confidence he needs.
WSL: In your opinion how did Gabriel's first World Title change his surfing and his personality?
Cabianca: I feel the people (especially in Brazil) have huge expectations now from the World Champion. Getting this Title for Brazil brought a lot of attention on him and the sport. Now even my parents are watching and understanding surf contests: They had no idea about it before. Now, ESPN in Brazil is doing live broadcasts of CT events. In the beginning this seemed to be hard on Gabriel. Meanwhile, he appears to be dealing with it well. He is a celebrity in Brazil and I think it took a moment to get used to this.