In 2011, when Gabriel Medina was a scrawny, 17-year-old rookie, he exploded onto the CT with two huge wins. But the question that came immediately from peers and pundits was whether or not the high-flying kid could compete when the waves got serious.
No one thought he could.
But Medina was quick to answer them. Hot off his second win, in San Francisco, he surfed in his first Pipe Masters and made it all the way to the Quarterfinals. Still, the doubters remained, and tried to reconcile their resistance with remarks like, "It was just average Pipe."
But it wasn't.
Granted it wasn't huge, but it was real. And since then we've seen Gabe become one of the most dominant players in the business when things get beefy. In 2014 and 2015 he appeared in back-to-back Finals at Pipe and Teahupo'o. He's won twice in Fiji. And his huge victory at massive Teahupo'o came against Kelly Slater in the Final in picture-perfect surf.
Indeed, Medina has racked up one of the most impressive Teahupo'o track records there is. While his average heat score (AHS) is slightly behind those of Kelly Slater and John John Florence, any diehard Fantasy surfing player will be quick to point out that Gabe is the most consistent. His Fantasy points average (FPA) in Tahiti is a stunning 100.62, the highest of anyone, and that's because he's averaging 6.25 in the rounds per event (RPE) category.
Like his first performance at Pipe, Medina finished with a strong fifth-place finish in his Teahupo'o debut. He slipped to a 13th-place finish in 2013, but came back to win in 2014, and had a runner-up finish last year.
Those critics have run for the hills.
Meanwhile, Medina's career numbers continue to impress. As of today, he's not just on pace with Kelly Slater at Teahupo'o, but for career wins and titles as well. At just 22 years old, he's already bagged one world title and seven CT wins, which is exactly where Slater was at this point in his career. Like 22-year-old Slater, Medina is back in the hunt for his second world title.
If he wants to keep pace with the young Kelly, Medina will need that title this year, along with one more CT win. Doubters may want to take shelter.