- WSL / Kelly Cestari
- WSL / Kelly Cestari

"Look, with Gabriel, he's tenacious and he's got a big heart," Julian Wilson said immediately after claiming the 2017 Tahiti Pro Teahupoo. "As for the start of the heat, we'll just leave that it in the water, eh?"

The start of the last year's Final between Wilson and Medina -- current world number two and three respectively, only 4,000 points out of the yellow jersey -- had featured a fiery, and almost physical, paddle battle for priority.

Neither surfer would yield the inside as Julian's immoveable object met Gabriel's unstoppable force.

2017 Men's Heat Of The Year.
Gabriel Medina vs. Julian Wilson

However it was the last five minutes of the Final, not the first, that transformed the heated contest into the 2017's Mens Heat Of The Year.

After being in combination situation Wilson locked in two 9-point waves in those dying minutes. They were his two highest scoring waves of the event and earned the Australian a dramatic first win in Tahiti.

It was a remarkable victory, but then again to beat Gabriel Medina at Teahupoo, you need to do remarkable things.

It was back in 2014 that Medina set a competitive benchmark at surfing's heaviest wave.

In some of the biggest, and most perfect, conditions ever surfed in a professional contest, Medina claimed his first Tahiti Pro Teahupoo win over Kelly Slater.

Gabriel Medina Medina calm in the middle of the maelstrom in 2014. - WSL / Kirstin Scholtz

"A kid who is 20-years-old and beat Kelly fair and square in the final at giant Teahuppo," wrote Shane Dorian, another a Teahupoo Hall of Famer, afterwards. "I am so pumped to see someone new stepping up against the best, leading the ratings and taking huge scalps under immense pressure."

Medina has continued to do that ever since. He was Runner-up in 2015 and Semifinalist in 2016 before last year's epic Final.

In the last four events he has surfed 19 heats, lost just four and logged numerous 10-point rides. He has developed an innate sense of knowing which waves bend just enough to provide an exit out and over the shallow Polynesian reef.

Medina's Perfect Positioning
The former World Champion is slowly and steadily working his way up the Jeep Leaderboard.

"It's crumbly and onshore out there," Jordy Smith commented last year whilst waiting for his heat, "and Gabe is scoring the tubes of a lifetime. He's a freak!"

With his win last year Julian Wilson however proved that of the World Title contenders he alone has the freakery to match the Brazilian.

The 2014 Pipe Masters Champion is rightly acclaimed as one of the best backhand barrel riders of his generation and few surfers are as comfortable in solid Teahupoo as the 29-year-old.

"Julian loves the wave and there is no need to complicate life in Tahiti," his coach Andy King told the WSL. "He knows the best waves look like a closeouts and he's never afraid to swing."

Given King totally trusts Julian's form and experience at Teahupoo there seems little need to over think things.

Yet King and Wilson are all too aware that the same can be said for Gabriel Medina.

The stakes meanwhile have never been higher, with both aware the the Tahiti Pro Teahupoo provides a gilt-edged chance to gather ground on the World No. 1 Toledo, whose past form at the break nowhere matches their own.

It might be asking a little too much to expect a battle as epic as last year, but if and when Medina and Wilson to meet up in Tahiti it will be fascinating contest between two surfers at their peak surfing a wave they love.

The Tahiti Pro Teahupoo event window starts August 10, check back for updates on the call.

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