Gabriel Medina came to the Surf Ranch Pro to do two things: win the contest and close the ratings gap on Filipe Toledo. And during the inaugural event in Lemoore, he did just that.
"It was amazing to win again, especially here at the Surf Ranch. It feels really good. That was hard," said Medina. "Everyone was surfing really good, especially Filipe. It feels good to get a little closer to him. There's three more events so it should be a fun one."
Hot off a buzzer-beater win at the Tahiti Pro last month, Medina had the Surf Ranch Pro trophy sewn up before he even took his final two runs. Toledo, Kanoa Igarashi and Julian Wilson all had a shot at him, but in the end, when Wilson fell on this fourth attempt at a big spin, Medina clinched it.
"Now it's time to go to Mexico tomorrow and take a little break," said Medina. "Then get ready for France."
"That was the most high-performance wave we've ever surfed," said Medina. "The thing about here is that you have to surf both ways good, backhand and forehand."
Flying into the two spot with the highest-scoring wave of the event - three airs in one wave, an air reverse and two alley-oops, unseen before in competition - Toledo came away from the Surf Ranch Pro with 7,800 points and maintains his grip on the Jeep Leader jersey.
"It's a win for me, to be in the position that I'm in. It's another keeper result," said Toledo.
For all the fireworks of the final runs, the morning started a bit wobbly.
It took nine waves before somebody, Toledo, completed a full run in the basin. With the exception of Medina's 8.73 and Toledo's 8.33 on the right, nobody completed a ride from one end of the basin to the other. Wilson fell on a big spin attempt at the end of the left, while Igarashi was unable to stick the landing on an air reverse at the end of the right.
"Right now it's just go bigger, go higher. It's now or never," noted Toledo."I was really worried about the right, so I tried to surf it really well and focus on that," explained Medina. "Now I'm going to keep working on the left, try my airs, and see what happens. I prefer the left, for sure, I can go bigger. And hopefully I can improve my right as well."
In the second runs Toledo spread his wings on a near-perfect 9.80. Landing three massive airs on the right, he briefly solidified his number one position on the leaderboard.
"They want more? I'll give them more," smiled Toledo, reacting to the fact that the judges withheld what would have been the event's first, and only, 10-point ride from him.
Then it was Medina's turn. Capitalizing on his second left-hander of the day, he took flight on the end section, landing his second Kerrupt flip of the contest.
"It feels good to be in the top, hopefully I can still improve. One more run left," said Medina.
Sitting in third after two runs, Kelly Slater also found himself in contention.
"I probably need at least an 8 on the left, otherwise I probably don't have much of a chance. You're looking at probably well over 16 or 17 points to win," said Slater.
Due to conditions and wave irregularities on the left-hander, all of the surfers were granted the opportunity to surf one extra left-hander. Medina capitalized on the opportunity. Ripping his away from one end to the other, he again stuck a masterful Kerrupt flip on the end section, and just for fun threw in a little shuv-it to end the run.
He came away with a 9.13, pushing his combined scoreline a whisker south of 18 points. It would be enough to win the contest and inch him closer to his second world title.
"I really like to surf France and Portugal. They're two waves that I really can put strategy to use and do the kind of surfing I like to do. Pipeline as well," said Medina, who's clearly set his sights on his second world title.
As the defending Quiksilver Pro France champ, he now trails Toledo in the race for the 2018 world title by 3,100 points. His result at the Surf Ranch Pro essentially cut Toledo's lead in half.
"Now it's time to have fun, relax and train really hard and go to Europe and get it done," said Toledo. "I feel good. I feel prepared for anything."
The Quiksilver Pro France runs from October 3-14.