How good is Gabriel Medina in France? Practically unbeatable.
With three victories to his credit, he's made the final of the Quiksilver Pro France five times in the last seven years. He has an astounding 80.5% winning percentage at Hossegor, winning 33 of 41 heats over the course of his career. He's never finished outside of the quarterfinals.
That should make World No. 1 Filipe Toledo very nervous. Ahead on the leaderboard by 4,100 points, Medina's right there in his rearview mirror. Consider that the difference in points between finishing first and second is 2,200 points.
That's not to say Filipe has been surfing poorly. Hardly. A second-place finish at the Surf Ranch Pro and a third at the Tahiti Pro have kept him in the Jeep Leader Jersey.
"I think the strategy is to always stay ahead of everyone, but the second half of the year the world title race sort of takes shape with the top five, you just have to keep doing better and staying ahead with your results," said Toledo at the Quiksilver Pro press conference. "I'm in a really good position right now and really happy to be here."
Nevertheless, coming off of back-to-back wins, Medina's surfing with ice in his veins and keeping pace is going to be Toledo's challenge from here on out.
"Throughout the season I start building up my rhythm so by the time we get to the back half of the season everything seems to click in and the results appear," Medina told the WSL last week.
Even more cause for concern, last year Medina won both the Quiksilver Pro France and the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal, while Toledo lost in the second round of both contests. Toledo's record in Europe is spotty. He won the Moche Rip Curl Pro Portugal in 2015 and finished third at the Quiksilver Pro France in 2013, his rookie year on tour. Other than that, he's never finished higher than fifth in either contest.
Meanwhile, Medina's worst-ever result in France is a fifth. He's struggled a little more in Portugal. In 2012, he finished runner-up to Julian Wilson at Supertubos, but his winning percentage there is only a hair over 60% and he's posted a handful of 13th and 25th place finishes.
In terms of mind surfing, Medina's confidence and affinity for Hossegor's beachbreaks gives him the advantage over Toledo, but the second stop of the European leg could potentially be an equalizer.
The only statistic in Toledo's favor is drawn from history, as the probability of Medina winning the next contest is slim.
The last time a surfer won three CT contests in a row on the Championship Tour was Kelly Slater back in 1996. Other than that, over the course of the history of the tour Tom Curren in '90 and Dave Macauley in '89 are the only other two surfers to hit the trifecta. Tom Carroll is the only male surfer to win four events in a row in '83.
Since 2003, only Medina, Mick Fanning and Andy Irons have three or more contest wins in a single season (Fanning has four). Both Medina and Toledo have two wins in 2018, so that's another historical component to keep an eye on. Medina and Toledo are going to have to rise to historic levels to stay in the race.
"I've been surfing in France for many years now and it's the type of wave a really enjoy surfing at so eventually I became super comfortable surfing it," said Medina. "I always look forward to France and I'll do everything I can to keep up my good results there this year."
The risk in all of this for both Medina and Toledo is that poor results in Europe typically prove to be disastrous for world title campaigns.
Look no further than Matt Wilkinson in 2016. He started the year with two convincing victories at Snapper and Bells and led the title race for the first half of the year. But three 13ths and two 25ths in the last five events of the year snuffed out his chances. By the time he left Portgual it was all but over, and if he doesn't reverse course this year he it could signal the end of his time on tour.
The last few contests of the CT are where titles are won and lost. Medina already has a 9th and 13th that he has to throw away from his tally this year. Toledo's in better shape with only one 13th-place throwaway. That gives him a little margin for error, while Medina has to surf lights out in the next three contests.
It's game on from here until somebody hoists the world title cup. Get ready.
Watch the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro France live October 3-14 on Worldsurfleague.com and Facebook.