Gabriel Medina grins, "Brazil has my back and it feels amazing."
Currently fronting the race for the 2018 World Title, he sits in control of his destiny going into Round 3 of the Billabong Pipe Masters. Julian Wilson and Filipe Toledo are knotted in a second-place tie on the Jeep Leaderboard and hot on his heels, but it's Medina's Title to lose.
"I depend on me, I don't depend on them," stated Medina in a matter-of-fact delivery at the start of the Pipe Masters waiting period. "I just have to make heats."
Confident about his position, his friends and family are in Hawaii to lend support and comfort. From iconic footballers such as Neymar and Pele to supermodel Gisele, the nation of Brazil is pulling for Medina as he looks to win his second World Title.
"It makes me want to go and do my job well, stay focused, and that's what I'm going to do," he said.
Settled into North Shore life, Medina's been finding ways to stay in the water. He's been keeping his feet in the wax and his mind sharp with sessions at Pipe, Velzyland and other spots.
"The jet lag's gone. The boards are feeling good. We've had some good waves. It's been really good to surf Pipe again," he explained. "I'm just excited for the event."
While a victory at Pipe has eluded Medina, he has enjoyed considerable success in Hawaii over the course of his career. He's made two Final appearances. In 2014, he lost to Title contender Wilson. The following year, in 2015, he was defeated by eventual World Champion Adriano de Souza. He also has a pair of Quarterfinal appearances.
"Pipe is a beautiful wave, but it's a really scary wave. You can have the best surf out there or you can have the worst. It's really tricky," said Medina. "In the past few years we've been loving each other a little more. I've been learning a lot every time I'm here, every time I surf here I learn something. I think that helps me stay comfortable. It feels amazing to get barrels, especially at Pipe."
If Medina makes the Final, the 2018 World Title is his. If he finishes third (makes the Semis), Wilson or Toledo need to win the contest to win the Title. And if Medina gets knocked out anywhere between Round 2 and the Quarters, Wilson or Toledo will need a first or second at Pipe to capture the Title.
Watch the Billabong Pipe Masters live December 8-20 on Facebook.com/wsllive, Worldsurfleague.com, and the WSL App.