Freshly minted two-time World Champion Gabriel Medina's performance enroute to his first Pipe Masters crown was in no uncertain terms, dominating. From his opening barrel-to-air salvo in Round 1 all the way through the Final were he held off rival and World Title contender Julian Wilson, Medina was in a league of his own.
The Brazilian star's run started on a blustery, challenging day at Pipe, where he found himself seeded again Connor O'Leary and Benji Brand in Round 1. A low scoring affair for the first half of the heat, Medina got rolling at the eight-minute mark when he double-arm stalled into a running Pipe barrel then came out and stuck an air reverse off the close-out end section. Then, with less than 30 seconds on the clock, Medina utilized his priority to hold Brand off a wave that could have turned the heat. Instead, Medina extended his lead and graced his way into Round 3.
Facing dangerous local Wild Card Seth Moniz, who got into the Pipe Masters after two-time World Champ John John Florence withdrew from the contest, Medina had his work cut out for him. After an opening wave in the early moments of the heat - a throaty, gargling Pipe pit that he didn't make it out of - Medina held his position in the lineup and waited. Moniz built a solid scoreline with a proper barrel at Backdoor, but much like Round 1, Medina got rolling as time starting ticking away.
With 11 minutes remaining, Medina locked into a tricky tube and earned himself a 7.70 for the effort, the highest wave score of the heat. Moniz quickly countered with a barrel of his own to take the lead. But if we've learned anything about Medina this year it's that he's as clutch as they come. A minute later, needing a 4.13, Medina extended his tube time as much as possible and manufactured a 6.60 to secure the lead in the heat. Moniz was unable to stage another comeback.
By this stage in the contest Medina had clearly found his groove. Come Finals day, he found himself up against former Pipe Master Michel Bourez and former Vans Triple Crown champ Sebastian Zietz in Round 4. He wasted no time. Jumping out to an early lead courtesy an 8.57 Pipe barrel, he controlled the heat from that point on. Taking off deep behind the peak and coming out behind the spit, he bagged another 8-point ride with four minutes on the clock. He was into the quarters and two heats away from a World Title.
Building his performances round by round, in his quarterfinal match-up against Conner Coffin, Medina went next level. Coffin jumped out to an early lead courtesy two solid Backdoor barrels. Medina didn't even blink. Stroking into a solid Pipe peak, drawing out his bottom turn and pulling up under the hook, he put himself in a long, clean tube, came out with the spit, then launched a giant frontside air. The judges awarded him with a 9.43, which up until this point, was the highest wave score of the day.
Medina was just getting started. On the next wave he took off impossibly late on a Backdoor bomb. After a couple of no-handed pumps he set his line, threading a long, challenging barrel, eventually flying out down the beach towards Off The Wall. The judges liked what they saw and gave him the only perfect 10 of the Pipe Masters. With 15 minutes left in the heat Medina sat with a 19.43 heat score. Coffin was comboed and had no answer.
In the semis, Jordy Smith pushed Medina to the limits. The big South African put the pressure on immediately, opening with back-to-back waves Backdoor waves, leaving Medina to play catchup. With so much time on the clock, Medina utilized his remarkable strategic talents to put himself in position to win the heat.
At the 18-minute mark, Medina stalled through a long Backdoor barrel. Weaving through multiple sections, he made a clean exit. The crowd on the beach erupted. He got a 9.10 for the effort and took the lead in the heat. There wouldn't be another exchange between the two surfers for the remaining 15 minutes. And when it was over, by virtue of advancing into the Final, Medina had clinched second world title.
Finding a way to refocus for the Final, up against World No. 2 Wilson, at this point a win at the Pipe Masters would just be icing on the cake for Medina. Back in 2014, Wilson got the best of Medina in the Pipe Masters Final, so it was an opportunity to even the score. For as valiantly as Wilson battled, on this day Medina was simply better. He opened with an 8-point ride and just kept building his scoreline. The highpoint came on another Backdoor wave that appeared to have swallowed Medina, but somehow he found an exit and managed to stay on his feet for the completion. He was awarded a 9.57, essentially closing the door on Wilson.
From beginning to end, Medina dominated the Pipe Masters like the world champ that he is. Calculated, strategic and focused on the task in front him him, it was a historic performance on a historic day for surfing.