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The Year Gabriel Medina Kicked Into Beastmode

"A kid who is 20-years-old and beat Kelly [Slater] fair and square in the Final at giant Teahupo'o," wrote Shane Dorian of Gabriel Medina back in 2014. "I am so pumped to see someone new stepping up against the best, leading the ratings and taking huge scalps under immense pressure."

Gabriel Medina, Winner of the 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti For Medina, his win at all-time Teahupoo over Slater announced that he was the real deal and a World Title threat. WSL / Will H-S

It was yet another ringing endorsement for what was, and remains, a career defining performance for Medina. With that win at the Billabong Pro Tahiti the 20-year-old extended his lead at the top of the leaderboard, one he never relinquished.

However it was the manner of performance, rather than the result, that made the world really take notice that surfing had a new superstar. This was a win delivered in some of the best and heaviest waves ever seen in the history of surf competitions.

Medina Dominates 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti
With three wins on the season, Medina set himself up for his maiden World Title.

"The ocean delivered for us today... this week. It was incredible," said Slater afterwards. "I've never seen anything like it, and today will go down as one of the best days of surfing in my career, no question."

Slater's presence in the Final only added to Medina's achievement. Medina wasn't even born when Slater claimed his first World Title. And in this meeting the GOAT was at the peak of his powers. He'd won his last World Title only three years previously and already claimed four CT victories in Tahiti -- although he did lose in the Final In 2013.

Medina's Early Round Magic At 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti
Gabriel Medina notched a near-perfect 9.77 on his second wave in a Round 3

Slater however wasn't operating on just history. Throughout the 2014 event he was on fire. In Round 3 he had had posted five 9-point rides in 30 minutes. He was also fresh off a win over John John Florence in the Semis, a match-up described as the best heat in professional surfing. With the waves still in the 10 to 12-foot range he was an obvious favorite going into the Final.

Medina, however, had been gaining momentum with each heat win. He'd taken out Kolohe Andino in the Quarters with a 17.27 heat total and Bede Durbidge in the Semis with 18.67 points. He'd been mixing bravery and skill with a wave selection that bordered on telepathic. Coming into the Final he'd successfully ridden every wave he'd taken off on. If it wasn't for his celebratory dives into the channel he could have finished each heat with dry hair.

Gabriel Medina kept his hot-streak going in the Final of the 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti, belting three nine-point rides during the heat. Throughout Medina's run in 2014 he miraculously didn't fall off his board once all the way until the Final. WSL / Kirstin Scholtz

And while he eventually fell off a wave in the Final, his 18.96 combined total was enough to defeat Slater and start his march to a World Title.

"This is such a special event, and I'm just so happy right now," Medina said afterwards, choking with tears. "Kelly is a legend of surfing, and it's the best feeling ever to win."

Over time Medina would confirm his mastery at Tahiti. He's made the Final five times in the six years since, including another victory in 2018. However, it was 2014 when he really came of age.

Medina's Early Round Magic At 2014 Billabong Pro Tahiti
Gabriel Medina notched a near-perfect 9.77 on his second wave in a Round 3

Medina would claim his maiden World Title in Portugal just three months later, becoming the youngest since Slater to do so. His performance in Tahiti showed his competitors, and surf fans all over the world, that he was a surfer with no chinks his armor. From two-feet to 20, he was a contender.

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