The 2014 Pipe Masters was a seminal moment in surf history. It's the year Gabriel Medina became one of the most dominant surfers of his generation, and one of Brazil's sporting icons.
This week we're running it back in WSL Rewind. Medina's display was pure ice, as he first secured the World Title, and then went toe-to-toe with Julian Wilson in one of the heaviest Finals ever. It is remarkable to think, even now, with what he has achieved since, that he was only 20 at the time.
Gabriel Medina had burst onto the CT just three years earlier. 2011 had seen a mid-year cut off for CT qualification and the Brasilian, along with John John Florence, made his debut at Trestles. In the next event he claimed his first CT win in France. He then won another at the Search event in San Fransisco. He finished his rookie year as the World Number 12, despite only surfing five events.
However, he failed to sustain that blistering start. After a highly credible finish as World No 7 in 2012, he slipped to World No. 14 in 2013. He also failed to add to his CT win tally in those two years. However, that was quickly addressed in 2014.
At the first event at Snapper, Gabriel topped seasoned vets like Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning and Taj Burrow, on the way to victory. He was the first Brasilian winner in the event's 14-year history. Additionally, the last time a goofy-footer claimed the podium was Mick Lowe, in 2004.
It would be a theme that would continue throughout 2014 as Medina defied expectations and assumptions about just what type of surfer he was. He backed his unexpected win at Snapper with an even more surprising victory in Fiji. In doing so he shattered the lazy stereotype that his surfing was based on airs learned in the Maresias beachbreaks he grew up on.
Yet shattering stereotypes and winning World Titles are two different matters. While he had a solid lead going into the Pipe Masters, the pressure was immense. With Brasil having recently lost the FIFA World Cup and the national soccer season having finished in October all the sporting attention was on Gabriel. The pressure to bring back surfing's first World Title to Brazil was huge.
In Hawaii he also had the small matter of Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater to deal with. Any early mistake at Pipe from Medina and two of the greatest ever surfers were ready to pounce. It perhaps didn't help that Gabriel and Mick were sharing the same house overlooking the break. Mick had nothing to prove, or lose, Medina had the opposite.
"I always look up to Kelly and Mick. Kelly won his first World title when I was born maybe," Gabriel said at the press conference. "Mick is an inspiration for me, I've always looked up to him. Kelly is a great guy as well. I don't know man, it's heavy."
His performance then, and it's worth reiterating he was only 20, was as much about surfing talent as pure mental strength. His Round 3 defeat of Dusty Payne, in possibly the most hyped up heat of the year, set the tone. He surfed both Pipe and Backdoor against the local, and ruled both.
When Mick Fanning lost to Gabriel's friend Alejo Muniz in Round 5, the World Title was Medina's. The huge gathered mass of Brasilian flag waving fans went mad on the beach, as did a fair chunk of the population back home.
"Winning the World Title was my dream and now it's a reality. I'm seriously shocked. Brasil is partying right now I think," he said afterwards. "I don't know why it's me, but I'm really happy it is and I'm so proud to be Brazilian."
That he somehow overcame the emotional release of that victory and still won another two heats to progress to the Final, showed just how in control of the competitive environment he is. It took a rampaging Julian Wilson and a heat total of 19.63 to defeat the new World Champion. Nonetheless he still managed to score a perfect 10, his first at Pipe.
Six years later. Medina has since added another World Title and become a Brasilian sporting icon. However it was the victory in the 2014 Pipeline Masters that first etched his name into surfing history.