"With independence comes power," Andy King explains of Gabriel Medina's seemingly unstoppable form at the moment.
"The surfers realize they are capable of doing it themselves," King told the WSL. "They can own their performances, which helps growth."
Medina has put on an incredible display throughout the Australian leg. After making the Final at the Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydro Flask in December, the two-time World Champion made another three Finals Down Under, winning at Newcastle and Rottnest.
The combination of electricity and consistency sees him holding a lead of more than 8,000 points on the WSL Leaderboard. For Medina, who over the years has been considered a slow starter, this is his best launch of any Championship Tour campaign.
The reasons for the incredible run of form are, as ever, multi-faceted. On a personal level, he seems to have reached a new level of maturity and contentment. He's changed it up this year and has been traveling with his new wife, and not his step-father Charlie.
The addition of Coach King for the Aussie leg seems to have also paid dividends. A pair of fresh, all be it very experienced, eyes have helped Medina play to his strengths. Add a quiver dialed in by his shaper of more than a decade Jonny Cabianca, and a sharpened competitive desire from a year off Tour and you have one of the world's best surfers operating at new benchmark levels.
His competitors must now be hoping that the end of the Australian leg might bring some form of reprieve from the Medina onslaught. The aim will be at least to bring him back to the pack and so dent his current aura of invincibility before the Rip Curl WSL Finals at Trestles.
However, those surfers might not want to look too closely into Medina's recent history at the upcoming events. Next up is the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro; the event he has won the last two times it was held.
"It is the most high-performance wave we've ever surfed," he said before the 2018 event. "The thing about here is that you have to surf both ways good, backhand and forehand. And you don't get many chances to get it right."
In 2018, in the air-frying heat of Lemoore, Medina took every chance he had and applied a pressure that no one could handle. As his World Titled contenders melted, he remained ice cool. In 2019, he was even more dominant; the Surf Ranch rewards ambidextrous surfers who aren't afraid to push the envelope. No wonder then he is yet to be beaten in the tub.
This mix of red hot form and historic achievement means that stopping Medina might be the hardest act in surfing right now. Italo Ferreira will, no doubt, point to his defeat of Medina at Narrabeen. Seth Moniz too, in Margaret River, showed that he is not unbeatable. That loss featured a paddle and priority battle at the start of the heat, which in past years has cost him at critical junctures.
The Mexican event too remains a clean slate, one of the few CT locations where Medina doesn't have any of his fingerprints on the trophy. Rio, and its leveling playing field beachbreaks, also hasn't been a happy hunting ground. Surprisingly he has never made a Final at an event that has been dominated by fellow Brazilians Filipe Toledo and Adriano de Souza.
If that is heartening for his peers, the news turns sour when we consider Teahupo'o. Medina has made the Final an incredible five out of the last six events in Tahiti and won two. His victory over Kelly Slater in the epic conditions of 2014 still ranks as one of the sport's defining performances.
For his competitors there remains only the smallest of hooks from which they can hope to hang a future Jeep Leader's jersey on. Medina has lost just three of the 25 heats he has surfed this season. So, is he beatable? In theory, yes. How do you do it? That's a question his competitors have less than a month to work out.