After a historic day of surfing at the inaugural Rip Curl WSL Finals, Carissa Moore and Gabriel Medina have been crowned the 2021 WSL World Champions to conclude dominant seasons for both of the No. 1 ranked surfers.
With all-time, six-to-eight-foot southern hemi bombs pouring through the Lower Trestles lineup with absolutely stellar, glassy, blue-bird conditions from start-to-finish, the performance of all of the WSL Final 5 surfers was inspired and elevated.
For Moore, this marks her fifth World Title and a successful defense of her 2019 Title, effectively making this the first time in her already storied career that she's won back-to-back championships. It also caps off what may be one of the most successful seasons in the history of professional surfing which also saw her capture the first-ever Olympic gold medal for surfing.
This accomplishment puts Moore in an elite class of competitors, where she has become only the third woman in the sport's history to have earned five World Titles (Australians Layne Beachley and Stephanie Gilmore both have seven Titles to their names).
For Medina, this is his third World Title and puts him amongst some very heavy company. He joins surfers such as Tom Curren, Andy Irons and Mick Fanning with three Titles. The only other surfers also in this club are Mark Richards, with four Titles, and Kelly Slater, who holds surfing's record with a remarkable 11 Titles.
Men's Title Match: Gabriel Medina vs. Filipe Toledo - Heat 1 Replay | Heat 2 Replay
Heading into the Title Match, the 2021 World Championship was No. 1 seed Medina's lose. After a dominant regular season, the Brazilian goofyfoot just kept right on rolling at Lowers against rival Filipe Toledo.
He opened the best-out-of-three matchup by taking the first heat courtesy of the day's first 9-point ride. A tight heat, Medina ended up edging out Toledo by a mere 0.60 of a point with a 16.30 scoreline.
Medina then went into overdrive in the second heat of the Title Match. Stomping a backflip -- a freesurf move he unleashed on the internet just days ago -- the judges awarded him a 9.03 for sticking it in competition to put the heat well in his control.
About halfway through the Match things were forced to go on hold due to a shark in the lineup -- reportedly an eight-foot great white -- but Medina was able to pick right back up where he left off and held off a hard-charging Toledo -- who had multiple eight-point rides of his own -- to claim his third Title.
"I feel so happy. It is not everyday you accomplish your dream," Medina said afterwards. "It feels so good to dream. Every dream seems to be impossible until it is done ... I had this dream in my mind for a long time."
"There is no other way you can go, working hard and having patience," Medina continued. "Letting the surf talk. I am not good at talking, I just love surfing. This day is going to be forever in my life. I am going to tell my kid. I had to surf a lot to win this title."
This season, Medina had the best start in his career, reaching event Finals in the opening three stops on the men's Championship Tour. He gained a significant lead over the rest of the field when he won the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic presented by Corona and the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona, his first event wins in Australia since the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast in 2014.
Since winning his first World Title in 2014, Medina has finished in the top five every year, including on route to his second World Title in 2018.
Women's Title Match: Carissa Moore vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb - Heat 1 Replay | Heat 2 Replay | Heat 3 Replay
Taking the best-of-three Title Match format to the end, Weston-Webb showed up ready to surf in the first heat. After a warm-up win against Sally Fitzgibbons in the previous match, she was in perfect rhythm with the big southwest pulses rolling through the lineup.
Hammering her backhand with big critical hooks -- reminiscent of her performance at this season's Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro presented by Corona, which she won -- she bettered opponent Moore by over a point with a 15.20 scoreline.
From there, however, it was game on for Moore during the second heat. After a break for the men's first heat of the Title Match, Riss came back swinging with an opening 8.93 ride, her highest of the matchup, then with Weston-Webb in combination for most of the heat, sealed the deal with her last wave, an 8.33.
The third heat of the Title Match was more well balanced for the 35 minutes of competition, even though the over two-point difference in scoreline tells a different story.
With time waning on the clock, Weston-Webb paddled into a gem of a right-hander needing a high-eight to turn the heat. After two spectacular and critical backhand hammers in what looked like a score-producing ride, she became unstuck from her board during the final, critical maneuver in what could have been a World Title-deciding wave.
The judges awarded Weston-Webb with a 6.17 and the cobblestone point went calm as Moore claimed her fifth victory in the water at Lower Trestles.
Men's Match 3: Italo Ferreira vs. Filipe Toledo - Heat Replay
By the time Toledo hit the water against No. 2 seed Italo Ferreira he was firing on all cylinders. Feeling right at home in the all-time Lowers conditions, his first wave featured a series of wrapping carves accented by two air rotations. A smaller wave, the judges tossed him a 7.33.
It was enough to give Toledo the early lead in the heat, one he wouldn't relinquish. While Ferreira, the 2019 World Champ, hunted the lineup, he struggled to find scoring waves.
Coming out with the high energy we've come to expect, Ferreira came out charging in his heat, immediately putting a score on the board and then pulling off one of the floaters of the year to net him a 7.27.
Meanwhile, Toledo continued to build scores. Adding an 8.50 and a 7.47 to his scoreline, he ended up cruising to a relatively easy victory considering the hype and pressure of the moment, besting the defending World Champ Ferreira by almost three points.
Women's Match 3: Tatiana Weston-Webb vs. Sally Fitzgibbons - Heat Replay
As the sun broke through the clouds and the pressure mounted, Match 3 took to the water in an epic clash between No. 2 seed Tatiana Weston-Webb and Sally Fitzgibbons.
Still rolling after her victory over Defay, Fitzgibbons opened the heat with a 6.00 and looked to take early control of the duel.
But Weston-Webb had all the answers. The defining moment in the heat came when she found herself a bomb right-hander and launched into a series of searing backhand gouges with a statement-making hammer on the end section. Seizing the lead courtesy of her 8-point effort, she took the front position and never gave it up.
Men's Match 2: Filipe Toledo vs. Conner Coffin - Heat Replay
Settling into the high-stakes, high-stress day, Conner Coffin stayed hot for his start of the second match of the day when he opened the heat against No. 3 seed Filipe Toledo with the event's first excellent score. Unleashing three clean, massive carves with no pumps or hiccups between maneuvers, the Santa Barbara stylist hucked himself into the lip to finish the wave and earn an 8.50 for the effort.
But Toledo, who resides in San Clemente and considers Lowers his local spot, answered right back. Riding only two waves in the heat, both scores went into the eight-point range to give him the win and carry him into the next match.
"I feel ready to go and I'm super happy that the surf is good today," said Toledo after knocking a well-represented Coffin out of the draw. "I've been really working on the process of waiting for the perfect wave. I've been trying to be patient, choose right, and have the confidence to go for it."
Women's Match 2: Sally Fitzgibbons vs. Johanne Defay - Heat Replay
With only a half hour to get some water, rest and refocus, Defay was back in the water against No. 3 seed Fitzgibbons and continued right where she left off. Getting out to a quick start, she tallied a 5.83 to open the heat.
But with fresh eyes and fresh legs, Fitzgibbons answered right back and started building scores. Posting a 4.50 and backing it up with a 6.83, the Australian Olympian was in prime form.
Unfortunately for Defay -- who tried to play the patience game -- she was never able to add a back-up wave to her scoreline and found herself eliminated from World Title contention.
Men's Match 1: Conner Coffin vs. Morgan Cibilic - Heat Replay
In a clash of two Rip Curl team riders, No. 4 seed Coffin showed up ready to surf against rookie and No. 5 seed Morgan Cibilic. Dropping a hammer on his opening wave, the Californian jumped out ahead early and never looked back.
"It's really tricky out there," said Coffin. "There are not a lot of good waves at this moment, so I'm very happy I was able to get two good scores on this first Match. I've never felt this level of support in my life, it's surreal."
Cibilic, who's been posted up in Southern California since the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro, had a good run at it, but Coffin's rail work and power were simply too much to handle.
"I'm stoked to have the opportunity to compete at Lowers and fight for the Title on my rookie year," said Cibilic. "I'll brush this one off and get ready for next year."
Women's Match 1: Stephanie Gilmore vs. Johanne Defay - Heat Replay
Given the pulsing southwest swell and occasional wash-through sets, the first heat of the day was always going to be a challenge for No. 4 seeds Defay and Stephanie Gilmore, but it was France's Defay that was able to best make real-time adjustments and make the most of the heavy morning conditions.
"This is already the best result of my whole career, so I'm just focused on surfing Lowers another time and see where the day will take me," said Defay after advancing to the next match against No. 3 seed Sally Fitzgibbons.
Losing her footing on her first few waves, Gilmore was never able to find her rhythm and her quest for a record-breaking eighth World Title was over before it picked up any momentum.
"It was really tough to pick a great wave out there," said Gilmore. "My whole plan was to stick to the rights and pick a good one, but I was stuck inside and couldn't get a good wave. It was definitely not my best day, but I'm excited to watch the rest of the event."
For more on how the new format works be sure to check out the Rip Curl WSL Finals Explainer.