There are times when Gabriel Medina doesn't seem have a weakness. His masterful performance at Lower Trestles during the Rip Curl WSL Finals saw the Brazilian clinch his third World Title, joining an elite group featuring Tom Curren, Andy Irons, and Mick Fanning.
At Lowers, he was the clear favorite. From the moment, he stood up on his board to the moment he finished each wave he looked unbeatable. It's a trait that he's had in his arsenal since he was a grom.
As a 15-year-old Medina won the 2009 Quiksilver World King Of The Groms Final in emphatic fashion. He scored a maximum 20-point combined heat score in the Final against countryman Caio Ibelli, in an unbelievable display of surfing talent. As he mowed down the opposition the world got to see the future of surfing right then and there.
Fast-forward to 2014 to the Billabong Pipe Masters and Medina becomes the first Brazilian to ever win a World Title in front of thousands of screaming fans. In that same season, he beat Joel Parkinson at his home break of Snapper Rocks, at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast, and Kelly Slater at the Billabong Pro Tahiti -- two major accomplishments on his road to becoming a World Champ.
At every turn throughout his career, he has found a way to win. "He's just an iceman," described Fanning in an interview in 2018. "It's amazing. He's so on the money. It sort of reminds me of Kelly and Andy back in the day. You think you have them and then they come back and just flog you, which is so disheartening [laughs]."
But the Gabriel Medina of 2021 is very different from the one that first arrived on the CT scene as a 17-year-old in 2011. He appears happier, generous with his time and comfortable in his own skin.
"This year everything changed for him," says long-time shaper Johnny Cabianca. "All the change is positive for himself."
The departure of step dad Charlie Rodriguez was just part of his transformation. He was shadowed by his wife Yasmin Brunet who traveled with him throughout the season. The pair reportedly got together at the start of the pandemic in 2020, but it was the coupling of he and Australian surf coach Andy King that really got tongues wagging.
King joined Team Medina after Gabe reached out to Fanning looking for a coach. Fanning declined but suggested King would be a good fit having mentored him through two World Titles. A newly independent Medina came to Australia with something to prove -- that he could make it on his own with the support team of his choosing. The shift delivered immediate success.
Medina blitzed through the Australian leg creating a highlight reel at every CT stop. He appeared lighter, happier, and more dangerous than ever in the water. He had clearly gone to another level.
Medina's win at Trestles was the perfect end to a dominant 2021 campaign, having reached event Finals in five out of the seven stops on the men's Championship Tour.
Throughout his illustrious career, Medina has demonstrated his ability to summon excellent surfing in big moments. At Trestles, he pulled a corked-out Flinstone Flip in the Final, elevating his performance just as he did with a Superman air in the King Of The Groms Final back in 2009.
A decade on and Medina sits at the tip of the spear of the sport -- and now he has three World Titles to show for it. The scary thing is, it would appear he's only getting started.