Watching two athletes at the top of their game will always bring out the fireworks. The arsenal at the disposal for both Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo is second to none. Throw in a perfect wave like Surf Ranch with its predictable perfection on tap and the result is a display of elite-level high-performance surfing between two titans at the top of the sport.
During the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro presented by Adobe, the pair were a cut above the field on their road to the Final. Toledo had already amassed a comfortable lead with his runs banking multiple excellent scores. While countryman Gabriel Medina was running hot with a blistering display of power and variety above the lip in a predictable display of his dominance at the Ranch.
Heading into the Final the stats were on Medina's side. The now-3x World Champ had never lost a Final and was the reigning Ranch champion three years running. Toledo had his work cut out for him but this time, this year's title belonged to Toledo.
The format had narrowed the field down to two with both surfers given two lefts and two rights for the Final, counting their best wave per direction. Medina looked sublime on his first right locking in an 8.67 then uncharacteristically fell on his first left. Toledo capitalised on the mistake. His final two waves saw him lock 9.67 on the right and an 8.27 on the left -- finishing both waves with a pair of airs, if that wasn't enough of a statement.
"This is my third CT final at the Surf Ranch, and the last two times Gabriel beat me," said Toledo after the win. "It feels really good to take the win this time. Gabriel has been putting on a show the entire year, and is already in the WSL Final 5 at Trestles so winning against him means a lot to me."
Toledo took the win riding his Sharp Eye Inferno 72 model coated in the Dark Arts construction with the FCS H4 quad set-up. Let that sink in. When was the last time you saw Filipe or any other surfer on Tour (other than Kelly) run an unorthodox quad fin set up in a contest?
The equipment change-up from Toledo had a dramatic effect. His turns were more critical with his cat-like reflexes were on display as he linked his manoeuvres with reckless abandon. Without the drag of a centre fin, he was able to manipulate the wave to his will as he threw plumes of spray that looked like sparks against the central California desert heat.
Felipe's shaper, Marcio Zouvi from Sharp Eye Surfboards told the WSL before the event what Toledo would be riding -- indicating that along with the Dark Arts construction there would also be a few EPS quad and thrusters in the mix.
"Filipe has six of the Inferno 72 model. They are all 5'8 1/2", 18 3/8" wide, 2.3" thick with a volume of 25 liters. Three are Dark Arts construction, three are EPS. Three are swallowtail quads and three are thrusters, but I'm thinking he's leaning towards the quad. That could be a huge point of difference for him as he may be the only surfer at the Ranch on four fins."
Toledo and Medina would lock horns once again in the Final at Trestles. Medina would go on to win the event sealing his third World Title while Toledo finished the year ranked a career-best No. 2 in the world.