The last day of the Quiksilver Pro France saw 15-year-old Brazilian wonder kid, Gabriel Medina winning the Quiksilver World King Of the Groms Finals in historic style. Medina scored a maximum possible 20-point combined heat score in the final in an unbelievable display of surfing talent. The two perfect 10-point scores were given by the judges, which rewarded Medina's incredible technical ability. Few surfers in the world today can boast such a repertoire of aerial manoeuvres, even fewer can perform this level of surfing heat after heat in a competition environment.
Medina combined two or more aerial reverses, aerial 360's or ‘superman' manoeuvres on the same wave, all day long. Having scored another 10-point ride in his first quarterfinal heat of the day his intention was clear. It would seem the unassuming Medina would be the man to beat, and the man to take home the prestigious prize of Wild Card entries into the ASP World Tour events of the Quiksilver Gold Coast and the Quiksilver Pro France in 2010.
The day started well for 15-year-old Gabriel Medina. With the sun shining and clean 4ft (1.5m) conditions his first quarterfinal heat was one of the standout heats of the entire event, scoring a 19.67 total for two waves. His back-up wave of a 9.67 early in the heat was a huge aerial reverse followed up on the end section with an aerial 360. Of the 3 judges, two gave him the maximum 10 points and the third 9 points, which averaged the wave at a 9.67. His highest scoring wave did actually top this impressive score and rightly so. He scored a perfect 10 for surfing a set wave perfectly, one huge aerial led into a big top turn and Gabriel ended it with an even bigger aerial, which the judges could not fault. To add to this, Medina got barrelled pulled a very technical ‘Superman' aerial and various other air 360's. The crowd appreciated it more than his rival the Portuguese surfer Vasco Ribeiro, who despite some great surfing in the earlier rounds could not match the finesse of the young Brazilian.
Progressing from the other quarterfinals were surfers Davey Brand (ZAF) who overcame Ian Gentils (HAW). Caio Ibelli pulled an air 360 on his last scoring wave to take down a favourite Evan Geiselman (USA). In the last quarterfinal local favourite Ramzi Boukhlam (MOR) could not find the earlier rhythm and Matt Banting the strong Australian deserved the last semifinal slot.
The semifinals were a close run affair. First up Davey Brand had to face the in-form favourite Medina. Despite pulling an innovative aerial, which scored a 6.63 and a big reverse 360, which posted him a 7 points, Medina had taken control early in the heat. He posted a 9.77 and finished the heat with an 8.5. Medina's lowest combined heat score during the whole event was an impressive 17.76. With these statistics he could easily compete with the big boys on the ASP World Tour. Having already won a 6-Star WQS it's easy to see where his future lies.
The second semifinal was not so clean cut. The lead went back and forth until the bitter end. Caio Ibelli held the lead, Matt Banning replied, only to see Ibelli finally stamp authority on proceedings with an 8.43-point wave, which rewarded a showcase aerial. In the dying seconds Banting, needing a 7.44, took a set wave, smashed turns down the line and ‘claimed' it hoping to secure a place in the final. The judges deliberated, but gave him a 7.1, allowing the second Brazilian to enter the final. Matt, gracious in defeat, commented after the final, "It was unbelievable, I want to go home to train harder, the two ten-point rides were incredible, I'm really inspired."
The Quiksilver Pro France seemed to save the best till last, as did Gabriel Medina himself. With plenty of set waves and a 35-minute final Caio and Gabriel put on a showcase display for the crowd. By now though Medina was in full flow and would today be unstoppable. He started the final with a 7.5 for an air reverse and then took an overhead set left, which allowed a huge floater and another air reverse, netting him 9.7 points. If he thought he was having the best day of his life then with 6 minutes to go he unleashed a combination of an aerial reverse, a huge turn and then hit a launch ramp at the end of the wave and boosted a huge final aerial, to add a perfect 10 point ride to his score card. With the crowd and Medina himself in a euphoric mood, it seemed he had reached dizzy heights until he soared higher still with his third 10-point ride of the day. He was applauded by the judges after launching a superman aerial and an air 360 on the same wave.
Both Brazilians enjoyed the occasion. Despite his own fantastic performances throughout the event, Ibelli could not match Medina in the final. Both surfers shook hands and shared a wave in, joining hands and punching the sky in a heartfelt display of mutual respect and sportsmanship after the final horn sounded. The crowd carried his countryman to the stage and the prize giving. Caio said "It was difficult to find what I was looking for out there, but it's a great result for Gabriel."
Medina thanked Quiksilver and the event organisers saying, "The waves are amazing, I'm so happy with my 20 points. I thought about my mother on the other side of the ocean and she prayed for me. I love the contest and I love France."
The two Brazilian finalists Gabriel Medina and Caio Ibelli put on a display of futuristic surfing that has to be the highest level ever seen from 15 year-olds. Today was a fantastic day for surfing and its fanatical spectators. Those who witnessed such a display and stood on the beach in wonder will never forget what they saw. Looking at the larger picture of global surfing, is this a first 20-point heat score for pure technical surfing, without perfect tube rides? Can Medina take his surfing onto the Dream Tour and compete with the barrel masters for a world title?
Time will tell, but for today the Brazilian youngster Gabriel Medina literally flew into the history books and showed the world exactly where the future of surfing is going.