Photo: WSL/Poullenot

Gabriel Medina Wins Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o – Sean Doherty Reports

“Owen – in a classic case of life imitating promotional clip – took the first one, and turned around to see Gabby getting drained on the second.”

Read more


It sure was pretty out there today. Looking down at the reef at Teahupoo you could almost see Jackson Pollock’s pets swimming around underneath, the lazy shimmer in the water, the ocean so breathless and clear it looked like it was shrink-wrapped in plastic. Like the Laird day; just not. It was tiny, placid, quiet, the peaks that had groaned up from the earth in a firestorm a million years earlier just sat there like locals sleeping against a tree at lunchtime.

The lack of energy in the South Pacific needed some artificial spike. Blink 182, anyone, live on a boat in the channel? The new house band for the tour would certainly have brought finals day to life, four-chord bubblegum punk 90s vibes drifting out over the Teahupo’o line-up. “All The Small Things” maybe?

Toledo rolled past February early, before Carmichael gifted Owen the second quarter, handing him the best wave ridden all day. But can you believe Avoca Jesus is top five? At a time of Australian surfing triumphalism on the wane and buckets of money being thrown at the problem, here’s the answer. Take their sponsors, no haircuts, no shaving, no coaches, and just leave them to their own resourcefulness.

Today was always going to be a question of who was going to beat Medina, who was a short, short, short favourite. It certainly wouldn’t be Italo, who never got going in their quarter, surfing with a dodgy hammy. Italo’s results this year have fallen into two categories – wins or stinkers – so a quarterfinal feels almost like Italo building house. For pure entertainment purposes I want him in the title picture toward the end of the year and this result helped. I want to see him in the pool. When asked his thoughts on the wavepool event, he replied, “I can’t waity!”

Jeremy meanwhile catches waves that look like nobody else’s. He calls to them in French. His is living idyllic here in Tahiti; his girl’s a local, they live on the water at Vairao, they’ve got a baby girl with blue eyes. The net effect of all this seems to have cooled Jeremy’s volcanic temperament a few degrees and his surfing has flowed.

There were some cheap points on offer today for some hustle over the coral, and as the semis rolled around everyone started riding waves until their boards were ground to dust and their legs were bloody stumps. Can you imagine next year, when Tahiti is the final event on tour before the conceptual-but-as-yet-unconfirmed Mentawai Boat Trip Superbowl that only takes the top six surfers? They’ll be turning themselves into burger mince at two foot or 12 to get on board that ship.

By the semis it was clear it was a day for the goofies. A quick tube and a little bit of wack-wack until they ran out of water and they were through. There just wasn’t the size to do much of anything on your backhand, and Toledo never got going against Owen. He’ll go home happy. If you’d offered him a semi at the start of the contest he’d gladly have taken it, although his growth as a surfer on his bogey wave would trump the ratings points. He’s been great here this week. Owen, meanwhile, was the best he’s looked since he got his bell rung at Pipe three years ago. He looked sharp, assured, and all that’s missing now is the old slob grab. Against these guys he needs that back.

By the time Owen and Gabby paddled out for the final, a two-knot onshore ruffle threatened to ruin the vista, while also ruining Owen’s chances. Owen needed to get tubed, otherwise Medina would win in the sky. The opening gambit went to Owen, however, playing on Medina’s pathological need for the inside slot. Medina disappeared up the reef and Owen let him, before shooting off down the reef and picking a set on the West Bowl. For 39 minutes of the 40-minute final it was the best wave ridden. Owen played it cool. Owen controlled the heat calmly as Gabby started catching anything that moved.

Teahupo’o, however, might be the only wave on tour where having the lead and priority in the final minutes is actually a disadvantage.

All week we’ve watched the clip of Parkinson and Fanning arguing like front bar regulars over who won the 2012 Tahiti final. Parko had that final on ice, had the lead and priority until right at the end when a wave reared out of the Deep South Pacific. The thing is here at Teahupo’o the roll on the reef means you can see the first one but never the second. The second one is the cherry, and you’ve got to assume it’s there. You’ve got to hold your nerve and give the other guy the first one. Parko took the first one and turned around to see Mick on the winner.

Owen – in a classic case of life imitating promotional clip – took the first one, and turned around to see Gabby getting drained on the second. Owen knew immediately he’d cooked it, but maybe it was a divine square up for Gabby losing to Julian in the final minute last year. Either way, Gabby is back in the frame, and being a second-half specialist he’ll make life interesting for Phil.

Off to The Stokey Machine.

Sean Doherty