Brazil’s Gabriel Medina on Tuesday won his third surfing World Championship, beating compatriot Filipe Toledo in a new, best-of-three final format in southern Californian surf.
Not even the appearance of a 1.8m-long shark in the last heat could unsettle Medina, who qualified in the top spot for the five-man, one-day event, giving him the luxury of a direct passage to the final at Lower Trestles in San Clemente.
Hawaii’s Carissa Moore, the reigning Olympic and world champion, capped a dominant year to win her fifth world title over Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb in the women’s final.
Under a new format introduced this year, the men and women ranked in the top five after seven events qualified for the one-day event at southern California’s high-performance reef break.
Medina and Toledo unleashed an array of slashing turns and progressive aerial maneuvers in the clean, overhead waves.
However, it was Medina who consistently landed the most outrageous moves — including a full backflip in the deciding heat when competition resumed after a pause following the shark sighting.
Medina, who had questioned the fairness of deciding the world champion under the new one-day format, was the form surfer of the year, ending the seven-stop world tour with two wins and three second-place finishes.
“I’m so happy,” Medina said after his win. “I’m crying right now, because there’s a lot of emotion, you know.”
Previously, world champions were decided on points accumulated throughout the year, which meant that the title race was often decided before the final.
Along with the new format, the surfers had to battle disruptions to the world tour caused by COVID-19, which caused the cancelation of a number of events after wiping out competition last year.
Medina paid credit to his compatriots on the tour, the “Brazilian Storm” who dominated this year and won the sport’s first Olympic gold medal through 2019 World Champion Italo Ferreira.
“The Brazilian guys are doing so well right now,” he said. “It feels good to push them, and they push me.”
Moore’s carves were ideally suited to Trestles’ big green walls, but she had to fight back after Weston-Webb won the first heat of the finals.
“It was a crazy back-and-forth battle. I’m so happy to fight back,” Moore said, who won her fourth title in 2019.
“No. 5 sounds pretty good,” Moore added.
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