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On All Cylinders

Was the Billabong Pro Tahiti the greatest surf contest of all time?

| posted on August 26, 2014
Gabriel Medina, beating the guy who looked unbeatable at Teahupoo yesterday. Photo: Thouard

Gabriel Medina, beating the guy who looked unbeatable at Teahupoo yesterday. Photo: Thouard

ASP commentators are some of the most hyperbole-prone people on earth, and at some point during the final day nearly everyone in the South Pacific with a microphone exclaimed the words “best ever”. So let’s break the event down to its basic ingredients and see if their sum was truly the greatest surf contest in ASP history.

A Strong Start
There are no two ways about it: Teahupoo was on fire the entire time. In the very first heat, Kelly Slater caught a bomb and earned himself a 9.40, and things only got better from there. Even the slowest heats had at least a decent wipeout or two.

9s That Were Throwaway Scores
It seemed like there were well-deserved 9-point rides in almost every heat. And perfect 10s? There were plenty of those as well. Nathan Hedge got one, so did Kai Otton, John Florence, Owen Wright, and Bede Durbidge. Oh yeah, and Slater got two. By the end of the event, low 9s were being discarded like common trash. Who needs ‘em? Not these guys.

Pure Terror
“You kind of feel like a pussy letting them go, but I don’t know how makeable a lot of them are.” This is what Dion Atkinson had to say about the sets that were rolling through during his heat against Kai Otton in Round 5. Those big, dark, evil-looking bastards that so many of the world’s best wanted no part of. Nothing makes for better surfing than a nice cold sweat.

Unpredictable Outcomes
Mick Fanning getting dominated by Dion Atkinson? Julian Wilson opting to ride a buzzer-beater on his bum? Kolohe Andino making Quarters in maxed-out left barrels? Tahiti just might be some kind of Bizarro world where absolutely nothing goes according to script, and when every heat seems up for grabs, that’s when competitive surfing is at its best.

One Unforgettable Heat
The Medina vs. Slater Final was a hell of a show, but when we think back to this contest a year from now, that’s not the heat we’re going to remember. That distinction goes to the Semi between Kelly and John John. We’ve been waiting for this matchup between the world’s greatest barrel riders ever since their clash at last year’s Pipe Masters, and it didn’t disappoint. A 9.77, 9.87, 9.90, and a perfect-10 were counted in the score line while a 9.10 and 9.40 were tossed aside. The heat ended in a tie, with the nod going to Slater for holding the highest single-wave score. Fugghetaboutit. Best heat ever.

A M. Night Shyamalan Ending
Remember when Bruce Willis turned out to be dead all along? Or when the people in that village were actually living in modern times? Or how about when those aliens ended up being allergic to water? All of those plot twists pale in comparison to Kelly Slater losing to Gabriel Medina in the Final at Teahupoo. Kelly surfs that wave better than anyone, and he was at his all-time best during this event. We never saw it coming. Well done, Gabriel.

Bonus: The Kickouts
Not a key ingredient for a great surf contest by any means, but seeing all the skip-outs on the shoulder, near boat collisions, trips over the falls, high-speed chop hops, and flying squirrels was pretty damn entertaining.

Final Verdict
Yes, that was the best ASP event. Ever.

What say you? Tell us in the comments.

  • bennyd_77

    Yes. Pure terror, true but what about the gnarly wipeouts and that no one got seriously injured. Triple score. Loved seeing chopes in all her glory for the top surfers in the world and live for the rest of us to watch. Yes, best surfing event I have ever seen.

  • Flavio

    and won by Gabriel Medina!!! Definitely the best new young surfer on the planet!! on the route to many world titles!! nice review!!

  • Sony Reef

    So Gabriel Medina has proved himself, yet again. He’s proved himself in small waves, he’s proved himself in shitty waves, he’s proved himself in the air and now he’s proved himself in big, gnarly waves of consequence.
    It’s frustrating to see the commenters on social media lighting up about Gabriel Medina winning – “Oh, Kelly got robbed. Gabriel never should have won. The judges suck.” The list goes on and on. But let me ask you this – if you replaced Gabriel’s name with Nat Young (if you’re American) or Matty Wilko (if you’re Australian), would you still feel the same way?
    If your answer is no, then you need to have a long, hard think about why – because if you’re prejudice against having a Brazilian World Champ, you’re gunna have a tough road ahead.
    Tip your hats, ladies and gents, because Gabriel Medina is GOING to be your first Brazilian World Champ. And it’s about time you got used to it.

    • kookyruky

      I am a KS11 fan, but Medina charged yesterday and deserved to win, period. He got the biggest and best waves of the heat and took advantage of Ke11y’s small flaws. Hats off to the kid. He is a competitive machine just like KS11.

    • 204s

      Sony- this wasn’t the pipe masters…you may have forgotten in your medina orgasm, that we have four more events

    • sam
  • Ben

    Great comp, and on the short list for best ever. The final was a bit anti-climactic, as Slater seemed somewhat out of sorts, but the semifinal between Slater and Florence was all-time.

  • Brent

    John John and Kelly seemed completely in tune with the wave, with heat totals near perfect. It’s incredible they ended in a tie. One of those magical moments in surfing history which will be remembered for decades to come.

  • nino

    I am a Medina fan and have been for quite a while. He’s been proving himself to the general public year after year and still he has to somehow explain how and why and where and what…. He has it all and still we have to read and hear stupid comments from people that can’t see the tide is changing.
    JohnJohn and KS surfed the best 30 minutes possible. Maybe only AI could equal such an achievement. However, it only happened because JJ and KS were free to surf. No psych games, no hassling, no priority BS. KS is smart and let JJ do his best because knew JJ would, as a gentleman, let KS do his best. And they did.
    Medina is smart as well and knows very well KS cannot be left alone to do his best. That is why Medina won Teahupoo. He never took KS for granted. Maybe that’s JJ’s flaw.

    think about it.

    • Medina’s Dad

      Straight up. It takes more than just brilliant surfing to win a surf contest.

  • John Macble

    BEST PROFESSIONAL COMMENT BY FAR

    WELL DONE

    that’s why everybody got so surprise! Especially the comentators, it was a shock for them. All the media hype was focus in KSxJFF and nobody saw it coming. Gab nailed congrats to him.

    and one thing is for sure, everything in this event was out of the box!!!

    JFF and KS didnt “win” but everybody know that nowadays both are the best tuberiders on the WT. PERIOD.

    Gab, neither him saw it coming! It was crazy

    The WAVE def helped the media hype.

  • Jeff

    Owen f’ing Wright. Head down on the raft, no one sure if he was seriously injured, then grabbing his board, paddling back out and looking into the camera with the wildest nutso grin I’ve ever seen in competition. Chicken skin for sure

  • Bruno Freire

    ”So Gabriel Medina has proved himself, yet again. He’s proved himself in small waves, he’s proved himself in shitty waves, he’s proved himself in the air and now he’s proved himself in big, gnarly waves of consequence.

    It’s frustrating to see the commenters on social media lighting up about Gabriel Medina winning – “Oh, Kelly got robbed. Gabriel never should have won. The judges suck.” The list …goes on and on. But let me ask you this – if you replaced Gabriel’s name with Nat Young (if you’re American) or Matty Wilko (if you’re Australian), would you still feel the same way?

    If your answer is no, then you need to have a long, hard think about why – because if you’re prejudice against having a Brazilian World Champ, you’re gunna have a tough road ahead.

    Tip your hats, ladies and gents, because Gabriel Medina is GOING to be your first Brazilian World Champ. And it’s about time you got used to it.”

    Australian Surfing Life

  • Eran C.

    What a show wow! Electric! Congrats to Medina, he fought for it and deserves it! Best event ever no doubt.

  • Trogan Fan

    Rip Curl Mexico was better.

  • freerider

    I really believe a lot of surfers are over it–this whole pro -surf starlett- teenie bopper groupie–surf thing –or were never into it from the beginning. The surf companies use these events basically as a marketing tool to try and stuff their own pockets. “The surf industry is not surfing-my brief forays into the dark sickly heart of the matter have reminded me of that—The “cool kids” are focusing on the past., trying to re-discover surfing’s age of innocence.” L.S.—The good news–that first innocent stoke -can still be found—-but not at a contest –or on-line…..Peace….

    Dudes–if this is “as perfect as it gets”–and you get only 5 positive comments–the new ASP- Zooatsea- Pro Surfing-The Surf Industry-Terry Harder- Paul Speaker- Dirk Ziff-and others– could be in real trouble
    The best waves ever ridden on the planet–by a so called pro or anyone–will always be the waves you catch and ride yourself–whether it’s 2 feet or twenty..- it’s always better to ride your own waves–Peace

    • Matt

      ur an idiot and must know nada bout good surfing if you didnt think that contest was epic! asp just knock it outta da park! Dream Tour

  • whamo

    Funky cold medina.

  • carlos sandrini

    KS WORDS IN INSTAGRAM TODAY… kellyslaterOn stage at the awards ceremony…Congrats are in order for@gabrielmedina and his performance this week. There are more conversations happening about this guy than anyone and for good reason. He’s the most dangerous guy in the world of surfing. Why? Just this year he won at Snapper, a wave dominated by regular footers for over 10 years. He won in fiji, one of the classic waves on tour. And now he wins the #BillabongProTahiti in giant surf, an event that he wasn’t considered to be a main threat by many people. That’s exactly why Medina has become so dangerous…he can and does win in waves/conditions where he doesn’t even have a lot of experience at yet and people don’t know what to expect. He’s more determined and hungry for the win than any other surfer. He’s complete, combining airs, barrel riding, and carving. He can shoot whole video parts in single sessions. He has passed every test thrown his way. Even though I’m gonna do everything in my power to stop this guy this year, I’m a big fan of his surfing and he’s a really good guy. The biggest obstacles he will face in his career will be staying motivated long-term and dealing with a fanatical, Brasilian fan base (#BrasilianSwarm?) that is resting the hopes of a country on his shoulders. I’m sure he’ll accept and handle that challenge like every other one thrown his way so far. Congratulations for your #Teahupoo win and hold on for a huge career ahead. #ThisGuyShreds #HisFansWannaKillMe #TeahupooDiary2014 @asp@gopro

    • freerider

      Goog grief–another Teenie Bopper surf starlett Groupie…….

    • freerider

      Good grief-.

  • Bruno Freire
  • freerider

    Sony reef–Dudes–get over it–it doesn’t really matter. Just get off the sofa and go out and catch and ride some waves “of your own”…….Peace

    • jbinsb

      Freerider, how much acid did you eat this morning?

  • freerider

    Good grief–even more Teenie Bopper- star struck- Surf Starlet –Groupies……

  • freerider

    Dudes–if this is “as perfect as it gets”–and you get only 5 positive comments–the new ASP- Zooatsea- Pro Surfing-The Surf Industry-Terry Harder- Paul Speaker- Dirk Ziff-and others– could be in real trouble
    The best waves ever ridden on the planet–by a so called pro or anyone–will always be the waves you catch and ride yourself–whether it’s 2 feet or twenty..- it’s always better to ride your own waves–Peace

  • Nuno

    Best event ever! It was impossible to leave the webcast. Slater peaked in best ever heat, and got nailed by Medina in the final, being Medina a competitive machine. Medina has been pretyy much the talk since Monday. We will be world champ this year and has shown impressive regularity. But he still has a lot to learn: being a gentleman with and without the jersey, quit the paranoic hassle for first priority (because in fact he doesn´t need it) and so forth. I am just wondering what the next few events will be like after Tahiti. If the waves will not be pumping, boredom will take over. More Tahiti please!!!!!

  • freerider

    Sony reef–Dudes–get over it–it just doesn’t really matter. Just get “off the sofa” and go out and catch and ride some waves “of your own”…….Peace

  • Cesar Oliveira

    The final will be forgotten! What a bullshit!

    • freerider

      Dude-I already forgot it—- and I didn’t even watch it…..Peace…….

      • Cesar Oliveira

        selective amnesia?

  • http://www.zaneeducation.com/ Nicholas Tee

    Greatest ever contest? …. a very big statement … and maybe for the under 25′s (and those non-surfers like young the Joey Turpel) but for the olders guys you’ll remember the huge perfect waves at Bells in 1965 and then again in 1981 when Simon Anderson won. And that’s just two examples. As for young Medina – look, he’s a young guy that’s improved this year and fair play to him for that, but taking just one wave on the head during the whole Chopes contest does not put him into the “magic status” of either Kelly or JJ. He’s nowhere near that level of “special”. In fact I believe Kelly would have won the final if the same number of quality larger waves came thru as in the Kelly/JJ final which really was the most entertaining heat – and which will be remembered for a long time. I can understand the Brazo’s getting all weepy about a possible first world champ, but the season is far from finished and it will be a lot of years before young Medina receives an invite to the Eddie Aikau. In fact his hassle strategy in the heat with Andino when even though there was only 2 guys in the water and he thought he had to paddle halfway to Australia, show the limited Brazo attitude he still retains at the moment.

  • jbinsb

    Then you really have nothing to say. You sit in distance, removed from and blind to the whole thing and then give us your oh-so-original take on the commercialization of surfing. You’re like a guy talking about getting barreled who never did. It’s all abstract and theoretical and…weak.

  • jbinsb

    Oi Bruno, calma amigo. ‘Ta muito animado. So e surfing. Nao e o solucao para cancar!

  • jbinsb

    Ah, there you are again, so removed, so detached, so hooked that you can’t resist posting.