Gabriel Medina is riding (the wave) into the history books.
The 20-year-old Brazilian professional surfer has become the first-ever Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) world champion to come Brazil at the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Memory of Andy Irons in Hawaii.
Medina took second place at the event on Friday and claimed the world title over three-time champion Mick Fanning and 11-time winner Kelly Slater.
Medina clinched the crown after Fanning lost his Round 5 heat against Medina’s Brazilian compatriot Alejo Muniz.
“This is special day not just for me, but for my family and the fans,” said Medina.
Medina reveled in the conditions, which were strikingly similar the ones at his home break. He went on to take second place at Pipeline, losing a close final to Australia’s Julian Wilson.
Wilson surfed an incredible six heats on the day, including three in a row at the end. Although clearly exhausted by the end, he saved his best for last, scoring a 9.93 on his first wave of the final and a 9.70 on his last. Medina notched a perfect 10 near the beginning and led throughout. His last wave was also spectacular, but he came up just short of Wilson.
Brazilian surfers have been competing in world tour events for close to 40 years, but Medina is the first to win events with regularity. He scored three victories on the 2014 tour, including a massive victory in epic surf at Teahupo’o Tahiti over Kelly Slater.
Medina’s momentous achievement isn’t just a big deal for his country, it marks a tectonic shift in surfing toward a new, younger generation of surf talent.
Slater, 42; Fanning, 33; and Joel Parkinson, 33, had won the last eight world titles. Now most bets are on surfers like Medina; John John Florence, 22; and Filipe Toledo, 19, to be leading the charge into the future.
“With the weight of a country on his shoulders, he made all the right choices to keep his head on straight and achieve his dream,” wrote Slater of Median on his Instagram account.