And then, there was Gabriel Medina, The 2014 World Champ, and Julian Wilson the Billabong Pipe Masters Champ!
It had been five extremely long and strenuous days since the boys completed Round 2 of the Billabong Pipe Masters. There was questioning of the decision to call it off on Saturday. There was much debate about the many world title scenarios. There was lots of freesurfing. And there was even more sand buildup.
This morning we awoke to the swell we waited for all day yesterday. Fresh 6 - 8 foot waves came from the West-Northwest offering long Backdoor barrels and short, powerful Banzai lefts. The crowd on the beach swelled rapidly, with a proud and large Brazilian contingent waving there green, blue and yellow flags about in support of Gabriel Medina.
Immediately John John Florence got the day started with some of his patented approach to Pipeline: get ridiculously barreled and launch a crazy air. Discussions about John John meeting Kelly in the finals or Gabriel in the Semis was all about.
But the World Title race truly started in Heat 6 of Round 3 when Triple Crowns Ratings leader Dusty Payne entered the water against World Title leader Gabriel Medina. For 30 minutes Kelly Slater was Dusty's biggest fan, who needed Gabriel to lose in order to keep his title hopes alive. But it was not to be, and although Dusty scored an 8 early in the heat, Gabriel found the gems and took a decisive heat victory, eliminating Kelly in the mean time.
Up next in the World Title race was Mick Fanning. Mick, the ever focused and calculated three-time world champ, needed to win his heat to keep the race alive. With 3:20 left on the clock Mick needed a 5.77 to advance. When a six foot Backdoor set rolled through Mick swung around and locked in for a high 8 and the heat victory and another round of world title hopes.
After Mick's late heat heroics the beach was abuzz with reminders of last year's title race. But Gabriel Medina was not to be distracted. In a slow Round 4 heat with fellow countryman Filipe Toledo and Josh Kerr, Gabriel found the best waves and completed his rides to advance directly to the Quarterfinals. Gabriel's advancement forced Mick into a difficult position: win the Pipe Masters and hope Gabriel loses by the Semis. No one was ready to hand the title to Gabriel quite yet, but the Brazilian flags on the beach seemed to multiply by the heat.
After losing a wave starved Round 4 heat Mick was relegated to Round 5 where he met giant slayer Alejo Muniz. Earlier in the day Alejo caught a last minute 9.5 to eliminate Kelly Slater and was eager to help his fellow countrymen Gabriel Medina secure Brasil's first World Title. With Gabriel Medina sitting in the channel, Alejo found the gem of the heat to defeat Mick Fanning and claim his good friend the crown.
The hundreds of Brazilians on the beach ran to the water's edge, Charlie, Gabriel's step-father, leading the way. For minutes hugs and high-fives and screams pursued. Elation from the whole surf community of Brazil could be felt throughout the beach and even on the webcast. Tears were cast, Tweets were sent, Instagram photos were posted and the purest of surf pride was visible.
But the day was not finished, the Quarterfinals had just started and Gabriel was supposed to be surfing in Heat 1. After a short interview and the many hugs, Gabriel made his way back into the lineup and proceeded to defeat Filipe Toledo.
The World Title race was decided, but the almost equally important Triple Crown had yet to be determined. Although he was defeated in Round 3, Dusty Payne still held the lead. Only Michel Bourez and Julian Wilson were in striking distance and both needed to make it a long way to win. Michel was eliminated when he lost in Round 5 to Josh Kerr. But Julian Wilson kept Dusty on his toes while advancing all the way to the Final, where he came up against none other than the newly crowned World Champ, Gabriel Medina.
After an afternoon of long lulls and some light trade winds, Pipeline turned back on for the Final. Moments after the horn blew the Julian went right and Gabriel went left. Halfway through the heat it was anybody's guess who would win. Gabriel scored a perfect 10 on a throaty Backdoor pit, but Julian was snipping at his heels with high 8's and a few almost made barrels. With 2:06 on the clock Julian found a boxy Backdoor barrel and came out with the spit. Only seconds later, with 1:55 left on the clock Gabriel found a beautiful left and threaded an incredibly technical tube.
For seconds everyone stood on the sand and waited - Gabriel's crowd close to Banzai, Julian's crowd close to Backdoor. Then it was announced, Julian Wilson was the 2014 Billabong Pipe Master and the 2014 Vans Triple Crown Champion.
It was a moment to be remembered in a day that will forever be remembered as the day Gabriel Medina, a 20 year old surfing phenom from a small beach town, claimed Brasil's first WCT World Title.
Dusty Payne warming up in the early morning. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane
A pleasant thing to see after many lay days. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane
Ace Buchan quietly lines up a beauty. Photo: Pat Stacy
Gabe's supporters followed his every step, but made sure to give him his space before each heat. Photo: Pat Stacy
Which allowed him to do this in Round 3, eliminating Kelly Slater. Photo: Pat Stacy
Dusty Payne tried, but he couldn't help Kelly. Photo: ASP
The wave that kept Mick Fanning's World Title hopes alive till Round 5. Photo: Pat Stacy
Mick makes it to shore, relieved and mobbed. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane
Another view of Faning's buzzer beater.
Parko loves Backdoor, but it wasn't his day. Photo: Pat Stacy
Gabriel Medina getting chaired to the podium as the new World Champ. Photo: Pat Stacy
This grom could care less who is getting barreled, he's focused on getting his own barrel. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane
Gabriel Medina, advancing. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane
Julian and Backdoor worked well together today. Photo: ASP
Julian Wilson, the 2014 Billabong Pipe Master. Photo: ASP
Gabriel Medina, the 2014 ASP World Champion. Photo: ASP