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Header photo courtesy Jim Bahn.
The Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o 2018 wrapped up on Tuesday. Perhaps the most feared and revered on the World Surf League tour, the Tahiti Pro never lacks for fireworks... and that’s what we got this past week.
After Brazilian Gabriel Medina shredded Jeremy Flores in the semis and Australian Owen Wright downed current world #1, Filipe Toledo, it set up for an enthralling, back-and-forth, punch-counterpunch Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o final between Medina and Wright.
Coming into this event, we knew the field would have their hands full with Medina, who finished as runner-up in last year’s event and came into Teahupo’o 2018 as world #2 on the WSL leaderboards. But we didn’t expect he’d encounter Wright… nor could we anticipate the drama that would ensue.
Just to land in the finals, Medina had to take down world #4, Italo Ferreira, in the quarters before taking care of business against Flores to meet Wright. But despite not carrying the lofty ranking of Ferreira, Wright was positively inspired in the final runs, pushing Medina to his limits.
The forty-minute final popped off right away with Wright getting the inside of Medina to claim the first tube, scoring a 6.50 out of a possible 10. Medina answered with a 6.17 air… and from there the action was only stoked higher and hotter.
A series of oneupmanship occurred before Wright snagged the lead at the midway juncture. Then, with only ten minutes left in the heat, Medina held priority and needed a 4.54. He failed to escape the clutches of a barrel, handing priority over to Wright. However, in the closing moments, Medina got pitted and took the lead for good with a 1.43-point differential.
“I’m just so happy to win here again and, first, I just want to thank God,” Medina told WSL. “I came here and trained a lot, and I was just waiting for the victory. I love Tahiti and I’ve had some great Finals here. I’ve won here before, two second-place finishes, and another win now. I have a great family here, which is incredible. Now I can kind of start thinking about winning a World Title. I think anything is possible. There’s a couple of events to go and I just want to keep giving it my best.”
Medina’s huge victory bolsters him from the #3 spot to #2 on the WSL leaderboard, 6,300 points behind #1 Filipe Toledo.
“I was just praying, ‘God just give me one more, one more,’ and Owen (Wright) had to go on the first one, but if he didn’t I was going to go on that one,” Medina said. “I’m really happy right now, but I know Owen’s got the same feeling I had last year, which was horrible for me, but it’s competition and that’s why we love competing. I feel blessed to have been in the right spots at this event and now I’m going to enjoy this moment, then I’m focusing on the next event.”
While he may have fallen just short of ultimate glory in what was surely a bit of a last-minute heartbreaker, it’s not all bad for Owen Wright.
The 28-year-old, hailing from the small town of Culburra, New South Wales, Australia, made big moves following his inspired Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o 2018 performance. Ranked outside the Top 10 coming in, Wright is now 6th in the 2018 Men’s Championship Tour following his most impressive victory of the year (his highest finish previously was 5th at both the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast and Rip Curl Bells Beach).
"It’s a sting, but it’s just nice to be back in the Final,” Wright said. “Right now, it’s a hard loss to take a second, but it’s been an incredible week. It all came down to those last two waves. I made the wrong decision and I’m already feeling that deep burn and drive. I’m stoked for Gabby, well-deserved win for him after it got taken off him by Julian (Wilson) just last year. Congratulations to Gabby.”