Kelly Slater, the 11-time world champion of surfing, has defeated rookie Gabriel Medina in the finals of the Volcom Fiji Pro. Slater, who claimed his first world title when Medina was only three months old, had not beaten the 18-year-old Brazilian in their two previous head-to-head heats. But Slater took this match-up in a convincing fashion with a two-wave score of 18.16 to Medina’s 10.87.
To gain entry into the final, Slater had to defeat Julian Wilson, a Red Bull athlete and one of the world’s elite surfers, in the quarters. In the semis, he met CJ Hobgood, the 2001 world champion, in the most electrifying heat of the day.
Both Slater and Hobgood are masters of the waves around Tavarua. Slater made his first trip to Fiji in 1990 to film his iconic movie, "Black and White," and has logged nearly 30 voyages to the heart-shaped South Pacific island since. On Sunday, he used his intimate knowledge of Cloudbreak, Tavarua's premier break, to put on an awesome display of backside power surfing -- flawless barrel riding and massive, torquing turns -- en route to a nearly perfect heat score of 19.50.
“I felt today I really came into form and I don’t feel I could have surfed much better to be honest,” Slater said afterwards.
“That’s probably about as good as I could do out here," he continued, referring to a perfect 10-point wave. "It ticked all the boxes. I got the barrel, did some turns and it spit at me when I freefell out of it. I’ve said it before, it’s the perfect canvas, that wave, and I’m just along for the ride. I was just enjoying it out there. I was so happy to have a heat with CJ because it’s just fun being in the water together. It's fun having heats with friends.”
Meanwhile, Medina’s road to the final was downright treacherous as he drew the world’s number five Taj Burrow in the quarters and the two-time world champion Mick Fanning (pictured below) in the semis.
While Slater has been surfing the waters around Tavarua for nearly 23 years, this was Medina’s first trip to Fiji. Slater only caught two waves in the finals but still managed to hold off the phenom.
"It's about time I got [Medina]," Slater said. "He had my number in the back half of last year and he'll probably go on to beat everyone for the next 20 years. He can do it all and I think he proved that to a lot of people this week at Restaurants and out here at Cloudbreak."
With the win, Slater jumps to number two on the ASP World Tour standings behind Fanning, whose outstanding performance in Fiji lifted him to the top spot.
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