20 August, 2018 20 August, 2018

The Chairman’s Report: Tahiti Pro

Gabriel Medina wins the 2018 Tahiti Pro, Owen strikes back and Brazil gets ready for another World Champ. In head high waves at The End Of The Road, Gabriel Medina stood head and shoulders above the pack and delivered the KO punch to Owen Wright.

In the dying seconds of the final exchange, Medina claimed the 2018 Tahiti Pro title and, once again, announced his intention to go full out for his second world title. 

It was a savage display of intent from Medina. Not just in the final, but in every heat. His ability to adapt to a soft swell that never looked to be getting out of 2nd gear was, for me, the most defining quality he possessed over his opponents. He took to the sky, was sure-footed in the clamping tubes and the sharpness and speed transitions through turns looked powerful and direct. 

Owen Wright (AUS) advanced to Semis after placing 1st in Quarters 2 at the Tahiti Pro 2018, Teahupoo, French Polynesia

Owen Wright came close to winning. Hell, the lead changed four times in the final. It came down to the final set. Owen had to go. He had no choice in the matter. His performance in the final was perfectly arranged around his strengths (big rail game and an ability to find tubes in a dying swell) and had Medina been left stranded, big Owen would have won. But during the entire event, one got the sense that Gabriel would get what he needed when he needed it most. 

Like Medina, Wright was accurate and purposeful. In my opinion, he’s by far the best tall surfer on tour thanks to his ability to ‘shapeshift’ his size to suit a variety of waves. Limber and light on foot when he needs to be, few can crush a 6’3” frame into the tight corners and alcoves of a 3ft wave better than Owen. It’s his ability to flow and connect, and more importantly, to surprise with a turning radius as sharp as anyone. It’s hard to surf like you’re 5’8” when you’re 6’3”. 

A lot went down at the 2018 Tahiti Pro (including the swell) and once again, ‘The End of the Road’ leaves some careers and the WSL at a crossroad: Where to from here?  

Here are 5 talking points from the 2018 Tahiti Pro.

Gabriel Medina (BRA) Winner of the Tahiti Pro 2018, Teahupoo, French Polynesia

  1. Medina closes. Every time. 

It’s very rare that you meet a strong person with an easy past. You sense that with Gabriel Medina. Some life event, someone or something happened to shape him into the cold, calculating finisher he is. 

Ruthless. Mercenary. Meticulous. No one closes better than Medina. He strikes when his opponent least expects it, always surfs to his strengths and never folds. Period. 

John John Florence talks a big game, Julian errs on the side of caution, Italo occasionally shows too much respect and the other contenders are largely ‘also-rans’. But no one finishes the job with a higher level of directed intensity than Medina. 

Not since Andy Irons have I seen a competitor get under the skin of his rivals and completely demoralise them. Medina humiliates his opponents. He wants to inflict maximum damage on every occasion, so that the next time you draw him, you remember both the loss and the trauma. 

Don’t be surprised if that killer instinct starts to rattle the unflappable Filipe Toledo of 2018. He knows how strong Medina is in the closing quarter of the year. He will be the last man standing in the way of Filipe’s 2018 World Title bid. And by far the most dangerous. 

Jordy Smith (ZAF) is eliminated from the 2018 Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o with an equal 13th finish after placing second in Heat 1 of Round 3 at Teahupo’o.

  1. Jordy Smith wilted. 

I’m probably going to get it in the teeth for saying this, but Jordy quite possibly lost his world title run along with his Round 3 loss to Michael February. It wasn’t just the inexplicable priority decision making (or lack thereof), wave choice or the inability to turn the heat around, it was that Smith simply did nothing about it. In short, he folded. 

This seems to be a running theme in the Smith narrative. Close heats. The big ones. The seemingly small ones. Every. Single. One. You can’t win a world title by falling asleep at the wheel. And we all know what happens when you do that. 

Jordy’s backhand performance looked way sharper than last year, his speed is up, the undeniable flow and polish is still amongst the best in the world, but the concentration and the focus was, unfortunately, once again, missing. 

It’s frustrating enough for his fan base to see another world title go begging, it’s got to be even tougher for him to have let the opportunity slide. The world knows Jordy Smith deserves a world title. It also knows that it’s not gifted through raw talent alone. There are expectations. Big ones. And everyone’s watching. The lovers and the haters.

Remember, the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People love a show. They want you to bleed and fight. They want a scrap.

And Jordy Smith can most certainly give them one. Time to deliver the KO punch, big guy.  

Michael February (ZAF) ranked equal 5th after placing 2nd in Quarters 1 at the Tahiti Pro 2018,Teahupoo, French Polynesia

  1. February finally shines.

The relief on Michael February’s face after his round 2 win over Connor Coffin said it all. It was more the look of ‘the ransoms been paid, you’re free to go’ than the look of victory in paradise. 

Yes, it was quite possibly the most talked about 2.5 in the history of professional surfing, but it was as valuable as a perfect 10 to MFeb’s year. He finally broke free of the 13ths and 25ths and got his year rolling in the right direction. 

After his round 2 victory, February’s approach looked confident and he had belonging and purpose. The round 3 victory of Jordy Smith was less error prone than the Connor Coffin match up, the decision making more considered and the surfing steadier and with more connectivity. 

But it was the round 4 heat where February’s tube prowess really presented itself. The days of surfing Kalk Bay were clearly presented and a damn fine reading of waves at a location he’s never surfed before. 

It was always going to be a tough one to beat Toledo in the quarters but MFeb pushed hard with some clean tube rides and he can take pride in a well-deserved 5th place. 

Wade Carmichael (AUS) ranked equal 5th after placing 2nd in Quarters 2 at the Tahiti Pro 2018 ,Teahupoo, French Polynesia

  1. Underscoring. Where exactly is the scale set?

It happened a lot, but the best example was just how badly Jesse Mendes was underscored in his round 3 heat loss to Wade Carmichael. Tell me he didn’t get the score against ‘Ozzie Jesus’? 

His surfing was vertical and sharp and definitely better than the mid 4’s they threw back at him. Play the heat here and you be the judge. 

It’s frustrating and unfair to the athletes when the judging scale deviates from the criteria the judges themselves set and lay down as law. If you say you’re going to reward a particular approach, then do it. And apply it to every heat. 

Matt Wilkinson (AUS) is eliminated from the 2018 Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o with an equal 25th finish after placing second in Heat 9 of Round 2 at Teahupo’o.

  1. Wilko could be back on the QS in 2019. 

An almost impossible scenario to even contemplate considering the man was a World Title contender not that long ago. It’s a cruel reminder of just how tough the tour is when a surfer of Matt Wilkinson’s calibre is currently ranked 31st. 

Every year it gets harder not just to try and break into the top 10, but to keep your WSL job ticket is just as tough.  The point is that if a guy like Wilkinson is battling to just find his groove, it takes something extraordinary to win a world title. 

Something that Gabriel Medina is all too familiar with. Will Slater surf at the Wave Ranch, will Blink 182 dedicate their song ‘What’s my age again’ to him?  Will Toledo win and strengthen his cause before the European leg? Will Gabriel Medina once again ‘thank God’ for sending him a wave, even if it is in a wave pool?

I’ll be there watching and look forward to your company as always. 

The Chairman




  1. Cal
    20 August, 2018 at 4:26 pm · Reply

    Awesome chairman’s report as always. Gabriel Medina vs torledo in the title race.

  2. Craig
    20 August, 2018 at 6:32 pm · Reply

    What a pity it wasn’t pumping chopes. At 2 -10 feet, medina is in a class of his own at chopes. He should get himself a “punisher” vest and have that skull logo printed on his competitor jersey. Excellent read and insight. I really hope Toledo gets the title but Medina is a serious concern. Perhaps a Tonya Harding strategy needs to be considered.

  3. Stephen
    20 August, 2018 at 6:36 pm · Reply

    Great report, agree totally with the comments regarding SA contingent. Cmon Mikey!

  4. Pine Nut
    21 August, 2018 at 9:14 am · Reply

    Nail on the head-well done MDC-great insights and reporting. Stoked to see MFeb making some heats-kid has got so much talent and totally deserves his place on the tour. Medina is like a Great White-once he smells blood you’re done for. Good luck Toledo holding onto that Yellow.

  5. Jon
    21 August, 2018 at 9:23 am · Reply

    Nice piece. Each point being spot on, in my opinion.
    That last paragraph about Slater, Blink and Medina thanking god, is just hilarious. I have to wipe the coffee off my screen now. Thanks Chairman

  6. Trevor
    21 August, 2018 at 10:02 am · Reply

    HAHAHA that last line was a perfect 10. I’m cracking up!

  7. Trev
    21 August, 2018 at 11:05 am · Reply

    Brilliant, incisive reporting Glen – a pleasure to read, as always. Dig how you summed up the beast that is Medina, as well as the enormity of the task it is to win a world title.

  8. David
    21 August, 2018 at 11:38 am · Reply

    Brilliant Glen! Appreciate the bravado, very exciting read yet again! Keep it coming !

  9. Bushy
    21 August, 2018 at 11:56 am · Reply

    Great report as always Chair!

    Ja, Medina is everything Jordy isn’t when it comes to competitive surfing.

    He doesn’t seem to have that single minded focus it requires to win a world title, though would expect him to win multiple contests over the next few years when the stars align. Taj Burrow was similar and had a great career, has respect from all his peers and still ripping, and also doesn’t seem to be scarred from never winning a world title. Hopefully Jordy keeps doing what he’s doing, his legacy is secured. As a proud Saffa though, I still live in hope…

    Judging still suss, will be interesting to see how they score the pool. Centimetres of board poking out the barrel or time spent in the barrel anyone? Slater will surf at the Ranch, but suspect there may be “mechanical failure” and the plough will stop working if he starts getting smoked in his heat.

    • The Chairman
      22 August, 2018 at 12:54 pm · Reply

      Thanks Bushy, glad you enjoyed the read.

      You raise an interesting point regarding the judging scale for the pool. Surely it needs to be about both depth of tube and distance? Either way, the panel need to stick to their guns.

      ‘Mechanical failure’ as Kelly’s pool turns off for him ….classic.

      Or it could be an episode of West World where the pool becomes sentient and starts killing off Kelly’s rivals heat after heat…

  10. Rob Wellman
    21 August, 2018 at 1:27 pm · Reply

    As a non surfer, I love reading these reports, mostly due to Glen’s extremely compelling and gripping writing style. Kudos Glen.

  11. Deryck
    21 August, 2018 at 1:45 pm · Reply

    Nicely summed up Chairman

  12. Robin
    21 August, 2018 at 4:33 pm · Reply

    Insightful commentary beautifully written. Well done Mr Chairman.

  13. CrackSon
    21 August, 2018 at 5:12 pm · Reply

    Great report as always Chairman! Stoked for Feb!
    Good luck with Surf Ranch, I think I’d rather play cricket than watch a wavepool event.

  14. Justakook
    21 August, 2018 at 10:09 pm · Reply

    Glen, the fact that most comments are about your detailed spot on analysis speaks volumes! Well done on another insightful, detailed and thoroughly prepared Chairmans report!

    Jordy, please my bru … channel that hungry pronutro eating kid gonna be multiple world champ someday from your youth!!!
    We are all right behind you Mr Smith!

    Mikey, grab this momentum by the balls, respect none in a heat and gain confidence!!

  15. Mark
    22 August, 2018 at 6:10 am · Reply

    Just like Medina, you Meneer da Chair have performed exceptionally… What a great bit of writing!!

    I would like to raise a point 6 to take away from Chopes in 2018… That of Filipe Toledo’s Performance… Yes the waves weren’t life threatening but the committment (and he has the Chopes tattoo to back it up: https://www.facebook.com/WSL/videos/filipe-toledo-is-focused/10155882216582058/) shown by Filipe in the two weeks prior to the event starting shows that he is serious and WANTS to win the title this year! His biggest fear now is going to be the thought to perhaps losing it to Gabe… Watch Filipe redefine what can be done in Chlorine next month!

    • The Chairman
      22 August, 2018 at 12:58 pm · Reply

      Excellent point on Toledo’s commitment to the conditions at Chopes in the heavier stuff Mark. Gone are the days when peopel question his handling of heavy water.

      I think Medina and Italo will be a handful in the pool and Julian and Jordy could threaten if they stick to their strengths.

  16. Brazzo fin grinding show
    22 August, 2018 at 9:45 am · Reply

    Epic right up chairman……chow-a-poo was a fin grinding comp ….ocean gave the Brazzos a gift…watch a few days from now and it will be 8ft neck snapping material.

    We all wanted Toledo to reel in some bombs and also watch him eat reef….that wave is normally the boss.

    We will all have to become some sort of brazzo fans knowing how relentless these guys are to make it happen.

    Jordy Jordy Jordz…….work it out ….the 3rd highest paid surfer in the world makes with the exchange R 30 million+ …..a year……he is making his retirement plan as we speak……the tour has worn him down…..the Taj Burrow syndrome has got him good.

    Lyndal must be working on his nerves.

    Fanning,Parko ,Slater,Durbridge,Kerr all over it……..a lot of throwing in the towel from others……. messes with your head.

    Mfeb bravo boet!…..now that was a lighty sitting watching the Jbay events with Jordy in it …..and now he is out-hustling him in heats!

    • The Chairman
      22 August, 2018 at 1:02 pm · Reply

      thanks brazzo fin grinder and I totally agree with you regarding the growing list of retirees . some careers have been punctuated with world titles and others due to more personal reasons. But there’s no doubting that every year the going gets tougher both emotionally and physically.

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