Words Wade Davis
This is an image of Gabriel Medina, making his way straight through to the tip of the triangle.
Down at Snapper Rocks there are two types of spectator that matter. They couldn’t come from more different places, they couldn’t act more differently – one group is vivacious, wearing their heart on their sleeve. To us, the Australian surf fan, they represent the new world, or the old, old world. The other group is stoic, laconic. They hold their cards close to their chest, and their beers up near their mouths. They don’t tolerate bullshit, and don’t too much like change. They’re from the newest world, which is an extension of the old world.
The two groups are the Brazilian exchange students and the Snapper Rocks Boardriders.
The Brazilians stand on the beach. They scream with delight and slap each other on the back. The women wear their butts in Brazilian cut bikinis and the men don’t tend to wear shirts. Mostly, they’re here to learn better English, officially, but unofficially they’re here to enjoy the Australian way of life. Their visas allow them to work 20-hour weeks, a policy for student visa holders that we look critically upon, and as a result of this, most are relegated to working in hospitality. They stick with their own bars and social circles and restaurants. Not all, but it's true for enough foreign exchange students to justify perpetuating the stereotype.
The scene of the crowd when Gabriel won – the next two hours gave the security guards a fantastic reason to be there.
The Snapper Rocks Boardriders live on the deck of the Rainbow Bay Surf Club. The whistle and they hoot and in the process they inadvertently spit out chicken parmigana crumbs. Whenever Joel gets a good wave they go, Yeeeewwwwwwwww, expressing their pleasure into a schooner glass. They’ve been here at Snapper Rocks the whole time there’s been a Snapper Rocks worth caring about. They’ve seen MP and Rabbit, they’ve known Parko and Mick since Joel and White Lightning were boys. They represent the heart and soul of Australian surfing, and their like are found at every beach in Australia.
From the semis on it was an Australian/Brazilian thing. It was the sand-lovers vs. the balcony-huggers. In semi number one, the balcony had Taj’s back. Taj, being Australian, gets support unless Mick surfs. Mick, being a Kirra Boardriders member gets support unless Parko surfs. Where I stand, in the middle, I’m treated to a stereo cacophony of the vigorous “Yi-yi-yi” from the beach, and the ever-present “Yewwww” from the balcony. The crowd in the middle ground is a mix of all surf-loving countries, and more impartial. Taj goes down to a last minute melange of backhand surfing from the hard-claiming Gabriel. The beach loses its collective Latin American mind, because the beach loves Gabriel.
During semi two the balcony had more emotional investment than in the previous clashes of Taj and Mick. Parko is Snapper Boardriders’ darling, he’s won more club championships than he has toes, and it’s his anchor work that has helped the club fill their trophy cabinet with Jim Beams, and Kirra Teams and this year’s inaugural Be The Bloody Influence Boardriders Battle. When Adriano rode the first wave, his intended result of battling Parko for the inside position, the balcony remained mum in the Brazilian's opening victory. Moments later Parko got a wave, a long, thick tube from behind the rock that three judges gave a 10 to, to riotous, World-War-II-is-over type scenes on the Rainbow Bay Surf Club balcony. From there on Adriano never had a chance, Parko cooly eliminating Adriano with wave selection, calm-headedness and by simply being the superior surfer at Snapper Rocks.
Even though Parko lost in the final, the surfing he displayed for his home crowd was one of the best Snapper rocks has seen in quite some time.
Earlier on in the day, when Parko won his round four heat, he remarked to Mimi, “I think this afternoon will be the second best day. The best day was when the women were on, and I think today is going to be as good as it gets. Tomorrow I think the swell will drop. I’m not the contest director, but I want the men’s to finish today in good waves.” Parko couldn’t lose – so thought Parko, the surf club balcony, and anyone who witnessed his semifinal deconstruction of Adriano de Souza.
Basically everyone except Gabriel Medina.
The final seemed like such a one-sided affair, in Parko’s direction, that the Brazilian beach-crowd that had been so animated up until now was conspicuously silent. Every wave that Parko caught was met with cheers from the balcony; every wave that Gabriel stumbled on was met with jeers – and vice versa, on the beach. Parko led up until the 30 minute mark, or there abouts, the mark when, for any other heat, he’d have it as wrapped up as his trademark frontside swerve. But this final was 35 minutes long, and it was in those last five minutes that Gabriel made Parko suffer for not finding an excellent back-up for his first-blood nine. Gabriel surfed down the line, out of sight of hallowed balcony, he put up two high-range scores with barely any time for Parko to find his response. The ocean didn’t cooperate with Parko, didn’t listen to the please from the surf club balcony, and Gabriel’s two high-range scores beat Parko’s excellent and an average ride. The beach went crackers, and Gabriel was the official Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast champion, a result pinned to the opening gates of the 2014 tour campaign.
We said, back in issue 306, that Gabriel Medina would be your first Brazilian world champion. Now, that prediction is one major step closer to becoming a reality. Read all about it, and about what Gabriel Medina means to Australian surfers. Buy that issue for $1.99, through the Surfing Life app.
Stay tuned for more on Gabriel, later today.