The Sensation

posted by / News / April 1, 2011

Gabriel Medina as a wildcard in last year’s Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Photo: Jimmicane


Former world champ turned surf coach Barton Lynch has cast a critical eye over junior surfing for almost 15 years. In that time only two teenagers have impressed him as much as Gabriel Medina.

“We saw Mick Fanning surf as a youngster and approached him to manage him. We were in no doubt that he would make it. The next kid I saw after that was Owen Wright. Gabriel Medina is the next surfer I’ve seen in that class,” Lynch told SURFING after seeing the then-15-year-old Medina surf at the 2009 ISA World Games in Costa Rica.

Hailing from working class stock and raised in Brazil’s premier wave haven of Maresia, Gabriel is the youngest ever surfer to win a WQS event. He beat South American surfing legend Neco Padaratz to do it, aged 15, at the 2009 6-star Surf International at Florianopolis. Last year, aged 16, Gabriel attempted to become the youngest ever World Tour qualifier (unfortunately finishing well out of contention). The foundation of his success is his aerial prowess. SURFING sat down with the teen sensation (along with fellow Brazilian aerialist Jadson Andre, who acted as interpreter) to find out the key to achieving aerial aptitude by early adolescence, what motivates Gabriel, and why most Brazilian kids can punt before they can turn.


SURFING: What’s your secret to such an aptitude for aerials so young?
Gabriel: I’ve been training at this maneuver for a long time. I pulled my first aerial when I was 12 — a double grab. I don’t know how to explain how I do them. The big reason is the waves at home. It’s pretty much closeouts all the time so you only get one big maneuver to try. In Australia, you get perfect waves, so you can do cutback, cutback. In Brazil you don’t get waves like this.

That elasticity in the way you hit sections — does it come from a youth spent practicing capoeira or jiu-jitsu?
I have never done capoeira or jiu-jitsu. The reason is the wind and bad waves. You see young kids at home who can’t make any turns, just airs. The wind is amazing. It just grabs the board. The Brazilian guy can make every turn but their strongest maneuver is the air.


Frontside wafts are the money move for today’s young surfers out of Brazil. Gabriel makes it rain at a past Billabong WJC. Photo: Oronati


Name some of the more technical airs getting stomped at home.
Full rotation air reverses, Passion Pops you see in Brazil, Kerrupts. Rodeo Flips happen all the time.

What are your biggest surfing influences?
I watch a lot of movies like Momentum, Trilogy, stuff from Taylor Steele as well as videos of Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds. Not really local surfers. More videos.

What do you say to criticisms from guys as revered as Kelly Slater that you are unproven in big waves?
I’m okay in bigger tubes. Where I am from [Maresia, Sao Paulo] is the best place in Brazil for barrels. It’s like France and has one of the best waves in country. I think we can go well at Pipeline. We got good waves in Hawaii last winter and I enjoyed it. We really like big waves.

Jadson Andre: [The critics] haven’t seen Gabriel in big waves. Everyone asks about how he is in big waves. He is stronger in big waves and in the barrel than at airs.

What’s your biggest weakness?
My backhand. I am going to train at Snapper for a month.

How does the current crop of Brazilian surfers compare to past generations?
We begin traveling too early. Fifteen years old and we are already traveling. Other guys like Neco [Padaratz] didn’t start until older. They had no sponsor and didn’t have the opportunity we had. We have more opportunity. Because we have been traveling early, we also need to be smart. We are learning and getting better. We know we have to win. My family does not have much money, neither does Jadson’s. We know we have to do well.

Jadson Andre: When he started he didn’t have much opportunity. His family don’t have much money but they are getting better. We know we have to work because we will never have money unless we make it. Our dads have no money. We must work if we want to get money, to see our families live well and to get a new car. That is why some Brazilians are angry and want to go for it. Me, [Gabriel] and Miguel [Pupo] — our family histories are the same. Poor. No money.

Will a Brazilian ever win a world title?
In the future we will have a Brazilian world champ because we have more opportunity and more sponsors. And maybe because of the judging but I don’t think it will be just because of our airs. It will be because of big turns and then an air. —Jed Smith



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  • Steve Shearer

    Funky cold sure made the rest of the 44 look ordinary on that rip bank left at Johanna last easter.

    Is there some way we can inject Brazilian DNA into Dane Reynolds?

    Maybe an exchange program like Trading Places?

  • johhny

    Dane does not need Brazilian DNA….Americaaaaaa f*ck ya!

  • Charlie Sheen

    Nerdy Black guys who try to act white = fucking hilarious

  • Brazzo 4 Life

    B4L couldn’t have said it better. Aussie and Seppo media darling surfers are soft. Brazilian juniors are hungry and best in world. Gabriel and Jadson will be giving guys hard times for world titles. Get ready for more Brazzo claiming.

    Brazzo 4 Life

  • Phil

    Thanks racist Jed.
    What sterotype does KOLOHE FIT??? Spoiled white rich cali hipster? or is 2 foot Huntington HYPE guy??

    Keep it up kid your a Favelas hope!!!!

  • Jed Smith

    Stereotype? Bad style, lack of ability in big waves, all aerials and no face game. Don’t shoot the messenger, chump. If you surf, you’re aware these sentiments exist among large swathes of the surfing population. It’s only fair I let Brazil’s versatile new-school brigade answer to them.

  • Phil

    people like you keep the STEROTYPES going in the SURF industry (not chumps like me).

    Look i understand you OZZIES hate brazzos because they kick your ass when you run your drunk mouths, but the world needs to start some new sterotypes of brasilians.

    Like hard workers and people who think of thier family first. These two virtues have been gone for a long time in both the US and OZ.

  • Steve Shearer

    Phil, your fucking tripping.

    Jed’s one of the few giving these young Brazilians media space and coverage.

    And as a result stereotypes are being challenged.

  • Tom Pierce

    I don’t care where you’re from, what the stereotypes are, how much money you have/make: just STOP FUCKING CLAIMING! I mean certain pros (and I’ll leave it to your imagination) claim like 85% of their waves, even in Round 1. Seriously.

    That, and stop the friggin’ paddling hassles. If you can’t beat someone on your own skill, you don’t belong there in the first place.

    If you follow those 2 rules, I’ll give you as much of a chance as anyone, no matter where you’re from.

  • Dennis

    claiming like a GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAALLLLLL!!! Soccer nation guys….comes to surf nation …..
    a good score in the heat is like a Goal….