Julian Wilson wins Billabong Pro Tahiti
Started and finished
For the first time in its storied history, the World Surf League started a contest on the first day of a contest's waiting period. And then, within 72 hours of it starting, it was over. The 2017 Billabong Pro Tahiti was short and sweet thanks to a stormy surf forecast, but the WSL got three good days of waves, and in the end, Julian Wilson's last-second win over Gabriel Medina had all the drama they could have asked for.
Got the scores
Needing a pair of nine-point rides in the waning minutes of the final, Wilson managed to surf two waves and get the scores. "It was an awesome final," said Wilson when it was all done and dusted. "It really turned on for us in the final and we had some great opportunities, so I am just glad to get that special one. Thank you to Gabby for an awesome final. We seem to have these amazingmatch-upsin the final and we didn't disappoint. It has been such a special few days and I think we finished in the best conditions. We had a good battle and I am just so happy."
A good present
Heartbroken by the last-minute loss, Gabriel Medina was visibly disappointed with the runner-up finish, but nevertheless put on a happy face when it was over. "I am stoked to make another final against Julian," said Medina. "He has been surfing really well the whole event and I think it is a little harder on your backhand, so good job to him. I am stoked. It is Father's Day in Brazil and my dad is here, so that was a good present."
In the mix
"It has been a few years," said Wilson. "It is so special to win. I am ecstatic and I have nothing left in me. I am just so happy and relieved to finally win an event again. It took so many good waves to win this event and I was lucky enough to get those. I felt like I was trending in the right direction. I've had a pretty steady start to the year and I am so happy to be in the mix now."
Nobody has ever accused Gabe Medina of lacking focus. He cruised through most of the final in complete control, but just couldn't quite seal the deal in the end.
One of the most versatile surfers on tour, Gabe Medina will now set his sights on the upcoming Hurley Pro in San Clemente, California. "It feels good to be back in the game and now I am thinking about Trestles. I am happy," said Medina.
Now in the top spot
Jordy Smith accomplished a lot in his brief time in Tahiti. Struggling at the famed reef pass throughout his career, he managed to put the pieces together this year to finish a very respectable third. In doing so, he's taken over the number one position on the WSL leader board and now fronts the race for the 2017 world title. "I am stoked to be in the top spot," said Smith. "Obviously, it is a long way to go, but it is sick to be in the front there. This year is a new year and I just want to bring something new, something fresh, and keep trying my hardest."
Making the semifinals, Californian Kolohe Andino had a good run as well. "I'm sneaky confident," he joked from the channel after advancing out of the quarterfinals.
Hoping to capture his first-ever win at Teahupo'o and take the top spot on the WSL rankings in the process, John John Florence couldn't get past a surging Smith in the quarterfinals. The clear favorite throughout the event, he still walked away with the Andy Irons Most Committed Award. "This is super amazing," Florence said. "It is such an honor to get this award. Andy Irons was a part of that era that I looked up to growing up. He was the guy that we watched the footage of air-dropping at 12-foot Chopes and just standing in big barrels and getting spit out. Andy being the last Hawaiian World Champ -- and that was when I was younger -- so to win the World Title last year and bring it back to Hawaii and have everyone in Hawaii supporting me was such an amazing thing. It is so cool to win this because Andy is one of my all-time heroes."
Winning the Andy Irons memorial award was cool and all, but one gets the feeling Florence really would have liked to win the contest.
Not in pole position
Going into the Billabong Pro Tahiti, Australian Matt Wilkinson was leading the world title race. A loss in Round 5 assured that he would not leave the island in the pole position. Wilkinson was in a similar spot last year and saw his world title dreams dashed in the back half of the season. He'd like to avoid that same scenario this year.
Tune-in on ABC
Australian Owen Wright continues his storybook comeback after a 2015 head injury. Making the quarterfinals, he finds himself in the world title hunt after Tahiti. "I'm just trying to put the pieces together and keep improving," he said afterwards. Catch up on all of the action from the WSL's Billabong Pro Tahiti on ABC's "World of X Games" on Sun., Sept. 10 at 4 p.m. ET.