Medina, Gabriel

High-flying, preternaturally talented goofyfoot pro from Sao Paulo, Brazil; world-ranked #7 and called the “best 18 year-old surfer on the planet,” by surf journalist Todd Prodanovich in 2012.

Medina was born (1993) in Maresias, began surfing at age nine, and was competing in national junior events two years later. In 2009, at 15, he became the youngest surfer in history to win a World Qualifying Series event after defeating 32 year-old tour veteran and fellow Brazilian Neco Padaratz at the Maresia Surf International. Medina qualified for the WCT midway through the 2011 season and won the first event he entered, the Quiksilver Pro France; one month later he took out the Rip Curl Pro Search event in San Francisco, defeating Kelly Slater in the semis and tour vet Joel Parkinson in the final.

An electrifying aerialist, Medina lands complicated air maneuvers with unusual ease, and often puts together two, three, even four such moves on the same wave. As a competitor, he has nerves of steel, understands the finer points of competition better than even the cagiest of old-timers; he out-hustles opponents and well as out-surfs them. “He’s just a complete badass competitor,” American rival Kolohe Andino told ESPN.

Because of Medina's lightning-quick ascension on the international stage, and because he spoke little English, fellow pros, as of early 2012, didn't quite know what to make of the slender dark-haried Brazilian phenom, with many dismissing him as a small-wave wizard. “He’s the kind of guy who can turn shit into gold,” Parkinson told Surfer magazine, a bit peevishly, after the San Francisco Search event. A few weeks later, Medina made the quarterfinals in big, thumping surf at the Pipeline Masters, and from that point on it was hard to find anybody in the surf world who didn't consider him a top-drawer world title contender.