Controversy hits surfing world title race


Brazilian surfing star Gabriel Medina has called on World Surf League officials to reverse a decision which may cost him a title.

The 25-year-old suffered a shock exit from the Rip Curl Pro in Portugal overnight after being penalised for an interference blunder in his round of 16 heat against compatriot Caio Ibelli.

Medina was leading 14.34 to 7.17 before a moment of confusion saw both surfers paddle for a wave at the same time.

Gabriel Medina and Caio Ibelli paddle for the same wave. Picture: World Surf League
Gabriel Medina and Caio Ibelli paddle for the same wave. Picture: World Surf League

Ibelli was ruled to have priority, meaning Medina was docked all points for his lower-scoring wave to bring the scores back to 8.17 to 7.17. Ibelli then managed to grab a 3.10 to knock a shell-shocked Medina out.

Medina, who entered the event on top of the world standings as he seeks to add to his titles in 2014 and 2018, released a statement arguing he should have had priority after completing the previous wave before his opponent.

"Caio and I caught the same wave (prior to the wave which drew the interference call) and each went one way," Medina said. "My wave was shorter and his was longer. So much so that while I was back outside, he was still riding his wave.

"When I got out the back, I was so sure the priority was mine that I didn't look at the priority sign. To my surprise, when the next wave came, I ended up going because I was sure the priority was mine.

Two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina. (Photo by Laurent Masurel/WSL via Getty Images)
Two-time WSL Champion Gabriel Medina. (Photo by Laurent Masurel/WSL via Getty Images)

"I ended making an interference. When I got out of the water I went to talk to the judges. We looked at the open images of the two of us paddling back to the bottom with an open camera angle. It was very clear that I arrived well before. And even if I had gotten along with him and had a draw, the priority would be mine by the rule. Because in the wave we surfed together before, Caio had priority one. I hope the situation will be re-evaluated because an error has occurred. I am still very hopeful that my heat will be reviewed."

He posted a split-screen video to his Instagram to support his claim he should have been given priority.

Ibelli said there was a clear confusion. "I feel like surfing wise he won the heat, but everything went my way. I have so much respect for him," Ibelli said.

"I feel so bad, I mean I did my game and I came out with the win but he surfed pretty good."

Medina's world title rivals Filipe Toledo, Jordy Smith, Kolohe Andino and Italo Ferreira all won their heats to progress to the quarterfinals and create a five-way race for the title.

After Portugal, the season concludes at Pipeline in December.


The surfer with priority has the unconditional right of way to catch any wave they choose. Other surfers in the heat can paddle for, and catch, the same wave, but only if they do not hinder the scoring potential of a surfer with priority. A surfer loses priority once they catch a wave and/or a surfer paddles for but misses a wave. If two or more surfers catch a wave, the first surfer to make it to the take-off zone will get priority.


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