February impresses in Tahiti
Michael February from Kommetjie delivered his career-best result on Sunday when he finished fifth in the Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o, the seventh event of the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT). February, who had not progressed beyond round three in his previous seven events on the elite 34-man tour, was eventually ousted by Jeep rankings leader Filipe Toledo (BRA) in their quarter-final match-up.
The rookie had earlier defeated compatriot Jordy Smith (Durban) in round three and then won his three-man round four heat over Wade Carmichael (AUS) and Ezekiel Lau (HAW). The 4745 points he earned saw February jump four places to 27th on the CT rankings and within 2000 points of a qualifying spot for the 2019 Elite Tour with four events remaining in the season.
Brazil’s Gabriel Medina claimed his second Tahiti Pro Teahupo’o title and his first event win of 2018 by defeating Australia’s Owen Wright in the final held in clean but inconsistent 1 to 1.5m waves at the famed South Pacific reef pass.
“I’m just so happy to win here again and, first, I just want to thank God,” Medina said.
“I came here and trained a lot, and I was just waiting for the victory. I love Tahiti and I’ve had some great finals here. I’ve won here before, two second-place finishes, and another win now.”
Since his first Tahiti Pro win in 2014, the Brazilian superstar has never dropped below third place at the event. His win over Wright came after he ousted Jeremy Flores (FRA) in the semi-finals and fellow Brazilian Italo Ferreira in the quarters.
“Now I can kind of start thinking about winning a world title. I think anything is possible. There are a couple of events to go and I just want to keep giving it my best.”
Medina’s victory moves him up from third to second on the Jeep leader board, 6300 points behind Toledo and well within striking distance of capturing a second WSL title this year if he maintains strong results in the final four events, two of which he won last year.
Wright’s runner-up finish marks his best result in Tahiti and his best result of the season. To make his first final in Tahiti, the Australian took down Jeep frontrunner Toledo in the semis and Carmichael in the quarters. Before Tahiti, Wright sat at 11th on the Jeep leader board, but his result now boosts him up to sixth.
“It’s a sting, but it’s just nice to be back in the final,” Wright said.
“Right now, it’s a hard loss to take a second, but it’s been an incredible week. It all came down to those last two waves. I made the wrong decision and I’m already feeling that deep burn and drive. I’m stoked for Gabby – a well-deserved win for him after it got taken off him by Julian (Wilson) just last year.”
Toledo fell just short of his third final of the year, losing to eventual runner-up Wright in a hard-fought semi-final bout. The rankings leader’s form was impeccable throughout the event, including a brilliant quarter-final win over rookie February, and he will retain the Jeep leader jersey going into the next stop, the Surf Ranch Pro.
“I feel really happy and proud of myself with all the hard work I put out there, and a semi-final result in Tahiti is definitely a keeper,” Toledo said. “I’ve been on the tour for six years now and this is one of those years where everything is clicking and everything’s happening. I’m just making sure to capitalise and get the job done. It’s important to just keep the focus on what I’ve been doing – my training, my surfing – and not worrying about the outside world.”