Some info about competing athletes:

Gabriel Medina is by far the most popular surfer on the Championship Tour today. His 5.9 million followers on Instagram are more than Kelly Slater and John John Florence combined. At home in Brazil, the handsome dark-haired goofyfooter is considered a national hero thanks to the World Title he finally delivered to the proud surfing nation in 2014. His rowdy homecoming to São Paulo was national news, and to this day Medina has a tough time going anywhere in Brazil without being recognized. Of course, if you were anywhere near the Brazilian surf scene a decade ago you saw Medina coming. His explosive repertoire of above the lip maneuvers earned him all kinds of amateur titles in his early teens, including Rip Curl’s Grom Search, Quiksilver’s King of the Groms and several state titles. In 2009, a 15-year-old Medina became the youngest surfer ever to win a major Qualifying Series event. By mid 2011, 17-year-old Medina qualified for the Championship Tour (along with John John Florence) and immediately burned the place down with his high-flying acrobatic approach. He won the first event he entered as a CT member, and repeated the feat two events later. His huge impact on the international stage poured fuel on the fledgling Brazilian Storm, a fresh injection of like-minded talents from Brazil that now occupy one-third of the Championship Tour roster. Over the past four years Medina has earned more Championship Tour victories than any other competitor, and he dominates his closest rivals in head-to-head battles, which is why he remains a perennial World Title contender.

Kelly Slater is the greatest surfer of all time. He has a death grip on nearly every major record in the sport, including his 11 World Titles, 55 career victories, as well as being the youngest and oldest World Champion in men’s history. He ushered in a new era of high-performance surfing when he arrived on the scene in 1990, incorporating intentional fin releases and a mix of aerial moves. He captured his first World Title in 1992 at the age of 20, and his last in 2011, at 38. His most dominant days were the mid 90s, when he won five-straight titles between 1993-1998 surfing light years ahead of his peers. After topping Mark Richard’s previous record of four-straight titles Slater tried his hand at retirement in 1999, but failed. He won his fifth Pipe Masters crown and the CT event in Tahiti during his days of only dabbling in contests, all the while staying busy with film, music and business projects. But after Andy Irons, Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson emerged as a new generation of threats on the Tour, Slater’s hypercompetitive drive was rekindled. He rejoined the Tour full-time in 2002 and over the next five years faced his toughest rival in Hawaii’s Andy Irons, who got the better of him for three-straight years. Their heated battles became the most compelling in the sport’s history, propelling it to new heights. Slater finally reclaimed the title in 2005 and repeated in 2006, putting an end to the Irons’ era. After that, Slater was swapping titles with Mick Fanning in the years that followed. His last World Title came in 2011, and in 2016 he nabbed his 55th CT victory in Tahiti. But while his competitive legacy will likely never be touched, Slater is likely to be even more remembered for the wave pool technology that he and his team of engineers at Kelly Slater Wave Co. brought to life in 2015. The technology has the potential to reshape the surfing landscape for generations.

John John Florence is one of only five surfers in men’s Championship Tour history to clinch his first two World Titles in back-to-back fashion. Mark Richards, Tom Carroll, Tom Curren and the late Andy Irons are the only other members of that elite club. The mild-mannered prodigy from the North Shore of Oahu has been living in the public’s eye since the age of eight, when he first paddled out at Pipeline, his backyard break that just happens to be the most famous wave in the world. By 12 he’d mastered a wide variety of ocean conditions and his breadth of ocean knowledge was compounded by the nurturing of North Shore sages, giving Florence all the evolutionary tools needed to become the best surfer in the world. With their help, he navigated the pitfalls of early fame with humility, style and sweetness, and delivered under the heavy weight of high expectations. He remains, at his core, a performer first and foremost, with an insatiable appetite for progression. The only weakness in his surfing is making the impossible look too easy.

And while it took a few years for him to sync his style to the demands of the Championship Tour, today his love of the game is peaking. The process of pushing himself as a competitor, artist, and innovator is what drives him. His deep love of sailing is only enhancing his ocean knowledge, and his film projects are an ever-expanding creative side hustle. Yes, he’s hungry for more World Titles, but there’s also that other nagging hole in his record: The Billabong Pipe Masters crown. Twice before he’s had victory within his grasp with just seconds to go, and twice he’s lost it. In 2013 it was 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater who broke his heart. In 2017 Jeremy Flores did the trick. Fortunately, the second world title Florence earned earlier that day cushioned the blow.

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