Five days before the 2022 WSL season began, Gabriel Medina announced that he’d be taking an indefinite leave from competitive surfing.
In an Instagram post, he laid out the following:
The past few months have been a difficult time for me personally and it has taken a toll. As such, I’ve decided to withdraw from the start of the 2022 WSL Championship Tour.
I had every intention of competing for the full season, had made all the preparations medically (I took my Covid vaccination during my holidays) and mentally and physically, but I’m not in a place where I believe I can perform against the world’s best surfers right now and I need to focus on my well-being. I don’t know how long it will take, but I aim to return to the Championship Tour as soon as I am ready.
However, the Portuguese version of the caption revealed a bit more. He said he’d been dealing with a slight hip injury that he’s been treating since the end of last year. He also specifically said that he wouldn’t be traveling to Hawaii — which seemed logical, seeing as the first two events of the season were there.
However, it’s a bit strange that he singled Hawaii out. Especially now that the Pipe and Sunset are behind us.
Much of the Stab staff was on the North Shore when the news broke. Rumors swirled in the days leading up to Pipe and, from what we heard, it sounded like Medina’s decision was made at the last minute. We also heard that he was nursing a shoulder injury on top of the hip, though we were unable to confirm it.
But will the Hawaii events be the only ones he’ll miss this year?
Last week, Gabriel posted a training video — an interesting move for someone meant to be taking time off. Fellow CT surfer Miguel Pupo even commented, “Let’s go! We are waiting for you.” [translated] And now, the real juice: We’re told that he’s ordered a batch of boards from his shaper, Johnny Cabianca, with the intent to return to competitive surfing.
Let’s consider what that might look like.
The waiting period for the Meo Portugal Pro starts on March 3, one week from Thursday. Cabianca is based in Zarautz, Spain [Basque Country], about 8 hours from where the Portugal event will take place. It’s not impossible to get boards there in time.
Gabe’s had limited success in Portugal, at least by his standards. He’s had one 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and then a bunch of 13ths and 9ths. Relative to other tour venues, it’s the location with Medina’s second-lowest average heat total (12.74), but that could be attributed more to the hit-or-miss nature of the wave than to bad juju.
I reached out to the WSL to confirm or deny Gabe’s triumphant return to competition and, coy as always, Chief Brand Officer Dave Prodan neither confirmed nor denied, just started texting me about some round nose fish. Anyway…
If he doesn’t show up to Peniche, we’d be looking at a return to competition for the Australian leg, which starts on April 10 at Bells Beach before heading to Margaret River on April 24. Although it would allow Gabriel plenty of time to tune-up, it’d be quite a risk. Margaret River is his worst long-time location on tour in terms of both heat average and results. With the re-jigged WSL system, surfers will now keep their best 4 out of 5 results before the mid-year slice and then every result after.
Two big results would likely put Gabe in a position to qualify for the back half of 2022. However, it’d be tough to climb to the top 5, and even tougher to put himself in a position to win a World Title — remember, both top seeds won the Final last year. So, the sooner, the better for a title run.
If Gabe has proved anything, it’s that he can prove anyone’s assumptions wrong. And it sounds like he might just have more of that to prove.
The post Educated Guess: Gabriel Medina Is About To Return To Competition appeared first on Stab Mag.