This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.
Every heat is history.
While the WSL has been jamming that phrase down our throats all damn year, with Italo Ferreira’s win over Gabriel Medina in the final of the Billabong Pipeline Masters on Thrusday in inconsistent (albeit occasionally pumping) 4- to 6-foot Pipe, it finally rang true.
Knowing he had a lot of pre-event work to do if he was going to beat Medina at Pipe—last year’s Pipe/world champ—Ferreira showed up to Hawaii over a month ago, posting up in the oceanfront master bedroom of the Billabong house, surfing out front three times every day. He also enlisted the help of Shane Dorian, who in turn asked Jamie O’Brien to give Ferreira some tips of his own. Talk about having the right people in your corner.
The hard yards paid dividends. For the first time in his career, Ferreira looked comfortable at Pipe. Like he belonged. Ferreira had an unmistakable rhythm with the ocean, elevating his performance heat after heat, taking down Peterson Crisanto, Yago Dora and Kelly Slater en route to the final, with his tie-dyed T-Shirt-clad support crew, including O’Brien, cheering him on from the water’s edge throughout the day.
After beating Slater in the semis, with one eye still on the ocean, Ferreira had this to say to Rosy Hodge in his post-heat interview: “I love this game, and I know how to play it. Just one more. Let’s do it.”
The last time the world title was decided in the final at Pipeline was 2003, when Andy Irons beat Slater to claim his second world title. It’s the storybook finish the WSL can’t script (though they would if they could). It’s truly remarkable that the top two surfers on the rankings heading into the final event of the year powered through all of Pipe’s unpredictability to meet up in the final. With everything on the line.
In the first ten seconds of the final Ferreira out-Medina’ed Medina, scrapping for the inside position at Backdoor, and getting blown out of the tube for a 7.83. He never looked back. From that point forward it truly felt like Pipe picked Ferreira, despite a hard-fought battle until the very end.
It was, actually, a historical heat. And that’s not hyperbole. Finally.
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