The Rivalry 2019: Why The World Surf League Could Get Interesting This Year
by Ross Cauvel
Did it feel like something (or someone) was missing in 2018? With John John Florence taking an injury year, fans were denied the true clash that epitomizes modern professional surfing. Instead, we clapped like mindless monkeys with cymbals, as Gabriel Medina padded his stats on his way to another World Tour Title—without the pesky presence of the world’s most explosive surfer.
But will 2019 be different? Will we witness the rivalry we deserve? Because if you break it down by numbers, you’ll notice something extraordinary has coalesced. Two colossal titans have emerged. And they’re about to do battle. Here’s why you should care.
A Fully Baked Rivalry
Like any great lasagna, a rivalry gets better once the flavors congeal. So here’s a taste at how Medina and Florence have performed thus far.
Since 2014, Florence and Medina have matched up 12x. Medina has won 9x. Florence has won 3x.
Head-to-head, Medina gets the nod. But that’s scratching the surface. Ask any World Series champ what game matters the most—the whole thing.
Florence won two titles (back-to-back). Medina won two titles (one without JJF on tour). This one’s a tie.
But what about surfing consistency at the highest level? A look at Finals Appearances shows 16 Medina vs. 10 Florence. And Event Wins, 10 Medina vs. 4 Florence.
Medina has more consistent results. And with Florence’s 2018 sabbatical, Medina jumped ahead. There’s no question that Medina is more consistent. But let me ask you this: is consistency what makes surfing interesting? Or does unpredictability?
Which is another reason this rivalry fascinates—it’s a stylistic matchup.
Stylistic Matchup: Raw Talent vs. Magnetic Innovation
Medina is a machine. Even when he starts the year poorly, he heats up. At any moment, he can turn on for multiple contests. His bag of tricks is vast and he stomps them (backflip, backside tubes, 540’s). He made the Finals at Cloudbreak in 2012 against the GOAT (Ke11y Slater) when it was his first time surfing that wave!
But don’t sleep on Florence. He didn’t adapt to powerful waves—he was born into them. He innovated the sport by fitting carves into perfect pocket of waves (Margaret River 2017)—reimagining classic maneuvers. He senses what a wave will do and blasts sections (Keramas 2013)—something you can’t teach.
Which all translates to Florence averaging more scores in the excellent range. For Average Heat Score, Florence gets the nod. 14.84 Florence vs. 14.08 Medina*. Here’s another one, Heats With Scores Above 16: 99 Florence vs. 70 Medina*.
Repping Two Different Country Codes
Two regions on the world. Two cultures. It’s like the Hunger Games—tributes are sent from each district to eliminate each other. Each surfer represents the best of their country. Effusing its soul. Embodying its surf breaks. And mentality. Florence is more laid back and in tune with his surrounds. Medina is driven and forces his will upon any section in front of him. Which will get the result?
These two have some unfinished business. And 2019 will be another chapter to their story—hopefully. Already rumors have spun about Florence dropping out of Snapper Rocks and that the sand bank is lackluster this year. The forecast is uninspiring, but that’s part of the game.
With eleven ocean events and one machine event, the answers will come. Or else, someone may actually need to script this.
How does the Medina/Florence stack up? Is it on the level of Slater/Irons, Parko/Fanning, Occy/Curren?
Also, don’t forget to set your Fantasy Surf lineup before, April 2nd (in the US) at Surfer Magazine. The tour begins at Snapper Rocks, Gold Coast, Australia on April 3rd.