Gabriel Medina
Damien Poullenot/ASP/Getty Images
By Nelson Rice
December 09, 2014

After 10 events, the ASP World Champion title race will be decided at the tour’s final stop—and mecca of the sport: the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Oahu, Hawaii.

It’s becoming a trend. This is the third consecutive year in which the world champ is not crowned until Pipe. In 2012 Joel Parkinson, a four-time runner up on the world tour, finally broke through with a win at the Pipe Masters and claimed his first ASP World Title. Last year, Mick Fanning advanced to the semifinals of the Pipe Masters and earned his third world title. The surfer on the losing end both years needs no introduction—Kelly Slater.

Slater once again is near the top of the standings heading into Hawaii. But with no wins on this year’s tour (yet), the 11-time world champ finds himself behind Gabriel Medina and Mick Fanning in the rankings. 

Fanning has continued his winning ways from 2013. He has finished first in three events this season (Bells Beach, Jeffreys Bay and Portugal). The victory in Portugal, cobined as it was with a third-round exit by Medina, has Fanning eyeing a feat that only four surfers (including Slater) have accomplished. Win at least four world titles.

Kirstin Sholtz/ASP/Getty Images

But in his way is Medina, the current points leader. Medina is at the forefront of a group of younger surfers, including John John Florence, Kolohe Andino and Nat Young, who are looking to take down the same tour veterans they idolized when they started surfing. Slater won his first world title in 1992—the year before Medina was born.

Yet this year, Medina has been the one to beat.  He has matched Fanning’s total with three event wins (Gold Coast, Fiji and Tahiti) and has held the top spot in the title race after every event except the Billabong Rio Pro in early May. 

But while the 20-year-old from Maresias, Brazil, still possesses a substantial lead going into the Pipe Masters, the championship is far from settled. “I’m gonna plead the fifth,” said big wave world champion and ASP commentator Pete Mel on the title race preview show. “I think all three competitors can do this and it’s just going to be a matter of what the waves do.”

Ed Sloane/ASP/Getty Images

The points breakdown for the three surfers who still have a chance to win the world title looks like this:

  1. Gabriel Medina: 56,550
  2. Mick Fanning: 53,100
  3. Kelly Slater: 50,050

So what does each contender need to win? Here’s what you need to know:

The title is Medina’s to lose.
If Medina can navigate his way through the barrels at Backdoor and Pipe to reach the final, then he’s the champ. It won’t matter what place Fanning or Slater finish.
Kelly needs a win ... and some help.
Slater is the longest shot to take the crown. He has to win the event and then hope that Medina doesn’t advance out of the third round and that Fanning fails to make the semifinals. So can you count out the 11-time world champ? Never. Slater’s record seven Pipe titles are all the proof the 42-year-old needs to suggest that he can do it again.
Surf off?
No, this isn’t a Zoolander sequel. It’s the most exciting scenario that could unfold at Pipe. If Medina ends up with a Round 2 or 3 result and Fanning bows out in the Quarterfinals (an equal 5th place finish) then the two will be tied atop the standings. The solution? More surfing. Here’s how the ASP envisions a possible surf-off: “The ideal scenario is to hold three heats, 30 minutes each, in a best-of-three surf-off. There would be 20-minute breaks between the heats for a total time of two hours and 10 minutes if all three heats are needed.” However, if the conditions don’t accommodate this format then Medina and Fanning would go head-to-head in a single 35-minute heat. This alternate surf-off format was used once before and also featured a Brazilian and an Australian. Caio Ibelli (BRA) defeated Garrett Parkes (AUS) to claim the World Junior Title in 2011 at the Billabong World Junior Championship at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast.
Kirstin Sholtz/ASP/Getty Images

To see all the possible scenarios take a look at the chart below:

If Media finishes... 25th-13th 9th 5th-3rd 2nd-1st
Fanning must finish... 3rd* 2nd 1st Out
Slater must finish... 1st Out Out Out

*If Fanning finishes 5th, he will force a surf off vs. Medina. Information courtesy of ASP.

2014 Billabong Pipe Masters First Round Heat Draw:

Heat 1: Joel Parkinson, Julian Wilson, Glenn Hall

Heat 2: Michel Bourez, Sebastian Zietz, Raoni Monteiro

Heat 3: John John Florence, Matt Wilkinson, Mitch Coleborn

Heat 4: Kelly Slater, Adam Melling, Dusty Payne

Heat 5: Mick Fanning, Aritz Aranburu, Wildcard (TBA)

Heat 6: Gabriel Medina, Dion Atkinson, Wildcard (TBA)

Heat 7: Jordy Smith, Jadson Andre, Jeremy Flores

Heat 8: Kolohe Andino, Fred Patacchia, Travis Logie

Heat 9: Josh Kerr, Kai Otton, Brett Simpson

Heat 10: Owen Wright, Adrian Buchan, Mitch Crews

Heat 11: Nat Young, Filipe Toledo, Alejo Muniz

Heat 12: Bede Durbidge, Miguel Pupo, Tiago Pires

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