Brazilian World Champ Gabriel Medina has been with his shaper, Johnny Cabianca of Pukas Surfboards, since 2008. A lot has changed since the two first began working together: There’s Medina’s World Title, but also his physical growth and evolving needs from his gear. Cabianca carved out some time to talk about what the journey with Medina has been like.
World Surf League: How has Medina grown, both as a surfer and person, since you first started shaping for him in 2008?
Johnny Cabianca: Everyone could see Gabriel was a really talented kid when he was 14 years old. He was winning important events like the King of the Grommets in Hossegor in 2009. That time he was surfing without calculating anything during heats, he was just constantly pushing his limits. He was reading the waves completely different than now, but already back then his style was to catch many waves and to do unexpected moves. By being on Tour and surfing so many different good waves, his style got a lot nicer and he puts much more power in simple maneuvers.
As a person he has grown a lot, with all the traveling and the media around he was probably growing up faster than a regular teenager. I think for the outside world (outside Brazil…) the perception changed a lot since Gabriel’s English is getting better and better. He is still the same kid, super friendly and family oriented, loyal to all his old friends, but of course more mature in life and in heats.
WSL: Do you think Gabriel modeled his style after any of his predecessors?
JC: I believe Gabriel learned a lot watching the older guys that are still on tour like Kelly (Slater), Joel (Parkinson) or Mick (Fanning). To me his style can’t be compared with any of his predecessors. The new generation has too different a way of surfing, combining aerials and classic lines.
WSL: How has his board preference changed over the years?
JC: His favorite board has kept the same rocker combination. For sure the foil, volume, areas and rails have changed a lot, but mainly because he is growing up, not because of different preferences. From 2012 until now his boards needed a lot of adaptations to the area and volume to match his body weight and surf style.
WSL: What’s the most difficult part about shaping for Gabriel? What’s the best part about shaping for him?
JC: The hardest is to keep the boards matching his changing body, he is still growing and getting more powerful. His back foot becomes stronger and stronger.
The best thing in working with Gabriel is the trust he has in my work. It seems like we almost always find the right measurements to make him feel good. Just by touching the new boards, he knows instinctively which ones will work and sometimes uses them first try in a heat and it works.
WSL: As you look towards the upcoming season, is there anything you and Gabriel have discussed about changing in his quiver?
JC: There is still some time until the new season starts going. What we work on this week is just the new visual of his boards, new logo positions. That’s probably not something you expect a shaper to be involved in, but we’re trying to find a way to make it look nicer.
For 2015, Charles [Serrano, Medina’s stepfather] and I want to find a better way of organizing the quivers for the different Tour stops. Boards will be done and packed for every single stop separately.
WSL: After winning a World Title, where do you hope Gabriel’s surfing progresses next?
JC: I hope the happiness he felt winning this title gave him confidence and motivation to keep striving for the best.
WSL: Can you reveal anything about how Medina and his family have celebrated his win?
JC: [The other day] they organized a nice BBQ at Gabriel’s house to make Charles eat meat for the first time in about 30 years; one of the three promises he made in case Gabriel won the title…[Next] he gets a tattoo!
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