Gabriel Medina has not recovered from the knee injury he suffered in Brazil and has withdrawn from the Tahiti Pro. The WSL announced today that Nathan Hedge , who spent ten years competing on the CT in the early 2000’s, has taken his spot as a wildcard. Nathan retired from the tour in 2014, citing a need for a physical and mental change.
Hedgey has had quite the transformation since his CT days as a well-known party boy. He quit drinking several years ago, became a qualified yoga instructor, a dad, and a business owner. He has also worked in pubs and on the docks at various times over the last eight years. Nathan’s presently an ambassador for Kelly’s brand Outerknown who are sponsoring the event, which we assume is how he received the wildcard.
The competitive drive is still boiling in Nathan’s blood, as was made evident when he finished runner-up in this year’s Surfest Newcastle event. Hedgey is in a solid position to qualify for the challenger series and is hell-bent on making it back on tour. He was one of the fittest surfers on tour and looks to be in the best shape of his career with his evolved lifestyle.
This event could be the start of a classic comeback story for the former star of the Rip Curl Search who sees age as no obstacle. The goofy-footer is fearless when it comes to thick left barrels and will be confident after his previous performances at the event. Hedgey’s ten-point ride in 2014 at Chopes is still a memorable one.
To make it even more sentimental, the Tahiti pro was the last CT event Nathan competed in and guess who he was eliminated by? Gabriel Medina. Woah, that’s some serious surf nerd stuff right there.
Hedgey will be a tough match-up, a definite candidate to play spoiler for the competitors who need to do well at Tahiti to make the top five. However, Nathan will have to be tuned-in from the outset, as he takes on Jack Robinson and Barron Mamiya in heat three of round one.
Other wildcards announced so far include Yago Dora who took Kolohe Andino’s spot due to brother having his exostosis drilled aka surfer’s ear surgery. While recent standout at Teahupo’o Vahine Fierro received the local wildcard. Read more about the women’s wildcard from our feature of Vahine from Issue 578!