Australia couldn’t have asked for more. The 50th anniversary of pro surfing at Bells Beach saw two of the Lucky Country’s favorite sons, Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, rip their way into an epic final clash in solid 8-foot surf. With her best dress on for most of the day, Bells drew a record crowd for the occasion.
Fanning and Parkinson were undoubtedly the best surfers of the entire week, consistently reaching peak levels of performance. Fanning’s seamless weaving, sticking and moving was all done in hyperdrive. His velocity made the rest of the field seemed to be moving in slow motion, save for, of course, Joel Parkinson.
Parko’s artistry on the big Bells canvas was pure beauty as he torqued his way through round after round with stunning rail work.
It was perhaps fitting that as the two paddled out for their final clash they had to make their way past a wide spectrum of Bells legends, including: Terry Fitzgerald, Simon Anderson, Mark Occhilupo, Martin Potter and Kelly Slater, each who thrilled the crowd between the semis and finals.
Whether it was serendipity or not, surfing fans in Torquay were rewarded for their devotion to this event. That said, a few late comers did get locked out of the gate. For the first time ever the crowd at Bells reached capacity and they had to close the entire park.
Fanning was hoping to ring the Bells’ trophy for the first time since 2001, when he won this hallowed event as a wild card. Parko, meanwhile, has two bells at home, one from 2009 and another from 2004. opened the final with an 8.53, and Mick had a rare falter on the end bowl trying to force a closeout lipper into a messy lip.
As the conditions finally fell apart in the final with some bumps on the face, Fanning was the first to show cracks in the armor. While conditions were clean, Fanning had no use for his shock absorbers, but the same approach suddenly didn’t work as the wind came up.
Joel, meanwhile, seemed better prepared for the afternoon lumps and bumps. His foam climbing and rebounding was better fit for what was plaguing the lineup. “I was hoping he wasn’t noticing what was happening,” said Parko afterward. “He [Mick] was the most in form surfer of the event. Luckily for me he kind of fell out of rhythm.”
Nevertheless, Fanning put himself within striking distance in the closing minutes, needing an 8.21. Mick did his best to lure Joel into a wave in the closing seconds, and he did, right into a 10 point ride that saw Parko pull into a rare Bells tube right as the buzzer rang.
The two mates embraced as they hit the beach, then Mick took Joel’s left leg as he was chaired up the beach.
“This year’s bell is like a gold-plated one,” said Parko, directly after the final. “I can’t wait to ring it.”
Props to Joel, Mick and Bells…all three were golden.