Redemption was the word of the day at Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore as Australia's Joel Parkinson clinched his first world title, over Kelly Slater, in a dramatic shootout on the final day of the Billabong Pipe Masters.
Flash back to 2009, the last time the world title went down to the wire at Pipeline. After a phenomenal first half of the season, Joel looked unbeatable and built himself a giant lead over the field. Then he suffered an ankle injury while vacationing in Bali that opened the door for best friend Mick Fanning to go on a hot streak, which ended at Pipeline, where Joel saw the title slip through his fingers.
The scenario leading into this year's title race seemed eerily similar, with Joel holding a slim lead going into Hawaii. But today was different. As both contenders, Joel and Kelly, progressed to the quarterfinals, it became a heat-to-heat swing of momentum--as the first one to lose would lose the title. In the end it was Parko's countryman Josh Kerr who was able to halt Kelly's quest for the title by beating him in the second semifinal.
Joel would then go on to win the final over Kerr, marking his first Pipeline Masters trophy, and chairing him up the beach was none other than Mick Fanning. Consider this a friendship etched in stone--or a world title trophy.
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS FINAL RESULT:
1 - Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.17
2 - Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.83
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS SEMIFINALS RESULTS:
SF 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.30 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.63
SF 2: Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.13 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 4.90
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS QUARTERFINALS RESULTS:
QF 1: Damien Hobgood (USA) 9.83 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.17
QF 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 12.50 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 9.40
QF 3: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.00 def. Yadin Nicol (AUS) 12.17
QF 3: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.73 def. Shane Dorian (HAW) 18.20
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Damien Hobgood (USA) 8.23 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 3.26
Heat 2: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 13.94 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 8.00
Heat 3: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 13.00 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.00
Heat 4: Kelly Slater (USA) 19.27 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 10.66
BILLABONG PIPE MASTERS ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Heat 3: Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.57, Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.10, Kelly Slater (USA) 8.10
Heat 4: Shane Dorian (HAW) 6.53, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 5.83, Yadin Nicol (AUS) 4.23
2012 ASP WCT Top 5:
1 - Joel Parkinson (AUS) 58,700 pts
2 - Kelly Slater (USA) 55,450 pts
3 - Mick Fanning (AUS) 47,000 pts
4 - John John Florence (HAW) 44,350 pts
5 - Adriano de Souza (BRA) 42,350 pts
Fading swell and a couple a lei-days will greet the beginning of this year's Triple Crown of Surfing. Just enough time to take a look at the forecast and heat draws for the first two of the three back-to-back events, which represent the climax to an already exciting 2012 season.
Included in this year's draw are Kelly Slater and Dane Reynolds, two names we aren't accustomed to seeing in Hawaiian 4-man heats. Slater won two Triple Crowns early in his career, last in 1998, but has been absent from Haleiwa and Sunset for several years. After a seemingly uncomfortable performance at the last event in Santa Cruz, perhaps Kelly wants to go into the Pipe Masters fully dialed into the Hawaiian juice.
Dane has never taken a serious shot at the Triple Crown, but after some of his wildcard performances lately, maybe we'll see more of that competitive fire that's left now that he isn't on tour full-time.
Also worth noting, under new rules, any surfer in contention for the Triple Crown can be given a wildcard into the Pipe Masters. In the past it was just the highest-rated Hawaiian. This means that we could see some very interesting names get tossed into the draw that will decide this year's World Title.
Two names that are oddly absent from the Triple Crown draw are Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, the other two overall world title contenders along with Slater. Though Mick missed last year's Haleiwa event with a back injury, it's an event that neither surfer likes to miss. Joel has won three triple crowns, most recently in 2010, where he won both the Haleiwa event and the overall crown, despite losing the title to Mick that year--something that neither surfer has forgotten.
The forecast is looking good to get the 6-star Prime rated event under way as early as Thursday afternoon with an overhead pulse of NW swell scheduled to fill in. That storm may be followed by another, which would provide enough swell to finish off the event, but early indications aren't looking too big at this point. For the most part, this year's Haleiwa event is shaping up to be a small-wave battle with a bunch of qualifying points on the table.
Photo of Haleiwa courtesy of Reef, Photo of Joel Parkinson at Haleiwa courtesy ASP
A handful of shocking upsets marked the day Sunday at the Cold Water Classic in Santa Cruz, California, clarifying the overall world title picture just a bit.
The big news is that this year's title race will be decided in the final event of the season at Pipeline in Hawaii. By winning his round three heat over Dusty Payne, in which Payne very nearly stole the win with a lest second air-reverse, Kelly Slater assured that no matter how far Joel Parkinson goes in the contest, he will need to wait until Hawaii in December before hoisting any trophies.
But there was bad news for John John Florence, who is arguably the favorite at Pipeline, as he lost out today in round two to Matt Wilkinson, effectively ending the young Hawaiian's title hopes.
Mick Fanning was the big round three casualty, losing a controversial heat to Brazilian Jadson Andre. Mick appeared to have the heat sewn up, having priority and the lead with two minutes left. Fanning gave Andre a small wave in the dying moments, needing a 7.47. To Mick's horror, Jadson's backside turns were enough for a 7.5 and the victory. Mick will now need a miracle at Pipeline in order to claim his third world title.
Strong swell is expected to continue Monday, so look for competition to resume as early as 7 a.m. local time.
Photo of Joel Parkinson courtesy of ASP
It wasn't exactly "classic" Steamer Lane for day one of the O'Neill Cold Water Classic Thursday in Santa Cruz, California, but the head high lines bending into the point were enough for round one of the event to get under way.
The day could not have gone better for Joel Parkinson, the current ratings leader, who has an outside shot at clinching his first ever world title here in Santa Cruz. All four of the other world title contenders, Kelly Salter, Mick Fanning, John Florence, and Adriano de Souza, failed to advance out of round one, forcing them into the sudden-death round two, which could see a couple of these ponies drop out of the race. A round two loss for de Souza or Florence would end their title hopes.
Joel would still need to win the event in order to pop the champagne in California, otherwise the race will end in the final event of the year at Pipeline in December. With four of the highest seeds in danger of elimination, winning the event and the title may have just gotten a little bit easier for Joel.
The current pulse of swell could linger long enough for round two to be back on as soon as tomorrow, where Slater will face wildcard Jason "Ratboy" Collins in heat one.
O'NEILL COLDWATER CLASSIC ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Taylor Knox (USA) 12.80, Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.40, Alejo Muniz (BRA) 10.60
Heat 2: Kai Otton (AUS) 13.00, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 9.86, Jadson Andre (BRA) 8.60
Heat 3: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 13.16, Heitor Alves (BRA) 12.96, John John Florence (HAW) 7.00
Heat 4: Dusty Payne (HAW) 15.30, Mick Fanning (AUS) 14.94, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 12.93
Heat 5: Nat Young (USA) 12.17, Kelly Slater (USA) 10.00, Kolohe Andino (USA) 9.57
Heat 6: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.83, Damien Hobgood (USA) 11.40, Jason Collins (USA) 7.00
Heat 7: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.46, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.67, Brett Simpson (USA) 13.33
Heat 8: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 16.53, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 14.77, Adam Melling (AUS) 6.80
Heat 9: Yadin Nicol (AUS) 16.03, Owen Wright (AUS) 12.50, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 10.33
Heat 10: Michel Bourez (PYF) 14.70, Josh Kerr (AUS) 14.56, Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 11.40
Heat 11: Travis Logie (ZAF) 15.27, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.93, C.J. Hobgood (USA) 4.37
Heat 12: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 16.10, Tiago Pires (PRT) 15.67, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 11.93
O'NEILL COLDWATER CLASSIC ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Jason Collins (USA)
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Jadson Andre (BRA)
Heat 3: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 5: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Raoni Monteiro (BRA)
Heat 6: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Tiago Pires (PRT)
Heat 7: Josh Kerr (AUS) vs. Damien Hobgood (USA)
Heat 8: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Kolohe Andino (USA)
Heat 9: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 10: C.J. Hobgood (USA) vs. Heitor Alves (BRA)
Heat 11: Miguel Pupo (BRA) vs. Alejo Muniz (BRA)
Heat 12: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Dane Reynolds is back in the bright lights of the ASP World Tour in France, and the world's best part-time competitor is feeling right at home at the Quiksilver Pro thanks to La Graviere's punchy pits. The wave resembles a few that can be found near Reynold's Ventura, California, stomping grounds, so it's hardly surprising that Reynolds is ripping.
But a more welcome sight for Dane fans is the hunger he can't hide. Fact is, there's a lot of relevance riding on this Quik Pro performance. As much as we love to knock and mock contests, there's something undeniably irresistible about sending guys out in perfect pits for a half-hour and saying, "Show me what you can do."
Frankly, these days, it's the only real "on demand" content that counts. Why? Because there's something real riding on it: pride, peer pressure, and performances that count for something. And for Dane, who's chosen to lower his profile by walking away from full-time competition, each at bat he gets on this stage carries added significance.
Fact is, no blog, magazine, or webisode series can replace the large audience of the ASP World Tour, and Dane's multi-million dollar salary demands a steady, healthy-size audience. Should Reynolds clinch his first tour win in France, it'll be a complete validation of his career path, one that will keep the budgetary sharks at bay for at least a couple of months.
If he falls short, however, the boardroom discussions may get interesting.
There's arguably no better place for Dane than Hossegor. His powerful approach is perfectly suited to the conditions. And on Thursday fans were treated to one of the best ASP shows of the entire year, thanks to the likes of Dane, John John Florence, Joel Parkinson and Kelly Slater; each of whom represents a separate surfing era.
The Final Four at the Quik Pro France is the best collection of talent we could ask for. Shit, it's every surf fans' wet dream. And luckily for us, whether these guys want to admit it or not, they each have something huge at stake:
1.) Dane wants people to think he can still kick ass without caring.
2.) John John is trying to become the youngest world champion in history.
3.) Parko wants the world title monkey off his back after four runner-up runs.
4.) And Kelly, beyond just staying in the race, is trying to slay his French demons, for he hasn't won there since he had a full head of hair, and that was about seven world titles ago.
Don't be fooled, they all want this one.