Parkinson Rises To The Challenge

Friday, October 15, 2004 (Mundaka, Euskadi, Spain) Australian Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast) today rose to the challenge of pursuing this year’s world title during the Billabong Pro at Mundaka. The Foster’s men’s ASP World Championship Tournament (WCT) resumed with remaining third round heats, before quarterfinalists were decided this afternoon. The US$260,000 event is set to climax tomorrow.

Solid and stormy 6-8 ft (2.5m) surf greeted contestants. Great rides were on offer, including hollow barrels, and continued to improve throughout the day while heavy rain persisted.

Following the shock elimination of Kelly Slater (USA), CJ Hobgood (USA) and Nathan Hedge (AUS) yesterday, the race dramatically narrowed down with only Parkinson mathematically left in the hunt against reigning two-time world champ Andy Irons (Kauai, HAW). Needing to finish at least one place higher than the Kauaian here at Mundaka to keep his fight alive, ‘Parko’ eliminated Nathan Webster this morning and then upped the ante against another Australian, Richie Lovett, to storm into the quarterfinals.

Against Lovett, the 23-year-old emerged from an incredible backhand barrel to post the best single score of the Billabong Pro so far for a near-perfect 9.83. Combined with another 8.23, the current ratings #4 left his opponent a combination of rides behind, and clearly announced his intentions to battle Irons to the very end.

“I got a barrel I didn’t think I would make, admitted Parkinson. “I was in there, but a big curtain fell down and I just hung on… all of a sudden I was out (laughs). I was happy with the score for sure.

“I’ll just play my game and he’ll be doing the same thing for sure, he continued, of the situation with Irons. “I know it’s bad to say, but I’ve got to hope he loses. I’ll be there watching, but have to keep going myself. It’s only over when the fat lady sings and I’m not giving up. We’ll just have to see what unfolds. Good to be in the hunt still.

Irons also continued his charge towards a third consecutive world title with a commanding victory over good friend Cory Lopez (FL, USA), posting two 8.67 scores. Having already won two WCT events this season, the 26-year-old would obviously love nothing more than to claim another Billabong Pro title (after his first in 2002), and nail the world title in the process. He’ll face another Floridian, Damien Hobgood (FL, USA), in tomorrow’s second quarterfinal.

“That was a clutch heat right there, acknowledged Irons. “Cory surfs so good in those kind of conditions and I knew he was going to come out blazing. I was lucky to get my first wave and a good barrel. Then I built off it with another good one, and was in rhythm the whole time.

“I didn’t even know that, he responded, when told he could win the title if ‘Parko’ places any lower at Mundaka. “That would be crazy, and so cool to be able to go to Brazil and be able to relax, and then be in Hawaii with it all sewn up. But Joel is no slouch, so I wouldn’t expect him to get anything less than two nines in his heats. I’ll be watching.

Kalani Robb (HAW) literally put his arm into the last wave he caught against Mick Lowe (AUS) this morning to utilize a deep barrel. The Hawaiian emerged to score an 8.67 and take control of the heat, but dislocated his shoulder in the process and was rushed in by Jet Ski to seek attention from Billabong Pro sports physiotherapist Luke Pickett. The current ratings #26 had his left arm popped back into place, and despite tremendous pain, opted to compete against Luke Egan (AUS) in the day’s final heat. His opponent was too strong however, carving the big lefts for a quarterfinal showdown against Brazilian Peterson Rosa.

“Kalani’s been one of the form surfers of the contest, so it was unfortunate he did that to his shoulder this morning, offered Egan. “It was a courageous effort to still get out there and try to have a go. Thankfully he didn’t do more damage to it and will be able to compete in the remaaining events this year and re-qualify for next year. I’m feeling great though, and just hope the swell hangs around tomorrow.

Rosa continued his great European leg of the tour by defeating Shane Beschen (Haw, USA) today. The current ratings #16 maintained a slender lead, despite breaking a fin from his surfboard and being forced to grab a backup midway through. Tomorrow will mark his second consecutive quarterfinal berth from as many starts.

“I broke the fin and had to change my board to ride a 6’5, explained Rosa. “It still worked well, so I was happy. When Shane beat Kelly yesterday I saw a window open for me, and a chance to do good. I know Beschen is a really good surfer and I respect him a lot, but I saw the chance and went after it. This is my second good result in a row, so I’m stoked.

Tom Whitaker also reached the quarterfinals, eliminating fellow Australian Dean Morrison with two eight plus scores. The current ratings #33 made semifinals of the opening tournament this year, but has suffered poor results since and needed a strong finish at Mundaka to ensure his re-qualification for 2005. He’ll face another Aussie in Phil MacDonald tomorrow.

Billabong Pro Mundaka Round Three Heats (1st>Rnd4; 2nd=17th receives US$4,225)
H10: Peterson Rosa (BRA) 14.33 def. Pat O’Connell (USA) 8.36
H11: Luke Egan (AUS) 13.83 def. Neco Padaratz (BRA) 10.94
H12: Kalani Robb (HAW) 15.5 def. Michael Lowe (AUS) 14.17
H13: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.17 def. Nathan Webster (AUS) 7.4
H14: Richard Lovett (AUS) 15.74 def. Lee Winkler (AUS) 15.67
H15: Taj Burrow (AUS) 13.5 def. Troy Brooks (AUS) 11.5
H16: Daniel Wills (AUS) 16.43 def. Victor Ribas (BRA) 11.5

Round Four (1st>Quarterfinals; 2nd=9th receives US$5,000)
H1: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 16.67 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 12.5
H2: Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 14.97 def. Trent Munro (AUS) 7.0
H3: Damien Hobgood (USA) 13.16 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 6.4
H4: Andy Irons (HAW) 17.34 def. Cory Lopez (USA) 14.16
H5: Peterson Rosa (BRA) 13.33 def. Shane Beschen (USA) 10.16
H7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.06 def. Richard Lovett (AUS) 13.56
H8: Taj Burrow (AUS) 14.17 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 13.5
H6: Luke Egan (AUS) 14.23 def. Kalani Robb (HAW) 9.23

The Billabong Pro Mundaka is supported by prestigious co-sponsors such as Vans, Von Zipper, Hertz, Yamaha and Cobra Jet ski, as well as local companies and administrations such as Mundaka, the Mundaka Surf Club, The Basque Surfing Federation, Bakio and the Bakio Surf Club, BBK, Telefonica and the Basque Government.