In one of the most thrilling ASP World Tour title finishes in history, Australian Joel Parkinson, 32, held off his 2012 arch rival, Kelly Slater, by winning the coveted Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons, the third stop of the Vans Triple Crown of surfing, to claim his first ASP World Tour Championship.
Parkinson came into today’s final as the ASP points leader, with Slater trailing close behind in the number 2 spot – a scenario that pitted each in a must win position. Whoever made it further along in today’s event would be World Champ.
Battling through to the early rounds, both Slater and Parkinson would not be denied.
The first semi final heat between Parkinson and Floridian Damien Hobgood, 33, turned out to be a battle. Hobgood scored a big right-hander and then an excellent left hand barrel for a combined score of 14.63 but it wasn’t enough to hold off Parkinson, who scored two excellent backdoor right breaking barrels for a total score of 17.30 of 20 to catapult him into the final.
In semi-final number two, Australian Josh Kerr, 28, came out strong with a 9.2 in the opening minutes, which immediately put the pressure on Slater. Slater then spent the remaining 20 minutes taking a number of waves, but could not find a solid score, maxing out with a 4.9. As the clock ticked to zero crowds gathered around Parkinson on the beach as it became evident he would be crowned the 2012 Champion.
Doused in champagne on the top of the podium and holding back tears, Parkinson thanked his father, family and friends for supporting his lifelong long quest to win his first world title.
“This is where I wanted to stand at the end of the year. It’s what I worked for. I can’t describe what this feels like. I’ve had a bunch of runner-ups, and some ups and downs and some injuries, been through hell and back. The amount of support I got through #goparko thing was huge, so thank you so much.
For the ever-competitive Slater, not making the final to take Parko head on was a clear disappointment.
“It would’ve been nice to battle it out in the final, but I told him I’m happy for him. He’s been on the tour for 10-11 years and he’s always been right there. Parko is an amazing surfer; he’s just so smooth and makes it look easy. He charges big waves…he’s great.
The story did not end there, however. The final round of the contest pitted Parkinson versus fellow Australian Josh Kerr, who defeated Slater in the semi-finals. In yet another tit-for-tat 35-minute heat, Parkinson and Kerr traded multiple powerful barreling waves in front of the massive beach-front crowd. Leading Kerr by a score of 17.17 to 14.83, Kerr, who had taken a trip the hospital earlier in the day to investigate a neck strain, had one last wave with 30 seconds to go but fell on the takeoff, sealing Parkinson’s first Pipe Masters victory.
“It’s a surreal feeling. I have to pinch myself.” Parko exclaimed. “I don’t know who sent me those waves in the final, but thanks to Andy (Irons). I felt like he was a part of me today. No matter what anyone ever does at pipe it won’t compare to what he’s down out here, so cheers to Andy.”
– James Sullivan