Australian surfer Joel Parkinson, 31, enjoyed a magical day Friday, when in the span of about an hour, he captured the first ASP World Tour title of his storied career and then concluded a day of inspiring surfing by defeating Josh Kerr in a final round heat to win his first Pipeline Masters title.
Parkinson has long been the bridesmaid of professional surfing. In 11 years on tour he has finished as the first runner-up to the world title four times. This year he arrived on the North Shore of Oahu for the finale of the World Tour season with a slight points lead over 11-time world champ Kelly Slater.
While Slater had taken home three first place finishes this year, it was Parkinson's incredible consistency -- he collected a handful of second places and never finished worse than ninth all year -- that gave him an edge in the World Tour standings.
Prior to the contest, the ASP released a number of championship scenarios, but surf fans were praying that a final round match up between the two titans would decide the title.
While the first two days of the contest were held in magnificent waves, howling trade winds made Friday's proceedings rather challenging. Slater struggled from the start.
He kicked off the day with a three man, non-elimination heat against 18-year old Brazilian phenom Gabrile Medina and Austrialian standout Josh Kerr. Slater came in third in the heat. He appeared out of sync, even sluggish, and finished the heat with a two wave combined score of only 8.
Following the heat he returned to his house for a shower and a brief nap and returned for his round 5 heat agains Miguel Pupo like a man possessed. Slater disposed of Pupo easily, posting a two wave total of 19.27 compared to Pupo's 10.66.
Unfortunately, Slater peaked in his quarter-final heat, far and away the most electrifying heat of the day, against his long time friend and Pipe expert Shane Dorian.
Both men completed a handful of improbable tube rides. Slater scored big in the early minutes of the heat and then managed to somehow hold off the hard charging Dorian. Slater, though, was stymied in the semi-final by Kerr.
Earlier in the day Kerr was taken to a nearby hospital for X-rays on his neck and his return was in question. Kerr kicked off the semi-final round with a huge score, a 9.20 on a right hand barrel. Slater, on the other hand was unable to complete a ride, and managed a measly two wave score of 4.90.
Meanwhile, Parkinson blasted through a tough field, taking down 2001 World Champ C.J. Hobgood in the quarters and then Hobgood's twin brother, Damien in the semis. With his win in the semi-final round and Slater's loss, Parkinson captured the world crown. Friends carried him along the beach, to a stage where he took a few celebratory swigs of champagne from the ASP cup.
"I felt like a champ today when I woke up," Parkinson said after his win. "I've not won an event this year, but this is where I wanted to stand at the end of the year. I can't describe what this feels like. It's everything you dream of."
His celebration, though, was interrupted by a thrilling final-round heat against Kerr. Kerr, once again took an early lead, pig-dogging his way through a screaming left hander for a solid seven. After his first score, Kerr surfed aggressively, dropping into one wave after the next.
Parkinson, meanwhile, took it slow. He picked up his first score roughly half-way through the heat, picking off a perfect right hander for a near perfect 9.0 to take the lead in the heat.
Ten minutes later, Parkinson and Kerr traded waves.
Kerr went first dropping into a spinning left handed barrel and fighting his way through a mountail of foam. Seconds later, Parkinson took off late and behind the peak of a big one. The wave looked like a left hander, but Parkinson went right, tucking deep into the barrel. When he flew out of the cavern he threw his hands up in celebration.
Victorious, Parkinson was carried up the beach by his close friends Makua Rothman and Mick Fanning. Up on the podium Parkinson was presented with the Pipeline Masters trophy and a gorgeous cobalt blue single fin shaped by Mr. Pipeline, Jerry Lopez.
"It's a surreal feeling," Parkinson told the crowd. "I have to pinch myself. It doesn't feel like it's over. I feel like I have to man up and surf another heat. But that's it. It's over and done."
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