In what’s become known as the crown-jewel of surfing, the Billabong Pipe Masters is one of the most highly anticipated surfing events in the world. Not only does it gather the top surfing pros from around the globe and industry elite, but the location, the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, is known to produce massive swells every December creating prime opportunities for photographers and fans to watch high-quality surfing action close-up.
On Friday, December 14, Joel Parkinson (AUS), 31, claimed his maiden ASP World Title at the final stop of the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour by winning the Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons. The Billabong Pipe Masters was the third and final leg of the Hawaiian Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series.
Only Parkinson and reigning 11-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 40, were in contention for the world title heading into the final day. Parkinson needed to finish one position higher to claim the title that has eluded him for the past 12 years. With Slater’s loss to Josh Kerr (AUS), 28, in the semi-final, Parkinson’s dream became reality. Parkinson went on to beat Kerr in the final.
“Consistency paid off,” Parkinson said. “This is where I wanted to stand at the end of the year. This is what I’ve worked for my whole life. I can’t describe what this feels like. I’ve had runner-ups and ups-and-downs. I’ve been to hell and back and it makes this so much sweeter. All the love from Hawaii and Australia and over the world, I can’t thank you all enough for supporting me.
“Right now, Pipe Master, World Title, it’s all surreal,” Parkinson said. “I figured it was going to be a pressure cooker like a few years ago. I knew there was nothing I could do about it. It was about what I had to do, not about what he had to do. I thought, surely he (Slater) has got to peak because he had that heat with Shane (Dorian) and I knew Kerr is a danger man for him. When Kerr got that one, I felt like I was going to physically throw up. I couldn’t control my emotions at that point.
“One day you wake up feeling good the next day you wake up feeling like a loser. This morning I felt like a Champion when I woke up. Like Andy (Irons) always said ‘I got this, huh?’ I dedicate this to my family, Dad who used to take me to contests when I was 10, my wife and my mom and kids, this is all for us,” said Parkinson.
Parkinson has been the world title bridesmaid four times (2002, 2004, 2009, 2011). His Billabong Pipe Masters victory is his 11th elite event win over the course of his career, and by clinching the ASP World Title has established himself as one of the greatest surfers of all time.
Slater was reflective following his Semifinal defeat and gracious in honoring Parkinson on stage in front of a capacity crowd at the Banzai Pipeline.
“I missed Brazil because I had a cut in my heel and couldn’t really turn,” Slater said. “I figured I’d just rest up and get focused. Probably the one that hurt the worst was Teahupo’o. I made two or three mistakes in a row and Ricardo (dos Santos) got a 9.8 with seven seconds left. I had a bad string over the last few months. It kind of fell apart after France. Portugal was a tough one and Santa Cruz, I was just real wobbly.
“For whatever reason, the momentum went in Parko’s direction. It was cool that it came down to this, it would have been cooler to have it come down to the Final. Joel’s been on tour for 10 or 11 years now and been in the hunt ever since he started. He’s an amazing surfer. He’s just the guy that makes it look easy. He can pull whatever out when he needs to,” said Slater.
Josh Kerr battled his way to a career first ASP WCT Final. The Australian suffered a heavy wipeout in his round four heat with Slater and Gabriel Medina (BRA), resulting in a brief trip to the hospital. After medical clearance, Kerr overcame the setback to take it all the way to the final.
“It’s been a hectic day,” Kerr said. “My first heat, I’ve been having nerve damage in my neck and my left side went numb when I fell. I had to get an x-ray and made it back for my next heat and made it through to the final. Congrats to Parko as well. I’ll be back next year and hopefully one place better.”
Damien Hobgood (USA), 33, eliminated defending event champion Kieren Perrow (AUS), 35, while attaining his best result of his season. Hobgood was a standout at both Pipeline and Backdoor, but was unable to surpass Parkinson in their Semifinals matchup, finishing equal 3rd.
“I was just thinking if I saw something that looks decent, give it a go,” Hobgood said after his Round 5 victory. “I wanted to try and build a couple of scores and I took one and was paddling out and saw Kieren (Perrow) get one. I could have given Kieren a 10 and that would have been the heat. I just tried to get some scores and not give him a bomb.”
SPECIALTY AWARDS: John John Florence (HAW) – 2012 ASP Rookie of the Year. John John Florence (HAW) – Hawaiian Airlines Airshow Winner – best aerial of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series. Awarded earlier: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) – 2012 Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing sponsors include: vitaminwater; Billabong; Reef; Nixon; Skullcandy; GoPro; Turtle Bay Resort; Clif Bar; Mauli Ola Foundation; wavejet; the Association of Surfing Professionals; JN Automotive Group; Hawaii Tourism Authority; Oahu Visitors Bureau; Surfline.com; Surfing Magazine; Hawaiian Airlines; truth®; Oceanic Time Warner Cable.