Endless early morning alarms and countless hours in the ocean finally paid off for Joel Parkinson, 31, who captured his first world title in a storybook showdown on Hawaii’s North Shore today.
The 2012 Billabong Pipeline Masters was an event with a lot on the line. Not only was it the last event of the famed Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, but the World Title was yet to be decided.
Cue excitement, tension and elation.
Parkinson, a Gold Coast native, was fighting to almost the last wave of the season to separate himself from 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. With minutes left in the first semifinal, Parkinson mounted a comeback to make the final and more importantly put the pressure on Slater.
In ever-shifting conditions, Kelly's loss in Round 4 edged the trophy closer to Parko, only for the American to steal it back with two massive heats in Round 5 and the quarterfinals. However, It was not meant to be for Slater, who ended an inconsistent season with fittingly an inconsistent day.
In the second semifinal, Slater failed to chase down an 8.14 ride to topple Josh Kerr. Kerr's upset gifted Parko his elusive dream and the title of 2012 ASP World Champ.
“When Kerr got that one, I felt like I was going to physically throw up. I couldn’t control my emotions at that point," said Parkinson.
In what proved to truly be a day of firsts, Parkinson’s World Championship culminated with his first ever Pipeline Masters victory. With little time to celebrate, Parkinson paddled out in the final defeating Kerr with a 17.17 two wave total.
Promptly ending concern of winning a world title without an actual WCT win.
Parkinson, elated in disbelief, 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.”
His season could easily be defined in one word—consistent. A ninth-place finish at the Volcom Fiji Pro was incredibly his worst outing. Three second and three third-place results were the crucial results that propelled him into first place in the title race heading to the iconic North Shore break.
Slater took a completely different route to world title contention. His season suffered from injury and uncharacteristic exits.
But surf fans alike have been spoilt by the longevity of Slater’s career.
As retirement rumors swirl, hope lingers that this will not be his farewell tour and that he will continue to paddle out into the sunset.
The entire Billabong Pipeline Masters on-demand can be found here.