Sunday June 22, 2003 (Niijima Island, Japan) Semifinalists were today decided in the Niijima Quiksilver Pro. The US$250,000 World Championship Tournament (WCT) again relocated to ‘Secret Point’, with round four and then quarterfinals unfolding before a strong beach crowd. Organizers are confident the event will climax tomorrow.
Clean 2-3 ft (0.6-1m) surf remained on offer throughout the day. Despite an overnight decrease in swell, a Foster’s Expression kicked off the day’s surfing action and the world’s best made the small conditions appear perfect.
World #2 Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, Aus) posted the days highest scores en-route to his semifinal berth. Against former world #3 and fellow Australian Danny Wills in round four (Byron Bay), ‘Parko’ fought back with the best single score of the Niijima Quiksilver Pro for a 9.17 on his last wave. Then against Cory Lopez (FL, USA) in the quarterfinals, the 22-year-old bettered his score with a near-perfect 9.5 ride highlighted by an aerial maneuver at the end. While Lopez had landed an amazing aerial in round four, he wasn’t able to do likewise against Parkinson.
“It was the best wave to come through, so I had to make the most of it,” said Parkinson of his top-scoring ride. “I almost fell doing a little bottom turn, but I caught a rail and it ended up helping me out, so I was stoked. Into the semis now and a good result.
“Cory got a 7.5 for one aerial which was so sick,” he added of his opponent’s earlier win. “I thought he was going to pop one of those again, but the waves didn’t allow. Everyone’s basically being beaten by conditions and not by their opponent when it’s like this. It doesn’t matter who you have, you just have to get the right waves.”
World #5 Mick Fanning (Gold Coast, Aus) will now challenge Parkinson in an epic semifinal match-up. Fanning, who eliminated Brazil’s last contender Paulo Moura in round four, then overcame six-time world champion Kelly Slater (FL, USA) in the day’s last quarterfinal. The 2002 ASP ‘Rookie of the Year’ showed no signs of nerves against Slater, quickly establishing a lead with superior wave selection and his trademark fast surfing.
“I wasn’t really nervous and just treated it like any other heat,” said Fanning. “I knew I needed to go out and get the right waves to win, and I did that luckily. He only caught one good one, so it worked out well. I just tried to get some further up the beach away from him and it paid off.
“I haven’t surfed against Joel man-on-man since the world junior championships and he beat me,” he added, of the 2001 final at Philip Island, Australia. “Hopefully I’ll get him back (laughs). It’s going to be a good heat though and I'm pretty psyched.”
Slater – who only decided to contest the Niijima Quiksilver Pro at the last moment due to the foot injury he’s been nursing since the Tahitian WCT – finished equal fifth.
“I didn’t feel in rhythm throughout the heat,” acknowledged Slater. “I hyper-extended my foot on my first good wave, but basically, I’m happy with the result as I didn’t even expect to surf this event and just made US$8,000.”