You could have bet Sunset dominators Andy Irons and Joel Parkinson would duel it out in the final. You could have bet contest directors Randy Rarick and Bernie Baker would make the right call, with a fresh, new 8- to 10-foot northwest swell filling in just in time for the event's conclusion. You could even have laid money down on Kelly Slater not finding his way through yet another Sunset heat. But a relatively unknown 18-year-old South African Jordy Smith finishing runner-up and sealing the Noseguard Rookie of the Year award? Now that's something no one would have wagered on.
But such is Sunset Beach. A place where the strong survive, the weak perish and heroes are born. And today was no different as we saw yet another passion-fueled ending to the final World Qualifying Series event of the year. The climax? A quickly rising, 10-foot northwest swell, Joel Parkinson just a nose ahead of rookie Jordy Smith, and the wave of the contest, a perfect northwest slingshot. It hit the peak just right, giving Joel enough time to soul arch on the bottom, throw one heaving snap off the top and drive behind the curtain until he emerged, effortlessly. Across the board: a perfect 10-point ride.
Jordy Smith, surfing on painkillers and waterproof tape with 10 stitches on his ankle, couldn't follow up his 8.67 to challenge the 2002 Sunset champ. Irons, meanwhile, simply ran out of gas. "I was drained," he said. "You fall a couple of times, and it drains you even more."
Joel, on the other hand, has the broad focus for Sunset. He's always surfed well at the place. He built his win throughout the day, never staying locked into one lineup spot but always willing to roam and get himself into position off either the north or west peak. In the final he focused himself on the sets, given a break by AI, who was in one of his throwaway moods, eager for 10s and uncaring about much else. Maybe AI was thinking "what the hell, I've got the Triple Crown wired now." Andy let Joel surf unencumbered and the other two didn't seem inclined to chase him, especially after his 10.
There was, of course, some drama that led up to the final. Kelly went down kicking in the quarters when he drew short on wave choice. Something about the broad open Sunset lineup – it prevents him dominating the opposition by his mere presence, and it's hard to snatch a wave out of nowhere to win. At Sunset, you build your victory heat by heat.
There were also no Cinderella stories. With Cuizon's loss in the quarters, all of the top guys were either requalifiers or North Shore specialists. Aussie Kai Otton gets the last spot on the World Championship Tour, with a half-dozen others waiting to see what happens at Pipe.
And as for the rest of us? Let's just be thankful that winter has finally arrived on the North Shore. That dudes are dusting off their 9'6"s, and there's talk of a string of big swells. We've taken this two-month mean season well. Now it's time for the patience to pay off.
O'Neill World Cup
Official WQS qualifiers for the 2007 WCT
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