We'll remember 2012 as the year Joel Parkinson overcame Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater to win his maiden World Title. Over the course of ten months, surf fans witnessed a new generation of World Title candidates emerge, while the veterans reigned supreme, again. It was a year when J-Bay was missed, while Fiji was welcomed back. Here are the 10 best World Tour heats of 2012:
1. Mick Fanning vs. Joel Parkinson, Final, Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Sitting on a total heat score of 18.37 with just over 12 minutes remaining, Joel Parkinson looked like he was well on his way to his first win of the year. However, in the span of eight minutes Mick Fanning earned a 9.50 and a 9.37 to defeat Parko and secure the No. 1 ranking at the time.
2. Kelly Slater vs. CJ Hobgood, Semifinals, Volcom Pro Fiji.
Needing a good score to overtake CJ Hobgood, Kelly Slater earned a perfect 10 on what was one of the best waves ever ridden at Cloudbreak. Minutes later, Slater backed up his 10 with a 9.5, putting CJ in a combo-situation he would never surmount.
3. Kelly Slater vs. Shane Dorian, Quarterfinals, Billabong Pipe Masters.
After Joel Parkinson defeated CJ Hobgood two heats prior, Kelly Slater needed to overcome wildcard and close friend Shane Dorian to stay in World Title contention. However, Shane couldn't end Slater's World Title hopes.
4. Mick Fanning vs. Kelly Slater, Final, Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach.
Bells Beach isn't the place where surfers earn perfect 10s for just an air, unless you're Kelly Slater. Despite what some called Kelly's best air ever, it wasn't enough to stop Mick's flawless rail surfing.
5. Dane Reynolds vs. John Florence, Semifinals, Quiksilver Pro France.
Surfing's best freesurfer vs. tomorrow's World Champion; At La Graviere, it was Dane who won, proving he could still compete and win.
6. Patrick Gudauskas vs. Ace Buchan, Round 2, Rip Curl Pro Portugal.
Needing a big result to stay on Tour, Pat Gudauskas appeared to be on his way to Round 3. But in the final minutes, Ace Buchan earned a 9.3, ending Pat's Rip Curl Pro campaign.
7. Joel Parkinson vs. Jordy Smith, Quarterfinals, Hurley Pro at Lowers.
After a disappointing loss in Tahiti, Jordy Smith looked like a favorite to win at Lowers. The heat came down to who had the better rail surfing, so Joel got the nod.
8. Bede Burbidge vs. Josh Kerr, Round 3, Billabong Pipe Masters.
Nursing an injury he suffered prior to the Pipe Masters, Josh Kerr exchanged waves and the lead with former Pipe Masters champion Bede Durbidge. In the end, Kerr came out on top.
9. Raoni Monteiro vs. Kai Otton, Round 2, Volcom Fiji Pro.
In the last heat of the day before contest officials deemed it too big for competition, Raoni Monteiro landed on the disabled list for several months. He was injured when he attempted to doggie-door a terrifying end section, which would've given him the lead and the win.
10. Gabriel Medina vs. Taylor Knox, Round 3, O'Neill Cold Water Classic.
When most of his competitors were surfing the Slot, Gabriel Medina used Middle Peak lefts to launch two big airs and earn a last minute heat win.
Three Most Controversial Heats:
1. Julian Wilson vs. Gabriel Medina, Final, Rip Curl Pro Portugal.
Ask an Australian, a Nike employee, or any one who loves to debate and they'll tell you Julian Wilson won. Ask every other surf pundit and they'll say Gabriel Medina won. Either way, Wilson was the last surfer standing on the stage.
2. Joel Parkinson vs. Jeremy Flores, Quarterfinal, Billabong Pro Tahiti.
Commentator Nathan Webster said Parko's last wave wasn't enough. Jeremy Flores aggressively voiced his disapproval shortly after on Twitter.
3. Dusty Payne vs. Kelly Slater, Round 3, O'Neill Cold Water Classic.
Dusty Payne called it one of the best airs he's ever done. The judges didn’t think it was enough. Slater advanced, increasing his chances at the time for his 12th World Title.