After a classic semi-final win against Mick Fanning that will certainly go down in Gold Coast legend, local hero Joel Parkinson defeated Brazilian Adriano de Souza in ten-foot-plus cyclone surf at once-storied Kirra. The Parko-Mick semi final saw two powerhouse surfers trading stand-up tubes in wild storm surf at the beach they grew up surfing together, with an astronomical final heat score of 19.93 to 17.76.
Wednesday arrived with the fully fury of a Category 3 tropical cyclone. Driving rain powerful winds and a sort of never-ending set of waves washing through the Gold Coast. The swell was too big for Snapper Rocks, so the event moved to its fourth location since starting, including Duranbah, Snapper, Coolangatta, and finally…Kirra! The right point of myth, which was the victim of the Tweed River sand pumping that belched out the monolithic "Superbank," was the only beach around that could shape the fast moving mountains of water into rideable waves. Though officials announced Tuesday that the event would likely start a bit later than usual, by 9:00 a.m. Parko and Mick were waxing their boards and getting briefed by the Water Patrol on ski safety, and 30 minutes later the horn blew kicking off Semi Final #1.
Battle Of The Cooly Kids
When Queensland's two most famous locals were towed out on the backs of WaveRunners for their heat, most on the beach were wondering what exactly they were going to surf. Most of the beach from Greenmount to Kirra was solid eight to ten feet with no easy to determine take-off spot, so after five or ten minutes of probing different peaks, Parko and Fanning ended up sitting right off the end of the Kirra groin.
A dozen minutes into the 40-minute semi, Parko is spat out of his first tube, to the adulation of the crowd, which has by this point lined the Kirra groin and all along the point. A few minutes later he repeated the act, and with a score of nearly 15, he had already combo'd Fanning, who seemed a bit lost in the first half of the heat. As if to add insult to injury, Fanning breaks his board on a low-scoring closeout and has to get a ride to the beach for another board.
Fanning Battles Back
But the equipment change seemed like it might be a turning point, when, a few minutes after returning to the lineup, Fanning is himself spat out of a long, deep barrel that looked far more like Backdoor Pipeline than the Superbank. He follows it up with another long, foamy barrel ride and a frontside snap, and suddenly Fanning is in command.
But Parko isn't done yet. He finds a medium-size barrels and stylishly enters and exits it. But without even signaling for a ride back to the lineup. He spins around and immediately catches a second that earns him a near-perfect 9.93. Mick instantly fires back with a dark, ledging barrel of his own, as the heat seesawed back and forth. That is, until Parko caught a wave that would spell the end of Fanning's Quiksilver Pro run—a perfect 10. The beach went wild, Parko went wild, and it may have touched a higher power, because right then a rain squall of epic proportion pounded the Gold Coast with a torrential downpour and blustery winds.
Those on the beach couldn't help but feel like they'd witnessed history of some kind.
"I didn't see Joel's 9.90 but I saw his 10," Fanning told the media after the epic battle. "When his head popped out, I knew. I said to myself, 'I would give that a 10.' It's one of those days where you can have one of the best surfs of your life or one of the worst surfs of your life. It wasn't the best surf of my life, but it was definitely up there."
Lost At Sea
Almost immediately after Parko's victory, Adriano de Souza, who routed Bede Durbidge from the quarterfinals the previous day, went back on the attack, this time against surf rock god Taj Burrow. The diminutive Brazilian started strong and never looked back. All Burrow could do was hope for a lucky break, but none was to be had. De Souza also made excellent use of priority in the final ten minutes of the heat, sticking to Burrow like glue and denying him scoring opportunities.
"I felt really lost at sea," Burrow shrugged. "Every time a wave came that looked any good, Adriano was sitting next to me with priority. I was just really unlucky."
On the beach, de Souza celebrated demonstratively. He was pumped up.
The Big Finale
De Souza' run in this event was awesome, and you can't dispute that, still in his early 20s, he'll be a force for some time to come on the World Tour, but today was Parko's. He surfed with poise, control, and brains, like you'd expect one of the best surfers in the world to when he's surfing a couple miles from his house. Parko dominated from the outset, and when De Souza did finally get a barrel of note, Parko immediately follow him with a perfect 10…his second of the day. He surfed the event like a conductor bringing an orchestra to crescendo.
His victory was undeniable, and he dedicated it to the crowd.
"Everyone on the beach really pumped me up," said Parko of the masses who'd braved a cyclone to watch the final day's action. "The crowd is awesome. There are so many people. Down here you don't really see it, but from the water you can see the crowd on the hill and all along Coolangatta and even down Kirra Point. I could hear them roaring…it was amazing."
Parkinson is off to exactly the kind of start he wanted. He's been training like an animal, and was over the moon when Kelly lost to Julian Wilson in Round Three, opening the door for a final without the Great One. World titles take skill, endurance, and luck, and Parko's found all three.
Next stop: Bells Beach. There are already rumors Slater might not show up, or are those just Slaterian mind games. April will give us the answer.
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Final Results:
1st: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.83
2nd: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 11.30
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Semifinals Results:
SF 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 19.93 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.66
SF 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.84 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 5.34
Current ASP World Tour Top 5:
1. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 1200 points
2. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 1032 points
3. Taj Burrow (AUS) 876 points
3. Mick Fanning (AUS) 876 points
5. Bede Durbidge (AUS) 732 points
5. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 732 points
5. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 732 points
5. Damien Hobgood (USA) 732 points