Joel Parkinson claimed his first World Title today at the Billabong Pipe Masters. In one of the narrowest world title showdowns ever, Parko and Slater were neck and neck throughout the event. The title race was finally determined when Josh Kerr bested Slater in their Semifinal heat. As the clock ticked down, standing on the second-floor balcony at the Billabong house, a nervous Parko was surrounded by family and friends when the final horn blew. With four runner-up finishes this year, Joel had finally done it.
After being chaired all the way from the from Billabong house to the podium, an emotional Parkinson took the stage to address the crowd. "This is where I've always wanted to be. I can't describe what this feels like...I've been through hell and back and it feels so sweet to be here today," said Parko. "Thank you to everyone across the world who supported me."
With his world title secured, Parko headed back to the lineup to take on Josh Kerr in the Final. Throughout the year, Joel had posted a slew of solid results, never finishing worse than a ninth, but an event win had eluded him all season. Some critics have stated that had Joel have won the title without a World Tour win, it would have come with an asterisk. Although Kerr was in fine form, the momentum was with Joel and after posting a 9 followed up by an 8, he'd sealed his victory. His World Title was now paired with a Pipe Masters win.
On the winner's podium once again, Joel was overcome with emotion as he struggled to take on the gravity of what he'd just accomplished. "It's surreal. I need to pinch myself. I don't know who sent me those waves in the final...but I think Andy had something to do with it," said Parko. "So thank you Andy for pushing that over. I still can't believe it. To have a win along with the world title just feels that much sweeter."
Uncharacteristically, Slater started the day faltering in his non-elimination Round 4 heat against Gabriel Medina and Josh Kerr, putting his back against the wall in his Round 5 matchup against Miguel Pupo. With the title on the line, Slater went to work against Pupo, quickly racking up a 9.5 and an 8 and effectively eliminating the young Brazilian fresh out the gate. By moving into the Quarters, the ratings lead seesawed once again as Slater took a slight ratings lead, placing the pressure back on Parko.
Taking on Pipe maestro C.J. Hobgood in the Quarters, Parko went on the hunt for a few insiders and took control over the heat from the outset. By heat's end, Parko would come out on top and the bout for the title would now move onto the Semis, where Parko would take on C.J.'s twin brother, Damien Hobgood.
With the onus once again placed on Slater, the champ drew longtime friend and event wildcard Shane Dorian in the Quarters. With the power to crush Slater's 12th world title dream, the world wondered whether or not Dorian would bring his A-game--he did. Trading off on treacherous Backdoor bombs, the duo traded high 9s, but then Kelly posted a perfect 10 to keep the title hunt alive into the Semis.
In their Semifinal heat, Joel was trailing Damien Hobgood with just over five minutes remaining. Things appeared bleak for Parkinson, but he kept his composure, and in the dying minutes he threaded three Backdoor tubes to retake the lead with a 6, 8, and a 9, respectively. At the horn, the crowd on the beach breathed a collective sigh of relief. Parko had advanced and the pressure was back on Kelly.
Surfing against an injured Josh Kerr in the Semi--who had suffered a pinched nerve earlier the day and was taken to the hospital--Slater struggled to find a rhythm from the outset. Kerr posted a 9-point ride, and while Slater searched for a wave to keep him in the heat, the ocean never delivered. The title was Parko's.
"I'm happy for him. Parko's been so close before and he's just such an amazing surfer," said Slater. "He just makes it looks so easy. He's ultra smooth, charges, pulls out wins when he needs to. I'm really happy for him."
When asked whether or not Slater would retire his singlet after this event, the champ remained coy. "Yeah, I'm gonna sit back up and process this year, but, no, I don't have any definitive plans for next year yet."