Seven months ago, Joel Parkinson lay on the sand at Snapper Rocks writhing in pain, the back half of his right heel nearly cleaved clean from his foot. At that moment it was nearly impossible to fathom him wearing a jersey again this season, much less winning anything that required him to stand upright. But that's precisely what Parko did at the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, where he dominated the competition in the characteristic fashion that we've come to expect of the 29-year-old back-to-back Triple Crown champ.
Wearing a black trucker hat that read "AI Forever," Parko was triumphantly chaired up the beach on the shoulders of Luke Egan and Mark Occhilupo in the moments following his win. With a pair of 7s, Parko had cut down Joel Centeio, Julian Wilson, and Heath Joske in the wave-starved final. Injury be damned, Parko was back and he was looking to make up for lost time.
"It's been a pretty up-and-down year emotionally," he said. "I cut my foot and I was out of action for six months, I didn't surf for three months and I didn't compete for six months. Then I had a baby son, so we had some joy, and then Andy passed. It's been one of those years with one good thing then one bad thing." Parko went on to dedicate his heat-winning wave to A.I. "We all feel Andy in the ocean, especially his close friends and I think he's a part of us all out in the water. That one wave I got was definitely for A.I." When asked about his hopes to defend his Triple Crown title, Parko remained humbly optimistic. "I'm gonna try and make amends with what's left of the year, I'd love to be standing up on the podium at the end of the Triple Crown, that's for sure."
Although Parko proved to be a step and a half ahead of the pack, last year's Reef Hawaiian Pro champion, Joel Centeio, clearly held the admiration of the hometown crowd. With every arching layback the Haleiwa native threw down, a motley lot of locals exploded in a sea of cheers, whistles, and hoots. Competing more for the esteem of winning another event in his old stomping grounds than for the rating's points, Centeio managed to shrug off his loss and find solace in his runner-up finish. "Haleiwa means the world to me and I was just looking to do well and defend the title," he says. "The points are good, but it was more about trying to defend my title. That's what meant the most to me, but I'm stoked."
For third-place finisher Julian Wilson and the battalion of surfers like him searching for the late-season ratings points from a six-star PRIME event, the Reef Hawaiian Pro proved to be a make-or-break contest. To qualify for next year's Tour, surfers competing on the newly dubbed One World Ranking will need to finish the season in the Top 10, a fact that weighs heavy on the minds and emotions of those surfers on the cusp. "This is the first time I've surfed an event on the North Shore and to start an event with a final is amazing. I came into Hawaii hoping for a few good results and just trying to qualify. I've been pretty nervous, but I've started to calm down a bit and get rid of the butterflies," said Julian Wilson who moved into the 41st position with his third-place finish today.
In what proved to be one of the favorite match-ups of the event, Tom Curren, Sunny Garcia, Occy, and Tom Carroll donned retro singlets in the Clash of the Legends series. True to form, fireworks erupted in the opening heat where Sunny Garcia and Tom Curren nearly collided, a move that resulted in an interference being called on Sunny. Although a touch of drama ensued, level heads eventually prevailed. And despite surfing short a score, Garcia managed to take the win and show that at 40 years old he remains just as lethal in competition as ever. "I thought it was going to be a mellow thing, and that first heat woke me up to the fact that those guys were hungry and they still want to win," says Sunny. "I actually told my wife to go shopping today, 'cause I didn't think that there was a chance I could have won...but I'm stoked. To surf against these guys is an honor."
The second stop of the Triple Crown, the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach, is right around the corner with opening day on November 24. Stay locked to Surfermag.com as we continue to bring you all of the highs and lows from the North Shore.