Former ASP World Champion C.J. Hobgood (USA) defeated Joel Parkinson (AUS) in three-foot (one meter) barreling waves at the Billabong Pro Mundaka to claim his first ASP World Tour victory in four years today.
The heat was a déjà vu affair of a 2004 final they shared in Japan with Hobgood garnering a last minute win over Parkinson in the dying seconds of the heat.
“If I was Joel I would want to kill me right now," Hobgood said. “I honestly don’t know how that happened. Some things are just meant to be. I’ve had a very difficult year. I probably struggled with my surfing more than I should have, but that’s life. You get older and life throws curve balls at you and that’s what makes this feeling right now so good."
Despite opening the heat with a near-perfect 9.93, Hobgood was trailing Parkinson by 5.90 points with 15 seconds to go. With a set approaching, Parkinson took the first wave in an effort to increase his lead. Hobgood snuck into a small barrel on the wave behind it, earned an 8.57 and won the heat.
“Me and Joel were looking at that last wave and he was thinking about it hard," Hobgood said. “I just made sure he was going to go or I was going to go. I didn’t know there was another one behind it, but I did hear a couple of whistles and turned around and saw the wave. I knew it was my last chance. I put my head down and didn’t even look at the wave and paddled to the shoulder as hard as I could because I didn’t want to get stuck behind it. I saw Joel in the peripheral and just threaded the needle. I could have been a little bit greedier, but I knew if I got a barrel and rode the rest of the wave I’ve have a good chance."
Hobgood moves to ASP World No. 6 with the result today. Parkinson moves to ASP World No. 3. The final was Hobgood’s second this season – he lost to Slater in Fiji – and Parkinson’s first.
“I’m just stoked it was a good final," Hobgood said. “Parko went mad on his waves and I just had a chance at the end. I think it was a good final for both of us. I’m just stoked Mundaka broke for three days."
Despite having an amazingly consistent year, Parkinson was unable to claim the victory that has eluded him for over two years.
“That was really frustrating," Parkinson said. “He got the best waves in that heat and I got the scraps. I was holding on to a thin lead and it slipped away from me as soon as I turned around and saw that last wave coming."
Like many of the top-seeded surfers, Parkinson entered the event disenchanted with the season given nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater’s supremacy. Parkinson’s interest piqued as he found himself at the pointy end of the Billabong Pro Mundaka draw.
“I was kind of excited," Parkinson said. “I wanted to win one. I hadn’t won one in awhile so I was going to try to."
Despite the loss, Parkinson was gracious in defeat – giving credit to Hobgood for his impressive surfing throughout the event.
“He deserved it," Parkinson said. “He ripped this week. Sometimes you come to an event and some people just get suited to them and this event really suited him. Everything he touched turned to gold and his surfing just really flowed this week."
Parkinson defeated Adrian Buchan (AUS) in the semifinals in a fashion similar to his elimination by Hobgood in the final.
“It’s always disappointing to lose when you have a good lead but I knew there was going to be opportunities for Joel given the way the waves went," Buchan said. “I had one good barrel that just went a little bit long on me and Joel caught a really good wave and made the most of it. Joel is an amazing surfer and it was good to have a heat out there with him while there were good waves coming through."
Buchan won the last ASP World Tour event in France, and with his 3rd place result today, jumps to World No. 7. He was rated 14th before the European tour leg.
“I’m happy with a 3rd," Buchan said. “Obviously I would have loved to have been up on the podium again with a 1st or 2nd this week but it’s been a good leg. After my 33rd at Trestles I was pretty disappointed because I really wanted to do well there, but then I just put everything into my European leg and it was a pretty good one for me."
Hobgood beat Luke Stedman (AUS) en route to his final berth today. Previous to his Billabong Pro Mundaka semifinal finish, Stedman hadn’t advanced beyond Round 4 in a 2008 ASP World Tour event. His 3rd place finish equals his career best result.
“It’s my best result this year so I’m pretty happy," Stedman said. C.J. is in good form right now and the conditions are definitely favoring a goofy footer. I’m happy with the result, happy with the event, I’m just a happy guy right now."
Stedman rounds out the Top 10 with a World No. 10 rating post the Billabong Pro Mundaka. He will look to maintain the momentum heading to Brazil and France – the last two events of the season.
“My goal is totally to be in the Top 10 at the end of the year and as high up in the Top 10 as possible," Stedman said. Coming 10th after Mundka and having a couple more events to work on that is good – I’m definitely excited for the next couple of events."