Australian Joel Parkinson has claimed his second O’Neill World Cup of Surfing title in five years with a stunning victory over South African rookie Jordy Smith, three-time Vans Triple Crown and world champion Andy Irons (Kauai, Hawaii), and local surfer Fred Patacchia (Oahu, Hawaii). Parkinson, Irons and Patacchia are now embroiled in a battle for the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing title that will be decided at the third and final event at Pipeline, which gets underway this Friday, December 8. The O’Neill World Cup of Surfing was a $125,000 6-star World Qualifying Series (WQS) event and was the final event of the 2006 WQS season.
Sunset Beach turned on an immaculate final day of action, with waves steadily rising throughout the day from six, to 10, to 12 and 15 feet by the conclusion of the final. Summer temperatures, clear skies and off-shore tradewinds brought out more than 5,000 cheering spectators who were as excited about the first major swell of the winter as their pro surfing heroes were. None left the beach disappointed.
Parkinson, 25, absolutely dominated the 35-minute final, posting the only perfect 10 point ride when it mattered most and finding his way into the biggest waves and deepest, most cavernous tube-rides of the event. With a second score of 7.67 (each surfer’s top two rides count for their total), Parkinson left all but Smith in need of two-wave combinations to catch him with a total of 17.67. In fact, even his third and fourth-highest scoring waves, considered to be “throw aways”, would have been good enough to win the final.
Parkinson earned $15,000 for the win; Smith, 18, with a total of 11.8 points (an 8.67 and a 3.13 making up his tally) pocketed $7,500; third-placed Irons, 28, with 4.77 points total took home $4,000; and Patacchia, with just 4.23 points earned $2,300. The gaping score-line chasm came about after Irons and Patacchia found themselves short on steam and low on rhythm, either failing to catch any of the prime, open-faced waves that offered the major points, or coming unstuck on the rides they secured. But that was far from the case during the quarters and semi-finals. Irons posted the highest heat score of the event in the quarters – 18.13 points out of a possible 20.
“It was perfect Sunset, you couldn’t ask for a better day,” said Parkinson. “Sunset’s a tricky place, but I lucked into the waves. Finding the best waves is the hardest part. I really tried to focus on that. I felt like my surfing was good enough if I found the right waves to do it. It’s a hard wave. It’s a testing place. A lot of things can go against you. You’ve got the guys and you’ve got the ocean. But I proved myself for a second time out there, so I’m stoked. It feels unreal to be back in contention for the Triple Crown.”
Runner-up Smith was without doubt the dark-horse of the event, only getting a start after one of the seeded competitors was forced to withdraw. Ranked outside of the top 50 on the WQS ratings prior to this event, today’s result catapulted him to 26th. While his performance here was never going to earn him a place on the elite World Championship Tour (WCT) for 2007, he has guaranteed himself a strong seeding for his ’07 campaign. Heightening his experience today was the presence of 1977 world champion Shaun Tomson, also from Durban, South Africa, who pioneered the pro surfing path that surfers like Smith can enjoy today. Tomson, a life-long O’Neill team-rider and champion of this very event in ¹77 en-route to his world title, was guest-commentating at Sunset Beach today.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Smith. “Just to have all those guys in the final – they¹re my favorite surfers, so it was amazing. Hopefully I can do well next year to qualify.”
Competing with 10 stitches in his foot, sustained during a session at Pipeline earlier in the week, Smith put it all behind him for an epic day of surfing that didn’t just end with the final, but also earned him the Nose Guard Vans Triple Crown Rookie of the Year award. “I had 10 stitches but kept pushing on. A couple of pain-killers and all’s good.
“I’m super stoked to do well in Hawaii. Rookie of the Year… I’m overwhelmed. Shaun’s (Tomson) a hero of mine. To do anything he’s done is a great enough achievement for me.”
Irons was as short on words after the final as he had been on points during it: “I ran out of steam in the final,” said Irons. “I got tired. I¹d been surfing good all day but today just wasn’t my day.”
Patacchia is ready to move on to Pipeline for the final stop. Having reached the semi-finals at Haleiwa and with fourth here, he has a total of 3,200 points towards the Vans Triple Crown title. Parkinson sits above him with 4,025 points and Irons leads with 4,325.
Other strong performers today, unfortunately eliminated in the semi-finals, were Neco Padaratz (Brazil), Mick Fanning (Australia), Pancho Sullivan (Hawaii) – who was one-hundredth of a point short of advancing to the final despite a brilliantly surfed heat, and Maui’s Ian Walsh, who with a 7th place result was the top-performing O’Neill rider of the event. Eight-time world champion Kelly Slater (Florida, USA) lost in the quarter finals at the hands of Parkinson, Sullivan, and Australian Jay Thompson.
As the final WQS event of the year, the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing set this year’s WQS rankings in stone, however the final list of qualifiers who will step up onto the WCT tour in 2007 will not be solidified until the conclusion of Pipe. Results of various WCT surfers will determine how many spots are available to up-and-coming WQS competitors.
The holding period for the third and final event of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing at the Banzai Pipeline begins Friday, December 8, and runs through December 20.
For a complete list of today¹s results, please go to: www.triplecrownofsurfing.com