Solid six-to-eight foot (2 – 3 metre) barrels opened up Supertubos today as the Rip Curl Pro Search finally utilized its primary venue for some incendiary Round 3 and Quarterfinal action.
Event No. 9 of 10 on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Rip Curl Pro Search had yet to run at Supertubos, but today’s death-defying conditions provided a dramatic forum for the world’s best surfers to showcase their talents, and played a pivotal role in the hunt for the 2009 ASP World Title.
Joel Parkinson (AUS), 28, current ASP World No. 2, found a sensational return to form today, besting Kai Otton (AUS), 29, in Round 3 before taking out a rampaging Bobby Martinez (USA), 27, in the Quarterfinals.
A standout leader throughout the opening half of the season, Parkinson stumbled with three consecutive Equal 17th place finishes in California, France and Spain before punctuating an already-stellar run in Portugal with today’s advancement to the Semifinals.
“I’m just living to keep my dream alive,” Parkinson said. “I don’t focus on the opponent. I still have two heats to go and two heats to win and then the job is done.”
Speculation has abounded since early August when a training session in Indonesia went awry and Parkinson was seen nursing a sore ankle. The progressive natural-footer put rumors to rest today, throwing himself over the ledge and punting massive airs with reckless abandon, even threading a Houdini-esque barrel in his Quarterfinals for a Perfect 10.
“Anyone is a danger in these waves,” Parkinson said. “Mother Nature can send you the wave of the day so anyone is a challenger. It has been awhile since I got really good waves in my heat and that has got the monkey off the back a bit.”
Owen Wright (AUS), 19, wildcard into the Rip Curl Pro Search and current No. 3 on the 2009 ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS), continued his juggernaut run at the event, following up his Round 2 elimination of reigning nine-time ASP World Champion Kelly Slater (USA), 37, two days ago, with a last-minute win over California phenom Dane Reynolds (USA), 24, in Round 3 before taking down Damien Hobgood (USA), 30, with a Perfect 10 in the Quarterfinals.
“I am feeling great, my confidence could be sky high for sure,” Wright said after his Round 3 win. “It has been pretty good to get through some heats on the world tour. I’ve been loving it and hopefully I can get through another heat and get some more good waves, there are some pretty good barrels coming through.”
Wright’s momentum, however, would come to a screeching halt following a horrendous wipeout in the Quarterfinals. Freefalling on a draining righthander, the futuristic goofy-footer hit the water with incredible force and came in holding his ear with limited balance. After several minutes of consultation with physicians on site, Wright was taken to the hospital for further examination.
“He slapped the water pretty hard,” Gary Dunne, Rip Curl International Team Manager, said. “The doctors were worried that he burst his ear drum. The longer he was on the shore, the more he regained his balance and he actually wanted to head back out. However, the doctors thought it best to take him to hospital and we’ll see what happens for tomorrow.”
Later diagnosis confirmed Wright has ruptured his eardrum and is undergoing examination on a possible neck injury. Despite being removed from the heat early, Wright’s phenomenal effort in the Quarterfinal up to that point would prove insurmountable for Hobgood, but his appearance in tomorrow’s action is yet to be determined.
Mick Fanning (AUS), 28, current ASP World No. 1, put on an inspirational performance this afternoon. The ultra-fit natural-footer muscled himself through one slabbing lefthander after another, besting an in-form Fredrick Patacchia (HAW), 27, in Round 3 before eliminating Tim Reyes (USA), 27, in the Quarterfinals.
“The wave just comes out of such deep water,” Fanning said. “It is not super super shallow, but one of those drops felt like Pipeline it was crazy.”
With Wright’s attendance in tomorrow’s final day uncertain at this point, and being on opposite sides of the draw from Gold Coast stablemate Parkinson, the Rip Curl Pro Search could find themselves with a Final featuring the current ASP World No. 1 and 2.
“That would be pretty fun wouldn’t it,” Fanning said. “I am sure the media would love it. We both still have to get there. I am just stoked. This morning I surfed out here I was thinking no way are we going to get waves but it just turned on. It must be the good vibes of the fans sending the good waves – it is awesome.”
Bede Durbidge (AUS), 26, current ASP World No. 5, opened up one of the most memorable Quarterfinal rounds in ASP history, collecting the first of three Perfect 10-point rides that would grace the round.
“I needed a 9.6 and I was thinking to myself, I am going to get a 10, I am going to get a 10,” Durbidge said. “I willed it and it came. Lucky I had a bigger board otherwise I would not have got into it. It was the best feeling ever when I came out and to hear the roar of the crowd. I was stoked.”
The Rip Curl Pro Search will crown a 2009 champion tomorrow as the men enter the final day of the waiting period. The Rip Curl Women’s Pro Search will be on standby tomorrow, with a waiting period that extends until October 30th, 2009.
When competition resumes, up first will be lethal natural-footer Bede Durbidge (AUS), 26, up against current ASP World No. 2, Joel Parkinson (AUS), 28, in Semifinal 1.
RIP CURL PRO SEARCH SEMIFINAL MATCH-UPS:
SF 1: Bede Durbidge (AUS) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
SF 2: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Mick Fanning (AUS)