Joel Parkinson wins at Sunset Beach, but can he claim first world surfing title at Pipeline?
Joel Parkinson was declared winner of the the O'Neill World Cup of Surfing today after a dramatic performance in a four-man final held in nearly perfect 10- to 15-foot waves at Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore.
The victory gives the Australian a lead in the race for the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing series title. The Triple Crown will culminate with the Billabong Pipeline Masters, which could begin as early as Tuesday.
Parkinson, a three-time winner of the World Cup, picked up $20,000 and if he can win the series title he'll claim a $50,000 bonus and a $10,000 Nixon watch. But more important to Parkinson, who defeated Sunny Garcia, Mick Fanning and Dusty Payne in the final, is the Pipeline Masters, which aside from being part of the Triple Crown is the final ASP World Tour contest of the season.
Halfway through the season Parkinson held a commanding points lead and looked like a lock to claim his first world title. But he has since relinquished the lead to fellow Aussie and 2007 world champion Fanning, who has won three of the last five World Tour contests.
"Right now it feels really good because I'm back on the podium and back winning going into the biggest battle of my career," Parkinson said after his Sunset Beach triumph.
Fanning's response: "I'm in the lead and all the pressure is on Joel now. There's no room for error for him. I'm just concentrating on myself and getting through as many heats as possible and making it as hard as possible for him."
Parkinson wasn't the only surfer celebrating today. Garcia, 39, a former world champion and six-time Triple Crown series winner who is no longer on the World Tour, had to finish first or second to earn a wild-card entry into the Pipeline Masters, and keep his dream of a seventh Triple Crown title alive. He pulled it off before camera crews producing a documentary on his colorful life.Payne, 20, needed a good result to become the first Maui surfer in history to qualify for the ASP World Tour. Among those who will join him as rookies on the 2010 World Tour are San Clemente's Pat Gudauskas, Tanner Gudauskas and Nathan Yeomans, and Huntington Beach surfer Brett Simpson.
-- Pete Thomas
Photo: Joel Parkinson slashes a top turn en route to victory at the O'Neill World Cup at Sunset Beach, Hawaii. Credit: Kirstin Scholtz