Joel Parkinson dominated the ASP World Tour in the first half of the season, but Mick Fanning seemed to become possessed in dominating the second half and taking the points lead in the race for the world title.
So as the season-ending Billabong Pipeline Masters anticipates a possible start this morning, which Australian surfer has the best chance of claiming the title?
That would be Fanning (pictured left), whose points lead has put all the pressure on Parkinson (right), whose late-season falter was due in part to an ankle injury sustained while training months ago in Bali.
Fanning, 28, who won the title in 2007, can clinch another with a second-place finish. In fact, even if Fanning finishes 33rd through ninth, Parkinson, 28, would need to finish at least third to have a chance of winning his first world title.
“I’ve built up momentum throughout the back half of the year starting at Trestles, and I’m in the lead,” Fanning said. “I guess all of the pressure is on Joel now because he needs to get a third. I’m just concentrating on myself and am going to try and make as many heats as possible and make it as hard as possible for him.”
Of the race coming down to the season-ending contest, at notoriously hollow and powerful Banzai Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore, Fanning added: “I guess surfing Pipeline is like meeting a really big guy in a dark alley and sometimes you escape and sometimes you can’t. It’s intimidating. Everyone’s on the beach watching and you’ve got to go.”
Parkinson, the defending Vans Triple Crown of Surfing champion, is coming into the series' final jewel following a victory in the O'Neill World Cup at Sunset Beach. He said: “It’s definitely exciting to see the ASP title come down to Pipe. Mick was in form all throughout Sunset and I feel like I’m in form as well, and it’s going to be a great match-up. Pipeline is one of the most awesome waves ever. It’s close to the beach. It’s a natural amphitheater and it’s only 50 yards out and you’re surfing a wave that could kill you, so it’s pretty exciting.”
-- Pete Thomas
Photo: Mick Fanning (left) and Joel Parkinson (right). Credit: SP/CI/Cestari via Getty Images