After narrowly missing his first chance to earn his first Association of Surfing Professionals world championship title at the O'Neill Coldwater Classic in Santa Cruz in November, Australian Joel Parkinson closed the deal Friday. For the first time in his 11 years on ASP's World Tour, he will end the season ranked No. 1.
Josh Kerr eliminated 11-time world champion Kelly Slater in the semifinals of the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Hawaii on Friday, guaranteeing the WCT title for Parkinson. Parkinson went on to defeat Kerr in the event final, earning his first world tour event win since early 2011.
"This is where I wanted to stand at the end of the year," Parkinson said, according to the ASP. "This is what I've worked for my whole life."
After 10 years of competing for the title and four years finishing as runner up, Parkinson said finally winning the title was surreal.
"I can't describe what this feels like," Parkinson said. "I've had runner-ups and ups-and-downs. I've been to hell and back and it makes this so much sweeter."
Of the 34 tour competitors, Parkinson and Slater were the only two in contention for the title as of Friday, with a points gap that meant if Parkinson finished one place ahead of Slater, he clinched the title. Instead, Parkinson, 31, won the event outright.
Defeating Slater, 40, was no small task for Kerr, 28, who had already been to the hospital for an injury in an earlier heat.
"It's been a hectic day," said Kerr, who finished No. 8 on the rankings for the season. "I had to get an x-ray and made it back for my next heat and made it through to the final."
Slater, who scored a perfect-10 wave during his quarterfinal against Shane Dorian, failed to best Kerr's 9.2 in their semifinal. Slater said Portugal and Santa Cruz sent his title hunt on a downward spiral.
"Portugal was a tough one and Santa Cruz," Slater said, "I was just real wobbly."
Parkinson, whose lowest ranking in the year was a tie for fifth, said he felt like a champion when he got up Friday morning.
"Consistency paid off," Parkinson said. "Like Andy (Irons) always said 'I got this, huh?'"