Parko Wins 2012 Pipe Masters, Claims World Title Crown
A semi-regular column where we remember classic heats, big wins and iconic surf events.
It was overcast and rainy, and even a little bit chilly, which is strange for Hawaii in December. We huddled on the balcony at the Billabong house at first light, looking over to Pipe, to the right of the house. There was no coffee, the water had yet to boil, and the surf looked incredibly shit. It was about six to eight-foot, lumpy, and cross-shore. Sasha Stocker arrived, looking like he had just finished his last beer a few minutes earlier. Still, he grabbed his board and headed out to get a few before the contest started.
GT, the VonZipper founder, Billabong commentator, and comedian, arrived in a very smart, vertical-striped collared shirt and tie. Apparently he had been admonished for slovenliness the day before, so decided to up his game properly. He still had his one, fingerless leather glove on to add to the coolness factor when putting the mic into contestants’ faces.
By the end of the day, we were going to have a Billabong Pipe Master and a World Champion. It was a great day to be in Hawaii.
After watching Stocker getting some bombs, the first heat was eventually sent out. The boys soon showed how good it actually was out there. Slater got piped on his first wave and got pinched, meanwhile Gabby was totally dominant and showed serious commitment and confidence from the get-go, while Kerrzy was showing total hunger, muscling his way through the exits of some windy pits. Within seconds the heat had turned into a total tubefest. Kerr pulled into one froth monster Backdoor tube, slammed hard and tore his shoulder, already damaged from a recent skateboard accident. He headed off to hospital. Slater snapped a board amongst the pits, and Gabby pulled into a sick barrel and connected Slater’s broken board as he was exiting the barrel. Even back then, you couldn't have scripted this.
In round 5 the Slater vs Miguel Pupo confrontation looked like a one-way ride before the surfers had even hit the rip-washed waters. Kelly was hungry, and fighting for his 12th crown, while Pupo was the veritable dark horse, the clichéd underdog. Slater’s dominance radiated before the heat really got going. He was uncontrollable. He picked up a 9.57 off the siren, and followed it up with a quick 9.70 and the door was emphatically shut to Pupo within 4 minutes.
Joel was the best surfer on the day, but the heat of the day was actually a quarterfinal confrontation between two old friends, as Kelly and Shane-O went baldhead to baldhead. I had Dorian ahead in this Backdoor shootout of the week, as did many others around me, but Slater edged his good mate out by the smallest of margins (18.73 to 18.20) and his hunt for a 12th continued.
Parko came up against CJ Hobgood in another quarterfinal heat. As the siren went, CJ paddled for a piece of junk, changed his mind, backed out and gave priority to Parko, who responded by paddling for another bad one and missing it, giving priority straight back.
With ten minutes left, Joel picked up a Backdoor runner, got clamped, but escaped through a shower. CJ then caught a left, also got shut down, but managed to burst through as well. Shit scores were bouncing back and forth, and the lead didn't know where to go. In the closing seconds, CJ needed a 7.5. He hooked a Backdoor bomb, but it was close out city, and he was out of the game, leaving Parko still in that same game.
In another quarterfinal drama, Yadin Nicol paddled hard for a big set and nearly wobbled off his board at the bottom of a big and wind-swept monster Backdoor wall. He somehow Macgyvered into a stand-up tube and rode across the reef and came out, to score a perfect 10. The world went mad. He unfortunately couldn’t buy a backup wave out there, with Kerrzy getting the nod and Yadin failing to re-qualify for the 2013 season in the process.
Joel’s performance in the semi showed that he knew he was going to win. He could do no wrong as he took out Dooma with a 9.13 and an 8.17. “When I woke up this morning I knew it was going to be my day,” said Parko after this heat, and he surfed with utter confidence, no faltering.
Slater had peaked against Dorian. He had strength left for his semifinal, but he seemed to have lost his magic as he pulled into a bunch of closeout right barrels and ended up with a total heat score of 4.90. Josh won the heat, and Joel became the stoked new world champion in the process.
“It’s great for Joel and it’s great for the sport. Maybe it means that I’ll even get a dividend from Billabong sometime soon,” said someone at the Billabong house, bearing in mind that this was 2012.
The final was anticlimactic. The moment had already happened, and the day had already peaked. Parko’s win was his first event victory for the year, and it came with a world title.
After the contest was over, Kelly was heard saying that it really was time for him to retire.