This year's Billabong Pro Tahiti may have 2011 to thank for its progression. But it's possible that one of the legacies of that harrowing event in 15-foot Chopes may have set the stage for another epic event on Monday. After the ASP World Tour heavies survived (for the most part) the death-defying pits of a year ago, they came back this year with new confidence. It was another level from the first-timers just to surf the place. And Monday's final rounds set a new standard on what can be done when Teahupoo is just perfect, with Mick Fanning edging his buddy Joel Parkinson to take the crown.
Simply getting a tube, getting a big wrapping cutty and exiting into the channel is simply no longer enough to win heats. Today it's all about who can disappear for 10 seconds, who can not only ride the barrel, but flirt with the foam ball, who can shove both arms into the face and stay hidden, and actually surf on their rail while under the lip. Call it Teahupoo 3.0.
These were some of the most exciting quarterfinals of 2012. First, Fanning had to beat Ricardo dos Santos, the event wild card who had beaten Kelly Slater and won the A.I. total commitment award in a very high-scoring affair. Despite that fact that Teahupoo veteran CJ Hobgood almost killed himself to advance, he fell to 2011 runner-up Owen Wright. Also, Parkinson beat Jeremy Flores by just .07 points.
The last quarterfinal was a showdown we've been waiting to see for a while now. They are the two surfers who joined the tour at the halfway point (the last of the mid-year rotation) in 2011 and have proved dominant since. Gabriel Medina who won the Quiksilver France and Rip Curl San Francisco last year faced John John Florence, who won the Vans Triple Crown and the Billabong Pro Rio. The two young guns, both potential world champs, finally went head-to-head. It was not a surprise that John John Florence won the heat, but no one would have picked him to obliterate Medina 16.17 to 4.17.
Fanning somehow edged out Owen Wright in the first semifinal, despite the fact that Wright had the single highest wave and a 18.10 heat total. That should tell you something about the conditions. In the second semi, Parkinson surpassed Florence. The latter was a wave-starved heat where Florence only stood up three times. His first wave was one of those impossible ones that just eats itself on the end section. He was written off when he willed himself out of a violent mess of whitewater, down the face, and onto the shoulder. But Parkinson's 9.57 in the opening minutes would prove too much without a lot of waves to choose from.
The Parkinson/Fanning Cooly kid matchup is one we've seen over and over. They've already faced off three times this year, not to mention hundreds of heats over their long careers. They both had phenomenal days with no-handed bottom turns under the lip, looping through their first two turns without grabbing the rail. And the final didn't disappoint.
Parkinson had Fanning in a pickle the entire final until the last five minutes. Parkinson was toying with the wave, pulling his no-handed moves both high and low. He capped off his first barrel with a clean roundhouse and just 4:30 into the final had two pristine trips through the Tahitian tunnel.
Fanning answered with a 9.37 to get out of comboland. Fanning then sold Parkinson on a closeout to nab the next one, dragging his arm so hard he said it was sore afterwards. He kicked out with a 9.50. The final wound up being 18.87-18.37, with Fanning taking the 2012 Billabong Pro Teahupoo and claiming the No. 1 spot on the ASP World Tour. His buddy Parkinson is No. 2.
"Teahupoo is one of the spots that I've worked hard on throughout my career to improve at," Fanning said. "I made a final out here before, but to come away with the win is great for my confidence, and I'm in a good position heading into the next half of the year. Early days though and there are a lot of guys right up there. It's still anyone's game at this point."
It was a historic day. And we have that Code Red swell last year to thank.BILLABONG PRO TAHITI FINAL RESULTS:
1 Mick Fanning (AUS) 18.87
2 Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.37
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI SEMIFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 18.93 def. Owen Wright (AUS) 18.10
QF 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 17.14 def. John John Florence (HAW) 15.17
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Mick Fanning (AUS) 19.07 def. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 18.64
QF 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 18.90 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 15.60
QF 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.50 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.43
QF 4: John John Florence (HAW) 16.17 def. Gabriel Medina (BRA) 4.17
BILLABONG PRO TAHITI ROUND 5 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 16.17 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 10.27
Heat 2: Owen Wright (AUS) 18.96 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.70
Heat 3: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 15.66 def. Kieren Perrow (AUS) 9.50
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) 16.66 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 14.64
CURRENT ASP WCT TOP 5 (After Billabong Pro Tahiti)
1. Mick Fanning (AUS) 34,750 pts
2. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 31,700 pts
3. John John Florence (HAW) 27,450 pts
4. Kelly Slater (USA) 25,450 pts
5. Taj Burrow (AUS) 24,950 pts