Joel Parkinson won his first ASP World Title on Friday on the final day of the Billabong Pipeline Masters on Oahu's North Shore when Kelly Slater failed to advance out of his semifinal heat. Parkinson also secured his first Pipe Masters event victory later in the day.
A newcomer to surfing's top spot, Australia's Parkinson, 31, has four runner-up world title finishes in his 11-year career on tour. The last time he surfed in a title match was also at Pipeline, where he lost to fellow Aussie Mick Fanning in 2009.
Though Parkinson had not won a world tour event since early 2011, the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, he had been deadly consistent this season, making several finals and never finishing worse than ninth place. He had been the points leader for the back half of the season.
Slater, 41, and surfing's youngest and oldest world champ, was in a tight points race with tour leader Parkinson heading into Pipeline, the final event of the 2012 ASP World Tour, the crown jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing and the massive grand finale to a fantastic season.
"It's a dream scenario when you're one of the guys in it," Slater said after his quarterfinal heat Friday, speaking to the rarity of the title coming down to the last heats of the year. "But at the end of the day you just have to go out and win the heat and think about the big picture later."
Both surfers advanced through early rounds of the contest, which opened Dec. 8, but the title race heated up Friday morning as Slater took to the water and overtook the points lead by winning his Round 5 heat and advancing to the quarterfinals.
Parkinson bested 2001 world champ and Florida native C.J. Hobgood in what he called a "scrappy" quarterfinal heat before he beat C.J.'s twin brother, Damien, in the semifinals. Slater took down good friend Shane Dorian, 40, in a close quarterfinal heat, with a perfect 10 among his wave scores, but lost his semifinal heat to Josh Kerr.
"I felt like a champ today when I woke up," Parkinson said after his win. "I've not won an event this year, but this is where I wanted to stand at the end of the year. I can't describe what this feels like. It's everything you dream of."
Slater, also a Florida native, won his first World Title in 1992, marking the beginning of an era that would bring a new ambassador for surfing from someone who combined the best of the best, from Duke Kahanamoku to Tom Curren. Slater would go on to win titles in 1994-98, 2005-06, 2008 and 2010-11 -- seven more than the next closest record-holder, Mark Richards, who had a title-winning streak in the 1980s.
Slater lost to Parkinson in the semifinal at Pipe in 2011 after winning his 11th World Title in San Francisco.
Coming into Hawaii, the ASP had one of the best title races in history on the line, with Parkinson finishing in the top three at six events. With retirement rumors swirling, Slater showed up at the first event of 2012, finished fifth, then went on to win three events -- the Volcom Pro Fiji, the Hurley Pro at Trestles and the Quiksilver Pro France.
"Everything kind of went Parko's way since the last few events. He's always in the title talk and is just an amazing surfer. He's the guy who makes it look easy -- ultra smooth. He's just great," Slater said.