It’s Australia versus Kelly Slater as the 2012 ASP World Tour heads to the tropical islands of Hawaii next month to decide who will be this year’s world surfing champion.
After Taj Burrow’s victory at the O’Neill Coldwater Classic this morning in Santa Cruz, California, the title race is down to three contenders. Australians Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning will be up against 11-time world champion Kelly Slater as the tour moves to Hawaii’s infamous Banzai Pipeline.
“There’s still a lot of work to do. It’s great to have the title come down to Pipe. It’s good for surfing,” Parkinson told The Australian yesterday.
Despite having not yet won on this year’s tour, Parkinson has managed to make it to the quarter finals in every event. With such consistency, the Coolangatta local has maintained his lead in the race for the crown and is on the verge of taking out his first ASP World Title. After finishing second four times and missing most of the 2010 season with a severe laceration to his foot, you couldn’t blame Parkinson for feeling a little nervous in the lead up to the final event. The 31-year-old is be hoping to repeat the form that won him three consecutive Vans Triple Crown titles from 2008 to 2010.
Of the three contenders, none has more experience than Slater. Having won the last two world titles, there were rumours the 40-year-old would retire, but with three 2012 tour victories he shows no sign of slowing down; instead he continues to evolve. Slater’s form at Pipeline must be a factor: he has taken out five Pipe Masters in his career, more than any other surfer. If Slater were to take out his sixth Pipe victory, Parkinson would have to finish no lower than third to claim the world title.
Fanning, world champion in 2007 and 2009, needs to win the Pipe and have the other contenders fail badly to stand a chance of winning his third world title. The stage is set for a fairytale ending.
The Billabong Banzai Pipeline Masters will kick off on December 8 in Oahu. – Patrick Higgins
Top photo from ASP World Tour Surfing Facebook page