Joel Parkinson Pockets $19,000, Hoists Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy
“I haven’t done a turn like that in five years”
The self-proclaimed yet hard-to-dispute ‘world’s most luxurious surf contest’ was run and won off the Maldivian island of Kuda Huraa this past week, and sweet lordy was it a pleasant affair. Surfers need to be non-WSL Championship Tour affiliated to participate (rumour suggests Kelly Slater paid a 10K fine to attend last year’s Momentum Generation edition) and while, in its initial outings, world titles were non-negotiables, Mr. Slater’s 20 years of dominance meant the pool of available world number ones isn’t all that deep. So, an eclectic cast of Knoxes, Dorians, Burrows, Rastoviches etc. have been allowed to enter and entertain over the past decade of competition.
- Joel Parkinson wins everything in CT-caliber showing
- Waves also CT worthy (or better)
- Coco beats Mason in first-ever heat together
- Coco has a new surfboard brand for the ladies, by a lady
- Conner Coffin and bride-to-be Sierra fly straight to Burning Man, Jah bless ’em
Joel Parkinson and Adriano de Souza checked the champ box, Mason Ho represented for the cult heroes, Hood “Hoobs” Ahmed flew the flag for the home team, while Conner Coffin and Coco Ho sat their CT exit interviews post-haste to be allowed entry into surfing Valhalla. Coco’s plus-one, cousin Makoa, was a stellar addition to the lineup in the free surfs — he may have also introduced karaoke to Kuda Huraa. Good stuff.
The format is fun. Two three-surfer heats see both third-places eliminated and lead to surfer-on-surfer semis and a final. Surfers ride single fins on the opening day, twin fins after that, and thrusters to complete the qualifying process. After 15 heats on three different boards, the two highest ranked surfers then surf off for the trophy on the craft of their choosing.
Start times for heats are staggered from oldest to youngest. According to Parkinson and his 31-minute heats this was a huge advantage over Conner Coffin’s 25-minute affairs. There was USD 25,000 up for grabs across the various divisions — which ramps up significantly if you factor in a week of first class living at the Four Seasons. I recommend the salmon omelette at breakfast and the spicy soft-shell crab at dinner, but strongly encourage sampling the entire menu over the course of the week.
Parko claimed single and twin fin glory, beating Adriano in both finals in magnificent waves at Sultans, which offered both a generous coping and frequent friendly tubes. In both rounds Mason and Coco made the semis, while Hoobs and Conner repeatedly fell to the back of the priority cue — both left a wave short in the three-surfer opening heats.
It was déjà vu in the thruster division, as the event locked into Groundhoug Day. Of note was the first heat, whereby the three male CT stars went blow for blow on their heavyweight forehands in the best half hour of surfing the Maldives has likely ever witnessed. Parkinson banked two nines for an 18.87 two-wave total, de Souza dropped a 17.40 for his best two attempts, and Coffin ran out of time, locking in an admirable but luckless 15.93 total.
“Only a few years ago that heat would have gone down on tour,” said Parkinson, “so it was pretty damn fun for us all to be out there in the jersey again.”
In the day’s second heat, our local hero Hoobs came up against Mason Ho and Coco Ho in the first ever bout between the two siblings to feature sober judges.
“We’ve surfed against each at home on Christmas Day,” said Mason, “but nothing like this!”
Blood proved thicker than salt water when Coco joined Mason in the lineup and he immediately felt obliged to ignore priority and let his sister catch the first wave that came their way.
“Mason told me ‘I had to let you go, what would Dad say if I didn’t give you that one!’” laughed Coco, “So it was a really funny advantage and put me in rhythm for the rest of the heat. I almost felt bad!”
After our two world champs again made light work of the Hawaiian royals in the semis they surfed the only slow heat of the week in the thruster final, Joel’s extra three minutes gifting him a strong opening score and a head start Adriano could never claw back.
Parkinson had now won nine-straight heats, and a Maldivian clean sweep beckoned. Grand finalists start from scratch however, and form counts for nothing. By winning the end game, de Souza could still have walked away with the trophy, and Parkinson’s moral victory would have amounted to nothing but hollow cash prizes and a week in paradise with his family.
The lead changed hands multiple times through the Grand Final, and while Parkinson’s timeless style was enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck with every faded bottom turn and extended sweep through the lip, it was his bulletproof wave selection that eventually saw him complete his ten-heat trophy winning run.
In the decisive moment of the bout, with de Souza holding the lead, having just kicked out of another good looking score, the Parkinson clan and everyone aboard the Kuda Princess saw a large set looming. With less than a minute to go Parkinson paddled into a long wall and tore into section after section, his “best surfed wave of the week” leading to a claim and a clear feeling that he’d done enough.
“I haven’t done a turn like that first one in five years,” said Parko, a few beers deep that night at the presentation. “I had the section, jammed it, and felt like Sunny Garcia up there. When I rode out of it I knew was on my way to a good score, I just had to hang on and get the job done.”
De Souza and Parkinson sat next to each other in the channel as the scores were read out. Adriano locked in his best wave of the final, an 8.6, and Parkinson’s requirement escalated from a highly gettable 6.97 to a more testing 7.57. After a dramatic pause, the judges deemed Parkinson had indeed got the job done, and a 9.0 was read out. Parko poured champagne on himself and Adriano as they rode a rubber ducky back to the marshall boat, where he hoisted the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy for the first time.
“For it all to come down to the last minute of the last heat is as good as it gets,” he later said. “Imagine if I won nine of nine then had a shocker and lost the event!”
After a relatively tame few days of family friendly fun, snorkelling, day spas and endless buffets, the cork was unleashed that evening. As your scribe sailed off into the darkness, bound for a 1am flight, the last thing I saw was a barefoot Parko behind the bar, playing his trophy like a guitar, perhaps inspired by recent CT efforts at G-Land.
$19,000 in prizemoney, a ten-heat streak, and a week in paradise surfing your brains out with your loved ones — you’d be grinning big and dancing behind the bar too. Onya Joel.
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