Josh Kerr Defeats Parko To Win the 2019 Champions Trophy
And Kai Lenny dusts two former 'CT surfers to win the thruster division.
Wow what a show!
The final day of the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy delivered no shortage of talking points (or surf), as Josh Kerr took the overall title for the second year running. Kerr blitzed Joel Parkinson in the Grand Final - the winner takes all heat that they earned their places in by winning the single and twin fin categories respectively - but before that let's talk about Kai Lenny taking out the thruster division in a field that contained no less than three former World Tour competitors.
Kai Lenny: dar and away the world's finest multi-boarder.
The surf pumped for the two semis, where Wilko returned to Snapper '16-esque form and got the better of Parko (how good are Australian nicknames) with his relentless backhand attack, and Kai Lenny, remarkably, defeated Josh Kerr with a mixture of smooth, explosive surfing and fine wave selection. Unfortunately Sultans slowed up a little for the thruster final - Wilkinson only caught one wave - but it was the same for both competitors, and it was Mr Lenny who emerged victorious. Truly an incredible feat when you consider that "conventional" surfing is what, his seventh strongest discipline? After SUP Racing, SUP surfing, kitesurfing, foiling, tow surfing, big wave paddle surfing, are we missing anything?
Wilko: deadly on the backhand and d-floor alike.
“When I saw the roster for this event I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep up,” Kai said after the final. “But, with each round I got more confident, and come the thruster division I was definitely feeling more comfortable. I was watching the rest of the guys closely, and felt like I was improving with every wave. I’ll definitely take some confidence from this win, especially in really good waves up against a Championship Tour field. I was blown away by how good the single and twin-fins were, they seemed magic! We were surfing some decent sized waves and I was doubtful, but the performance level was different, and there’s something really refreshing about the lines you have to draw. The Maldives are the ultimate playground, they offer every type of condition for every type of activity, and even when the surf is supposedly no good it’s still firing!”
Stop a second and admire the aesthetic beauty of a Joel Parkinson swoop.
And then it was the Grand Final. Josh Kerr and Joel Parkinson were given the option of riding what they wanted, and despite flirting with riding twinnies chose the hi-fi option, Josh picking his Insanity quad and Joel his (formerly) regular thruster. It turned out to be the right decision for the last heat of the 2019 Champions Trophy, and both surfers put on a display those watching won't soon forget. Joel started with an 8.5 and a 7.27 to build a strong lead, before Kerrzy started chipping away with a 7.17 and a 9.17. Then the pendulum swung back to the 2012 World Champ when he unleashed a string of classic Parko swoops and vertical whacks to net himself a 9.17 and a brief lead. It just so happened that Josh Kerr was on the second wave of the set, and he lined up the opening section and nailed a Club Sandwich that was every bit as critical as the one he wowed the Snapper Rocks crowd with way back in 2007. It was the single best turn performed in Champions Trophy history, and earned Josh a near-perfect 9.93 and the 2019 overall trophy.
He might not have taken the win, but Parko's surfing sure yielded the most photogenic snaps.
“Obviously the prize money and the trophy are cool,” Josh said after his win, “but getting to come back here to Four Seasons Maldives is the real reward. Today is my 13th wedding anniversary, lucky number 13, so that’s a great anniversary present for my wife, as well as having the kids here. I didn’t win too many events during my career, so it’s extra cool to win this in front of them.” Despite not ending up on top of the podium, Joel Parkinson's surfing was something to behold over the last few days, and the Don Draper of surfing was typically gracious after losing the final. "Kerrzy went to town on me!” he said. “I thought I started really well, then next thing you know I was on the ropes! Kerrzy had a 9.33 and nearly a perfect 10, and even though I had a 9.17 of my own I was still chasing a combination and pretty much packed it in and headed back to the boat with four minutes to go. This week’s as much about the beauty of the Maldives as the surf contest though, and to get to share all of this with my family is really special. Riding different boards was incredible too! I’ve been asked a lot over my career and never been able to choose, but I’m pretty sure now that my twin-fin is the board I’d ride for the rest of my life if I had to pick one!”
Win or lose, it was all smiles after the final hooter sounded. Paradise'll do that to ya.