Despite loss, Fanning clinches world crown
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
For the record, Australia's Mick Fanning was eliminated in the fourth round of the Billabong Pipeline Masters surfing contest yesterday.
For the record books, it didn't matter. Fanning still was able to win the 2009 world championship.
"I'm about to cry," Fanning said. "What better place to become a world champion than standing right here at Pipeline. This is where surfing started, so this one is always going to sit with me."
The third and fourth rounds of the Billabong Pipeline Masters were completed in picturesque conditions at the Banzai Pipeline off Ehukai Beach. Wave-face heights were in the 10- to 15-foot range, and the famous Pipeline barrels were on display throughout the day.
Oddly enough, most of the focus was placed on two surfers who wound up losing yesterday.
Fanning clinched the world title when fellow Australian Joel Parkinson was eliminated in the third round.
Fanning entered the contest ranked No. 1, and Parkinson was the only surfer with a shot at catching Fanning.
Kaua'i's Gavin Gillette earned an assist for Fanning's title. Gillette, 23, upset Parkinson in the third round.
"Before the contest, I kind of joked around that I wanted to go out and shatter some dreams," Gillette said. "The thought crossed my mind about 100,000 times that I could have an effect on this year's world title in that heat. (Parkinson) is one of my all-time favorite surfers and he's a great guy. We just met up and one of us had to lose, but that's the way that contest surfing is."
Gillette secured the upset when he received a 9.03 (out of 10) for a long barrel ride in the closing minutes of the heat.
Parkinson had a chance to regain the lead in the closing seconds, but he wiped out on his final wave.
Fanning happened to be in the water at the time, waiting to start his fourth-round heat, so he saw Gillette's upset of Parkinson close up.
"I was trying to get ready for my heat and Gavin got that one (wave) as I was paddling out," Fanning said. "I sort of broke down."
The emotions seemed to affect his performance, and fellow Australian Dean Morrison defeated Fanning in the fourth round.
Not that it mattered.
It is the second world title for Fanning. His first came in 2007.
Parkinson won three of the first four contests on the 2009 tour, and Fanning thought he "sort of was" out of the title race.
But Fanning rallied to win three contests in the second half of the tour to take the lead.
"I just wanted to believe in myself and see if I could get some good results at the end of the year," said Fanning, 28. "And blink. Here I am today."
The world championship overshadowed a day of amazing surfing at the Banzai Pipeline.
There were 13 rides that received scores of 9.0 or better, including four perfect 10s. The perfect scores went to John John Florence, Hank Gaskell, Kieren Perrow and C.J. Hobgood.
Florida's Kelly Slater, the defending Pipeline Masters champion, had three waves that resulted in scores of 9.0 or better.
The day started with 32 surfers, and only eight remain for the final day of competition.
Twelve Hawai'i surfers started the day, but only one remains: Flynn Novak of O'ahu's North Shore. Gillette was eliminated in the fourth round.
In addition to being the final event on the 2009 ASP World Tour, the Pipeline Masters is also the final event in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing.
Despite his devastating loss, Parkinson is still in the lead for the Triple Crown title. The only surfer with a shot at catching Parkinson is Florida's Hobgood.
The final day of competition could run today, if conditions are favorable. For updated information visit www.triplecrownofsurfing.com.
Heat 1: Dean Morrison (Australia) vs. Damien Hobgood (Florida).
Heat 2: Flynn Novak (Hawai'i) vs. Kelly Slater (Florida).
Heat 3: Bede Durbidge (Australia) vs. Taj Burrow (Australia).
Heat 4: C.J. Hobgood (Florida) vs. Dane Reynolds (California).