In case you live under a lava rock, the ASP is set to finish its 2012 season at the infamous Pipeline with big money and glory on the line. It's the most fitting place for a tour finish that is razor thin. One of the world's most challenging and yet visually accessible waves on the planet, Pipeline has been the site of many a thrilling climax in the past. This year could be another one with Aussie Joel Parkinson leading 11-time world champ Kelly Slater. Parko shreds perfect points and threads hollow beachbreak with more style and finesse than almost any surfer alive, and he has won at Pipe BUT...and it's a pretty big "but". He has also choked hard in this very position more than once and with the consummate competitor Slater at his heels, the pressure is greater than ever.
This is due in part to the fact that Slater thrives on pressure. It's where he performs best. Just take a gander his greatest performances, and the theme is that he came from behind or won on the final buzzer or pulled the move of the year in the dying seconds of a final heat. It's not just uncanny. It's freakish. If you surf, you know that it's hard enough to rip top notch surfing when you are relaxed and the waves are cooperating. Try doing that in a 45-minute heat, a crowd of hundreds on the beach (thousands on at their computer screens), and the ocean's unpredictability as your only constant. You can train and you can study, but pro surfing isn't like other sports. Sure, composure and tactics and fitness are key factors, but there's more to pro surfing. There's a hell of a lot of luck involved. And Pipeline doesn't always favor the fortunate. Pipe can be a dream when everything is coming together and you pick the right line down the face, but one subtle rail dig or holding that bottom turn one extra millisecond can mean a disastrous turn towards a nightmare: broken board, broken bones, blood in the water. Am I being melodramatic? I say nay.
Here's the deal: Parkinson leads Slater by 3,200 points. Parko has repeatedly taken the Triple Crown but Slater has won at Pipe six times. Sitting in 3rd, former world champ Mick Fanning is also in contention, but things have to really go his way. Let's put it simply as Pipeline begins it's time in the media spotlight. If Parko finishes 5th place or lower at Pipe, Slater needs a 5th place or higher. If Parko finishes 3rd at Pipe, Slater better than a 3rd. If they both make the final (awesome-est case scenario), and Parko finishes 2nd...Slater must win.
Here's to competition and epic conditions at Pipe in the coming days!