Joel Parking: Brazil makes him want to fly

The opening round of the Billabong Pro Santa Catarina was completed today in pulsing two-to-three foot (1 metre) rights at lefts at Imbituba's Praia da Vila.

Event No. 3 of 10 on the 2010 ASP World Tour, the Billabong Pro Santa Catarina plays an important role in both the hunt for the 2010 ASP World Title and the mid-year requalification race for the ASP Top 45, and despite a slew of high-profile upsets, today bore witness to some sensational surfing.

Joel Parkinson (AUS), 29, 2009 ASP World Runner-Up and current ASP World No. 6, wowed spectators and fellow competitors alike today, nailing a giant forehand aerial for the highest single-wave score of the day, a near-perfect 9.93 out of a possible 10.

"I already had two solid scores and I was just loosening up," Parkinson said. "When I hit the section, I thought I was too high, but my board stuck to my feet and I thought, 'well, I'll try to land it'. Then I found a soft section and rode out of it. I've been working with a really good fin set-up and my boards have been feeling amazing."

Parkinson's two Equal 5th place finishes to start 2010 are slightly down from last season's juggernaut start, but the casual Australian is confident about his chances for the remainder of the year.

"The tour comes in waves," Parkinson said. "Someone will do well in the first few events, then someone switches on in the next few and so on. It's a long year ahead and the focus is on the heat in front of me."

While the likes of Parkinson, Jordy Smith (ZAF), 22, and Bede Durbidge (AUS), 27, led the charge from the top, a surprising number of high seeds were relegated to the elimination Round 2 including reigning two-time ASP World Champion Mick Fanning (AUS), 28, and current ASP World No. 1 Taj Burrow (AUS), 31.

Tiago Pires (PRT), 30, current ASP World No. 13, perhaps claimed today's biggest scalp, knocking former nine-time ASP World Champion and defending event winner Kelly Slater (USA), 38, into Round 2.

"Kelly (Slater) makes everyone lift their game," Pires said. "You can't make any mistakes against him. I tried to pick the best waves and surf my best. Fortunately for me, things went my way today."

Neco Padaratz (BRA), 33, current ASP World No. 30, posted a solid win today in the all-Brazilian Round 1 bout with Adriano de Souza (BRA), 23, and Jadson Andre (BRA), 20. The journeyman campaigner showed remarkable poise in the challenging conditions, citing his years of experience at the venue for his win.

"I have been coming to Praia da Vila since I was 9 years old when I won my first contest here," Padaratz said. "That's 25 years of history for me in this place. I come here every winter to train for the heavy waves and I take it with me wherever I go. It's a special place for me."

Despite the big youth push currently on the ASP World Tour, Padaratz has seen a renaissance in his own surfing, which has allowed the powerful natural-footer to remain current into his third decade of competition.

"Adriano (de Souza) and Jadson (Andre) are such good young surfers," Padaratz said. "They know they can get the scores on any wave and they were hunting for them out there. I've been working very hard on my surfing lately and I think it is starting to pay off with the scores."

Matt Wilkinson (AUS), 21, led the rookie charge through Round 1 today, surfing with unmatched style and flow in the tricky afternoon righthanders. The Copacabana (Central Coast, Australia) local cited the venue's similarity with a wave at home for his emphatic victory.

"The wave out there this afternoon is almost identical to this rip bowl right that Ace (Adrian Buchan) and I have been surfing at home," Wilkinson said. "We've been surfing it everyday and it's just funny that we ended up in the same heat. Ace is someone I've looked up to my entire life. When he was dominating the junior series, I was in the grommets. When he was smashing it on the 'QS, I was in the juniors, and so on. I'm psyched to win a heat and build confidence for the next one."

Tanner Gudauskas (USA), 21, elder brother Patrick, 24, and Owen Wright (AUS), 20, were the only other rookies to place wins today a daunting statistic considering the mid-year field reduction to the Top 32.

"I don't have any more pressure on myself at this event than I do at any other," Gudauskas (Tanner) said. "Shea Lopez (former ASP World Tour campaigner) gave my brother and me some good advice: he said, the first two events were wave-catching contests and this one is a wave-riding contest. The field is a bit more level and Brazil is where Pat and I need to make our moves."

When competition resumes, up first will be current ASP World No. 1 Taj Burrow (AUS), 31, up against wildcard Tanio Barreto (BRA) in the opening heat of Round 2 of the Billabong Pro Santa Catarina.

Event organizers will reconvene tomorrow at 7am for a possible 7:30am start.

BILLABONG SANTA CATARINA PRO ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Heat 1: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12.33, Adam Melling (AUS) 11.64, Fredrick Patacchia (HAW)
Heat 2: Dane Reynolds (USA) 13.00, Jay Thompson (AUS) 9.17, Roy Powers (HAW) 4.14
Heat 3: Neco Padaratz (BRA) 14.50, Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.24, Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.17
Heat 4: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 12.17, Nate Yeomans (USA) 11.83, Michel Bourez (PYF) 6.73
Heat 5: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 13.87, Travis Logie (ZAF) 12.33, Daniel Ross (AUS) 11.16
Heat 6: Bobby Martinez (USA) 13.33, Andy Irons (HAW) 11.37, Marco Polo (BRA) 9.73
Heat 7: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.20, Blake Thornton (AUS) 12.93, Luke Stedman (AUS) 7.56
Heat 8: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.10, Taj Burrow (AUS) 10.67, Tanio Barreto (BRA) 9.64
Heat 9: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 13.67, Mick Fanning (AUS) 10.80, Ricardo dos Santos (BRA) 10.50
Heat 10: Tiago Pires (PRT) 12.67, Messias Felix (BRA) 11.83, Kelly Slater (USA) 10.17
Heat 11: Tanner Gudauskas (USA) 12.17, Dean Morrison (AYS) 11.43, Kai Otton (AUS) 10.84
Heat 12: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 15.23, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.53, Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 9.84
Heat 13: Damien Hobgood (USA) 12.63, Mick Campbell (AUS) 12.33, Luke Munro (AUS) 8.27
Heat 14: Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 12.70, Ben Dunn (AUS) 8.94, Kieren Perrow (AUS) 6.97
Heat 15: Owen Wright (AUS) 12.00, Chris Davidson (AUS) 10.92, Brett Simpson (USA) 10.33
Heat 16: Taylor Knox (USA) 13.93, Dusty Payne (HAW) 12.67, Drew Courtney (AUS) 5.97

BILLABONG SANTA CATARINA PRO ROUND 2 MATCH-UPS:
Heat 1: Taj Burrow (AUS) vs. Tanio Barreto (BRA)
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Ricardo dos Santos (BRA)
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Messias Felix (BRA)
Heat 4: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Blake Thornton (AUS)
Heat 5: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) vs. Marco Polo (BRA)
Heat 6: Kai Otton (AUS) vs. Travis Logie (ZAF)
Heat 7: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Nate Yeomans (USA)
Heat 8: Kieren Perrow (AUS) vs. Jay Thompson (AUS)
Heat 9: Chris Davidson (AUS) vs. Adam Melling (AUS)
Heat 10: Luke Stedman (AUS) vs. Luke Munro (AUS)
Heat 11: Andy Irons (HAW) vs. Ben Dunn (AUS)
Heat 12: Daniel Ross (AUS) vs. Brett Simpson (USA)
Heat 13: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Dusty Payne (HAW)
Heat 14: Jadson Andre (BRA) vs. Drew Courtney (AUS)
Heat 15: Roy Powers (HAW) vs. Mick Campbell (AUS)
Heat 16: Dean Morrison (AUS) vs. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW)


SOURCE: ASP World Tour