Mick Fanning: Teahupoo charger

Mick Fanning has conquered the 2012 Billabong Pro Tahiti over Joel Parkinson, in classic four-to-six foot (1 – 1.5 metre) waves at Teahupoo.

The all-Australian final saw Fanning on the ropes early in the decisive heat with Parkinson collecting a 9.50 and an 8.87 on his opening two rides. However, former event runner-up fought back mid-heat with an impressive 9.37 before backing it up with a nail-biting 9.50 to take the lead and hold it as the buzzer ran out.

With today's win, Fanning has become the first Australian since Mark Occhilupo, in 1999, to claim the Billabong Pro Tahiti title and has further cemented himself into the frontrunner spot on the 2012 ASP WCT rankings.

"It's a 35 minute Final so I knew the waves were going to come," Fanning said. "I just had to be patient. It's Teahupo'o so it goes on and off. You can get two 10s in two minutes so I knew I just needed to keep my composure throughout the Final.

"Joel (Parkinson) is such an incredible surfer and he's gotten so good out here. He raced out to an early lead and I knew I needed to focus on my own game plan. I got that good score about mid-heat and then was able to sell him when he had priority on one that didn't pan out for him. The second wave was the one and it's an incredible feeling to come back and get the win. I'm stoked."

Today's win marks the 15th elite victory of Fanning's career, and the second of this season (after a win at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in April). The two-time ASP World Champion is now firmly in the frontrunner spot on the ASP WCT ratings heading into the back half of the season.

"Teahupoo is one of the spots that I've worked hard on throughout my career to improve at," Fanning said. "I made a Final out here before, but to come away with the win is great for my confidence and I'm in a good position heading into the next half of the year. Early days though and there are a lot of guys right up there. It's still anyone's game at this point."

Throughout the event, Parkinson consistently established himself as one of the preeminent backhand tube-riders on the planet. Despite an early lead in the Final, Parkinson priority decision in the dying moments opened the door for Fanning to pounce.

"I held the lead in a 35-minute Final until the four minute mark," Parkinson said. "It's frustrating to lose that way, but you cannot fault Mick (Fanning). He's been a true champion through the event and has proven that he's one to watch out at Teahupo'o for sure."

Parkinson currently sits at No. 2 on the ASP WCT rankings at the halfway mark on the 2012 season.

Ricardo dos Santos, two time Trials winner and wildcard into the Billabong Pro Tahiti, was awarded the Andy Irons Forever Award for his inspirational performance at Teahupoo this year. Despite bowing out in the Quarterfinals this morning to Fanning, Dos Santos was very emotional upon being awarded the prestigious honor.

"Andy (Irons) was... is my hero," Dos Santos said. "This Award means just as much, if not more than, winning the event for me. He is my inspiration and he is the reason I surf. He is the reason I surf Teahupo'o. To be awarded this by the Irons' family is the biggest honor. Thank you."

Billabong Pro Tahiti Final:
1 – Mick Fanning (AUS) 18.87
2 – Joel Parkinson (AUS) 18.37