COOLANGATTA'S Joel Parkinson's quest for three straight tour wins will be put to the test when he faces off against Tahitian dangerman Heiarii Williams in their Billabong Pro round two heat in Teahupoo today.
Parkinson, who along with 15 other seeds was given safe passage into round two, is the world's form surfer and holds a commanding lead in the ASP title race after snaring victory in the opening two events of the 2009 season.
A third straight tour win would not only put him in the box seat for a maiden world title, but it would also make him the first Australian since Mark Occhilupo in 1999 to tame the waves at Teahupoo.
“I'm here to do it,” Parkinson said.
“I guess you could say I'm definitely feeling the best I've ever felt, for sure.
“(But) everyone's dangerous out here (at Teahupoo).”
Parkinson will confront a tricky assignment against Williams, who secured his spot at Teahupoo via a wildcard by winning the trials event with a scintillating 9.17 wave in the final.
Williams knocked former world champion Mick Fanning out of the Billabong Pro in '07 and has set his sights on adding Parkinson to his list of high-profile casualties.
“It's OK, I don't care, I take him and we'll see in the water,” Williams said after defeating Hawaii's Kekoa Bacalso in four-foot waves yesterday.
“I'm pretty happy and ready for the next heat.
“I was pretty comfortable and just surfed like I surf every day here.
“I know Joel's a good surfer out here, we'll see in the water.”
Three-times world champion Andy Irons, who entered the event as a wildcard after taking a step back from the full-time tour this year, set up a round two showdown with Australian Bede Durbidge after demolishing Brazilian Jihad Khodr 14.5 to 4.77.
“That's my first time I've surfed out here since I've been here. I've just kind of been relaxing,” Irons said.
“It's been four or five months (since my last competitive hit-out) but the jersey still fits, so it feels good.”
Coolangatta's Dean Morrison was among seven Australians to safely negotiate their way through to the second-round heats.
The current ASP world No.19 made the most of the barrels on offer to easily account for American Nathaniel Curran 17 points (out of a possible 20) to 8.4.
“I just try to position myself well and try to get the set waves or rather the best one in the set,” Morrison said.
“The secret is actually not taking off at the peak, but a little behind the peak so that you can edge into it. Just take off and hold on ... that's all you can do.”
Josh Kerr, Jay Thompson, Kai Otten, Ben Dunn, Phil MacDonald and Dayyan Neve were the other Australians to progress through to round two, although competition was called off before the final two heats could be completed.
Nine-times world champion Kelly Slater, who has endured a miserable start to the season with two 17th-place finishes, tackles little-known Spaniard Aritz Aranburu today.
Meanwhile it was all about Tugun hot shot Sarah Mason on the Gold Coast yesterday, with the young gun dominating her elder rivals at the Lizzy Surf Slam.
The 14-year-old whiz kid picked up from where she left off in the heats to beat defending champion Dimity Stoyle (Buderim) and Cabarita's Brittani Nicholl in the open women's final, before backing it up in the under-16s and trumping fellow Gold Coasters Amiya and Brodie Doyle (Coolangatta).
The wins guarantee her a berth in the trials of next year's Roxy Pro on the Gold Coast.