Fanning, Parko conquer Tahiti
WELL done to the Cooly boys putting Australia back on top with a magnificent win for former two-times World Champion Mick Fanning over his close mate Joel Parkinson at Teahupo'o, Tahiti and event No.5 on the ASP World Tour.
At the halfway mark of this year's World Championship Tour, the men's world title race has developed into a four horse race.
Mick Fanning with now two wins under his belt leads by a body length from Joel Parkinson who has now moved up to second.
Hawaii's wonderboy John John Florence rides into third after one win at Brazil and a semi-final against Parko at Tahiti, while the ultimate gladiator of surfing Kelly Slater slips back to fourth after a surprise defeat in the third round at Tahiti by Brazilian wildcard and Chopes specialist Ricardo dos Santos.
The 11 times World Champion could have taken a healthy lead if successful at Teahupoo in the wake of his sensational win at Tavarua but it's too early to say Slaters 12th World title has stalled especially with the next event at Trestles, California.
Trestles is Kelly's domain and the California fans love to watch him win as much as he does for them.
Last year Fanning a previous winner at Trestles look set to upset the King but then a controversial power play in the water between the two combatants worked in Slaters favour leaving Fanning to have a boil over.
Both Mick and Joel know Kelly's plays mind games better than anyone and then lets his surfing totally dominate the situation.
It reminds me of how the great and late Michael Peterson would lure his opponents into a false sense of security and then use mind games to unsettle the opposition with devastating surfing attack.
Both Fanning and Parkinson are only too aware of Kelly's mindset and will be playing down his early exit at Chopes while looking to turn up the pressure at Trestles.
When asked by contest commentator Ronnie Blakey was Kelly's early demise reason to pump the air with a defiant fist, Joel Parkinson was reluctant to agree to enjoying Slaters' early fall.
"Once upon a time, I might have been quietly excited by it but I've been here so many times before and have learnt not become over confident. I just put those feelings out of my head and just carry on with the next event.
"The last thing I want to do is to give Kelly a reason to get all fired up and then watch him make a comeback at Trestles," said Joel who is a 4 times world runner-up and needs to win at Trestles to keep his world title dream alive.
Out of the top four contenders, Parko is yet to nail a win so far and he will be that much more focused to win after losing to Mick at Teahupoo when it basically came down to wave choice with priority and Mick sold Joel in the first wave of the set which didn't pan out leaving Mick to score the second wave of the set and the winning wave of the final.
Surfing in the man on man format can be like flipping a coin but invariably the second wave of a set is historically a winner.
Fanning was full of praise for Parkinson saying, "Joel is such an incredible surfer and has gotten so good at Teahupoo.
"In a way for both they got the Teahupoo monkey off their backs. At 31 both Coolangatta contenders are now considered to be veterans of the tour and it was really only a matter of time for the boys to bring home the bacon.
"Teahupo'o is one of the spots I've worked hard to improve on," said Mick who has been a finalist there previously.
"To win there is a great for my confidence and I'm now in a good position heading into the next half of the year."
Although like Joel he's not getting to ahead of himself explaining that it's early days and adds, "Its anyone's game at this point."
There are now five world title events remaining with Trestles, California next from September 16-22, followed by two events in Europe at Hossegor, France and Peniche, Portugal in October, then Santa Cruz, California in November and the final showdown in Hawaii at the Banzai Pipeline in December.
World ratings after Tahiti. 1 Mick Fanning 34750. 2 Joel Parkinson 31700. 3 John John Florence (Hawaii)27450 .4 Kelly Slater (USA) 25450. The ASP men's World title is taken from the best 8 out of 10 results.
The big question is will either Mick or Joel join Stephanie Gilmore for the Coolangatta World title double in 2012?