BARRA DA TIJUCA, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil (Wednesday, May 16, 2012) – Hawaiian surfer, John John Florence 19, has won his maiden ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Championship Tour event, taking out the Billabong Rio Pro over Joel Parkinson (AUS), 31, in barreling three-to-four foot (1 metre) waves at Barra da Tijuca.
Florence, who is competing in his rookie year on the Men's Tour, proved unstoppable on the final day of competition, topping prodigious Australian talent, Julian Wilson (AUS), 23, Josh Kerr (AUS), 27, and then Parkinson, on his way to the victory dais.
“This is the best feeling in the world,” Florence said. “I had that bad heat at Arpoador to start and we had a couple of lay days and I had to just sit and think about it. I can’t even believe this right now. I’m in shock. I was just sticking to my game plan and not thinking about the other guys. I’m so happy right now.”
The result sees Florence leap to No. 6 on the ASP WCT rankings, and he will look to carry the momentum from today's massive victory to the upcoming ASP WCT events in Fiji and Tahiti. With his experience at homebreak, Pipeline, Hawaii, he is expected to dominate at the tropical locations.
“This helps my confidence so much,” Florence said. “I have a lot of confidence going into events with barreling waves like Pipe. Obviously I have a lot of confidence in barrels from my experience at Pipe, but coming here, I wasn’t expecting a big result. I was just hoping to make a few heats.”
Parkinson’s runner-up finish today is his best of the season and it propels the Australian into the frontrunner position for the ASP World Title, but it's a position the world title aspirant has held many times before and with seven events remaining, he is not about to jump to conclusions.
“It’s a good feeling I suppose,” Parkinson said. “It’s a long way to go and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I’m stoked. I’ve had a couple of really nice consistent results. I have been in this position before though so I'm hoping to maintain my performance level throughout the rest of the year.”
Finishing third today were fellow Australians, Josh Kerr (Gold Coast, Qld, AUS), 27, and former two-time World Champion, Mick Fanning (Gold Coast, Qld, AUS).
Kerr's performance on the final day was astounding, the aerial specialist accounting for defending Billabong Rio Pro event champion, Adriano De Souza (BRA) with a single explosive manouver in the quarter-finals. The incredible aerial earned Kerr a near-perfect 9.43 out of a possible 10pts.
The 27 year-old was unable to surpass Florence in their Semifinal bout, but Kerr's equal 3rd place finish at the Billabong Rio Pro matches his career-best result.
“I've had three Semifinals now, but it's better than no Semifinals,” Kerr said. “I’ve had three back-to-back results and for me, going from 33rds on my previous years on tour until last year, it’s good progress and hopefully I can keep it going.”
Mick Fanning (AUS), 30, two-time ASP World Champion, eliminated Brazilian Alejo Muniz (BRA), 22, in the Quarterfinals but lost a hard-fought heat to close friend, Parkinson, in the Semifinals.
“It’s always fun surfing against Joel,” explained Fanning. “Even though you lose, your friend’s in the Final, so you win. I would have liked to make the Final but I just didn’t get the right waves and Joel surfed great.”
Finishing in equal 5th today were Tiago Pires (PRT), Alejo Muniz (BRA), Julian Wilson (AUS) and local hero and 2011 event champion, Adriano de Souza (BRA).
Kelly Slater (USA), 40, reigning 11-time ASP World Champion, was absent from the Billabong Rio Pro, citing an ankle injury. The Floridian's absence relinquished his former frontrunner status on the ratings and Slater now sits at ASP World No. 8.
To watch highlights from the Billabong Rio Pro log go here
The Billabong Rio Pro is proudly supported by Monster Energy Drink and Xperia Sony Smartphone.
The next stop on the 2012 ASP World Championship Tour will be the Volcom Fiji Pro, which holds a waiting period from June 3 through 15, 2012.
BILLABONG RIO PRO FINAL:
1 – John John Florence (HAW) 16.37
2 – Joel Parkinson (AUS) 11.44
BILLABONG RIO PRO SEMIFINALS RESULTS:
SF 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 15.83 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 15.00
SF 2: John John Florence (HAW) 17.94 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 11.86
BILLABONG RIO PRO QUARTERFINAL RESULTS:
QF 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 13.90 def. Tiago Pires (PRT) 12.60
QF 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.57 def. Alejo Muniz (BRA) 5.90
QF 3: John John Florence (HAW) 14.94 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 9.43
QF 4: Josh Kerr (AUS) 15.84 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.27
Current ASP WCT Top 10 (After Billabong Rio Pro):
1. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 19700 pts
2. Mick Fanning (AUS) 18250 pts
3. Josh Kerr (AUS) 18200 pts
4. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 17200 pts
5. Taj Burrow (AUS) 15750 pts
6. John John Florence (HAW) 15750 pts
7. Jordy Smith (ZAF) 15700 pts
8. Kelly Slater (USA) 13700 pts
9. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 12250 pts
10. Owen Wright (AUS) 12150 pts