After four days of incredible competition Joel Parkinson today completed a never-before-seen clean sweep of all three rounds and the grand final to claim a thoroughly deserved win at the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy 2023.
After back-to-back lay days which saw competitors dive into the plethora of activities on offer at the resort, conditions at Sultans were pumping and pristine once again for the ultimate showdown, a world champ matchup between Joel Parkinson and Adriano de Souza. Yesterday the two men swam together with sharks, today the two apex predators of the Surfing Champions Trophy met up with prestige, prize money and oversized novelty cheques on the line.
After the ocean lay dormant for the entirety of Parkinson’s three-minute head start (determined by age) he eventually opened proceedings with a 7.0 for a string of vicious carves. A few minutes later de Souza replied with an 8.0 of his own, a powerful layback jam on the first section earning the bulk of his points. Parkinson struck back with a 7.27 before de Souza rode one of the longest waves of the event all the way to the coral beach and locked in a 6.57 to regain a narrow lead.
Parkinson turned his nose up at the first wave of the next set and de Souza went to work on the inside to record a 6.57. After a faultless week of wave choices nothing changed in the final and Parkinson’s elite ocean reading prowess proved its worth once again as the second wave stood tall, stretched out and allowed the 2012 world champion to unleash his expansive repertoire. Parkinson had locked in a 9.10 by the time he kicked out and started the long paddle to the top of the lineup.
With de Souza now in charge of priority he didn’t take long to play his trump card. A wide set saw him work through the gears, build momentum through his turns and finish on the inside with a big closeout jam to move back into the lead with an 8.07, but there were more twists to come.
De Souza quickly snuck into another wave and belted it from start to finish. Then came the moment of the final, with the Parkinson family and everyone onboard luxury launch the Kuda Princess seeing the large set that was looming on the horizon. With less than a minute to go Parkinson paddled into a long wall and tore into section after section, seemingly to take the win, an uncharacteristic claim after his last turn suggesting the Aussie definitely felt the same.
De Souza and Parkinson sat next to each other in the channel as the scores were read out. De Souza locked in his best wave of the final, an 8.6, and Parkinson’s requirement suddenly jumped up from an easily attainable 6.97 to a far more demanding 7.57. After a dramatic pause the judges deemed Parkinson’s last wave to be worth a 9.0, and on his second visit to Kuda Huraa he hoisted the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy for the first time.
“Ten from ten!” said Parkinson, after his win. “I definitely didn’t expect that, and for it all to come down to the last minute of the last heat is as good as it gets. Imagine if I won nine of nine then had a shocker and lost the event! With the momentum I had and getting to know the break and where to sit, I still felt like I was in a good rhythm in the final even when Adriano got a few scores early. Thankfully the wave gods sent me a wave right at the end. I haven’t done a turn like that first one in five years, I had the section and jammed it. When I rode out of it I knew was on my way and just had to get the job done, and in the end I was lucky enough to get the score.”
“I can’t complain,” said a happy de Souza, “Just to get the invitation to spend a week here was amazing, I had the best time. Congratulations to Joel, he surfed so well in every division and it was such a pleasure to spend so much time in the water together again. I’ve never surfed a single fin before so had to work hard and practice so it was great to make the final, then keep it going with Joel on the twin fin and the thruster. This week was a 10, I had so much fun and the grand final just then was great. I’m not taking a trophy home, but a lot of happiness competing with Joel again, and Conner Coffin, and Mason Ho.”