Reigning ASP World Champion Joel Parkinson (Gold Coast, QLD/AUS) won his first heat of 2013 at the Burton Toyota Pro at Surfest Newcastle today.
MEREWETHER, Newcastle, NSW/Australia (Wednesday, February 20, 2013) - Joel Parkinson looked relaxed, powerful and focused surfing his first official heat as the current ASP World Champion.
He had little trouble demolishing his opponents scoring big from the get-go when he opened with an 8-point-ride and backed it up later with a 9 and a combined heat total of 17 out of a possible 20 defeating Matt-Lewis Hewitt (NZL) on 13.23 who also advancing in 2nd place in the four-man heat.
“As World Champion I guess I feel there’s a target on my back, I’m the one to take down but once I was in the heat I felt good out there – It’s good to get the jersey back on” said Parkinson.
“Toward the end of last year there was an incredible amount of pressure and now that’s not there maybe I can be an even more dangerous opponent in the water
“I’m sensing good waves for the weekends finals so I really want to be there in the thick of the action – I don’t want to watch it from the stands!”
Brazilian wunderkind Felipe Toledo was a revelation at the Burton Toyota Pro last year where he placed second and revealed some of the most innovative aerial surfing seen. He then went on in 2012 and fast-track qualified for the elite ASP World Championship Tour and today the 17-year-old from Ubutuba put on another incredible aerial display to easily win through to tomorrow’s Round of 48.
Others to impress in the nine heats of Men’s that were completed included Joan Duru (France) and Portugal’s Tiago Pires while Jack Freestone, the two-time and current ASP World Junior Champion was eliminated in the dieting seconds of his opening round heat, going down to Santiago Muniz (ARG) and local surfer Jesse Adam (AUS).
Heat 9, the final heat of the day was an exciting one to watch as Australians Matt Wilkinson and Matt Banting were battling for the same wave, bumped boards and exchanged words. The judges deemed that Wilkinson had the right of way and Banting was penalised with an interference. Then towards the end of the heat the two Brazilian surfers Ian Gouveia and Peterson Crisanto got tangled paddling for the same wave with Crisanto coming off second best earning an interference. Wilkinson and Gouveia both advanced into the Round of 48.
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) was a shock elimination from the Hunter Ports Women’s Classic going down in her early morning heat to Alize Arnaud from France and Sage Erickson (USA).
The reigning five time ASP Women’s World Champion was also using this event to warm-up for the coming ASP World Championship Tour Season which officially begins at the Roxy Pro on the Gold Coast on March 2nd.
As Gilmore alluded to at the press conference yesterday, she finds it difficult surfing heats with four in the water as opposed to the format for World Championship Tour events which are mostly two and occasionally three surfers in the water.
“I much prefer surfing heats where it’s woman-on-woman, priority for waves is allocated and we’re not jostling for waves – In small conditions it can get congested in the water when all competing just to get the right wave” said Gilmore.
With four back-to-back World Championship Tour events approaching in the Australasian region in the coming two months (Gold Coast, Margaret River, Bells and Taranaki NZ), Gilmore has a hectic schedule ahead as she aims to defend her ASP World Title.
The stand-out surfer in the women’s draw today was Lakey Peterson (USA) who posted two outstanding 9 point plus rides for a heat total of 18.70 due largely to her successful high degree of difficulty aerial moves on each ride.
“I’ve been surfing waves just like this at home so I feel very comfortable here” said Peterson.
“Yesterday I was nervous being the first heat of the new season but as each heat is run I’m feeling good and well prepared for this year.”
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS) placed second behind Peterson to advance to the Quarterfinals ahead of Laura Enever (AUS) who was eliminated.
Unsettled weather moved in on the event during the afternoon which seems to indicate larger surf in the coming days and into the finals weekend.