The Rip Curl Pro grandstand has once more materialised on the dunes at Supertubos. A spot which is crowded for much of the year becomes still more cramped when the top 32 and their entourages take to the water, turning the scene into whirlpool of minor altercations. At the heart of this petty maelstrom is Joel Parkinson, whose drop-in and lineup tiff with a prominent Portuguese bodyboarder, Nuno "Barrela" Pereira, has somewhat overshadowed the official proceedings.
Based on the photographic evidence and subsequently released video, Parko dropped in on Barrela resulting in heated discussion. A water splash came from the world champ, replied with a neat slap to the Joel's chiselled jaw. The incident comes as no great surprise; anxious to put in the hours before the first heat, the ASP battalion drop in on surfers across the globe, irrespective of wave craft or local status, certainly Parko can't be singled out as the sole self righteous offender.
"There are always a couple of heated moments. It’s the day before the event, you’re trying to catch a couple, and y’know, there’s a few bodyboarders, there’s always one or two bodyboarders that are, I guess, trying to stamp their authority." Joel Parkinson
The following day Parko shrugged off the scuffle, well aware that it's not a good idea to pick a fight with a thriving local bodyboard contingent. “There’s always a couple of heated moments,” said Joel. “It’s the day before the event, you’re trying to catch a couple, and y’know, there’s a few bodyboarders, there’s always one or two bodyboarders that are, I guess, trying to stamp their authority. We were just trying to get waves, and I had a little run in, but it’s all sorted, it’s all good. I think if we all show respect and treat each other how we should treat ourselves, I think it’ll all work out. But definitely, I think it just gets heated when there’s not a lot of waves, and one comes and it’s your turn, and someone drops in, so… that’s how it happens.”
One internet commentator, allegedly at the scene, painted a slightly different picture: "I know the bodyboarder in person and I'm telling you, he's too calm comparing with some others I know. What happened was that Parko took of on his outside, and he warned him about it as well as other bodyboarders who were there, and Parko just laughed at their faces. That´s why he got slapped."
If anything, this incident highlights the tensions which boil up around word tour events. A colossal contest site is deposited on top of dunes which, for the rest of the year, are cordoned off for habitat protection. Locals who are accustomed to taking their fill are suddenly poked down the pecking order, and wave-craft discrimination emerges in the most liberal minded of practitioners.
From an economic perspective, Peniche thrives from the media attention, as have Arica, Barra and every other locality towards which the ASP points its eagle eye. However, there are a myriad of problems beyond a jittery webcast or poor forecast, and a light slap to the face doesn't even scrape the surface.