Chris Parrish has been waiting for this day since July 2010. It has brought him the taste of victory once again. His last pro-event win took place in Eurolac, France, when he won the Alizee Cup. Today the current world-record holder took top honors at the Ski Paradise Invitational in Acapulco, Mexico, among a select field of the world’s top skiers that included Nate Smith, Will Asher, Thomas Degasperi and the winningest slalom skier of all time, Andy Mapple. “I’m on cloud nine for sure right now,” Parrish says. “I just want to thank Gordon Rathbun for putting this tournament together with few inside guys to make the purse really big,” he says.
The Ski Paradise Invitational was part of a dream week of skiing at Gordon Rathbun’s Ski Paradise for several lucky guests, who paid $5,000 apiece (rumor has it that one guest paid for three of his friends to join him) to hang out and get coached by several of the world’s greatest skiers. With the help of Rathbun’s well-to-do clients, the tournament payment topped out at more than $32,000. It’s one of the largest payouts in the history of the sport to a single event, let alone to a competitive field of only five skiers.
The tournament started with two qualifying rounds to determine the head-to-head pairings for the final round, which would be hosted in two side-by-side slalom courses; it would be the first pro event of its kind. Yesterday, Mapple sent a wake-up call to the elite field in the first round by posting the leading score of 3 at 41 off. But the score came with a price, as Mapple took a massive hit of slack as he exited the gates at 39 1/2 off. Parrish, Smith and Asher were close behind, within 1 1/2 buoys. Degasperi finished a few buoys back, going down around 5 ball at 39 1/2 off.
The second round was completed earlier this morning, and Parrish quickly made himself known, posting a huge score of 4 1/2 at 41 off after Degasperi upped his first-round score by 1/2 buoy. The young guns, Smith and Asher, then collectively stepped up to defend their ground against 50-year-old Mapple, both equaling his first-round buoy count of 3 at 41 off. Mapple, the top seed of the second round, went down at mid-39, but was still ensured a spot in the finals, because his highest score edged out Degasperi’s.
This set up a head-to-head semifinal round with the No. 1 seed, Parrish, versus Mapple, and the No. 3 seed, Smith, versus Asher. With both boats running together at the same time in parallel courses, the action was intense and fun to follow. After a 32-off start, Mapple and Parrish, each skiing comfortably behind their boat sponsor’s Nautique 200, worked their way down the line to 38 off. Perhaps the lack of 36 mph training got to Mapple, who couldn’t reach 6 ball as he watched his teammate and employee (Parrish’s ski sponsor is Mapple Skis) exit the gates with all six in the bag.
Next on the water were Asher and Smith, who battled head-to-head at last year’s Diablo Shores Pro Am in September, with Asher taking the win. This battle would be decided at 41 off once again. Neither skier had a great gate, but Asher’s signature onside turn shot him over to three ball like a cannonball and he upped Smith’s run by one buoy.
The finale was determined. Parrish vs. Asher. In this round, 35 off was the opening rope length and both competitors were extremely determined. “I had a job to do and was super focused,” says Parrish. “The side-by-side course is different. At times Will’s spray landed right in front of me.”
Both skiers made cleaned house at 38 and 39 1/2 off, but Parrish looked a bit more in control of his destiny. A tailwind 41 off pass made both skiers work diligently at the gate. Both fought hard and were down-course around two ball, but survived the massive load across the wakes to tie each other with a score of 3 at 41 off.
A runoff would decide the winner, but this time with a headwind 41 off. Parrish was on point with his gate this time, destroying one, two, and three ball and making his over to four. “When I looked up at Will after I rounded four ball, I knew I had won because I could see the expression on his face,” says Parrish.
Parrish was quick to thank his sponsors Nautique, Mapple Skis, Eagle, and Naked Turtle. “They’ve really stood by me, and now I’m motivated more than ever to make 2013 my best season ever!”