The past year hasn't been an easy one for Joel Parkinson.
About this time last year we learned the ankle injury he incurred in August of 2009 was far worse than even he wanted to admit.
After a stellar beginning to the 2009 season his first ASP world championship looked all but locked up. Then his huge lead vanished after the injury. As Fanning went on a tear through California and Europe Parko tried to put on a brave face and mount a defense...but to no avail. In the final event of the year he handed the championship to his buddy. That he handled it with incredible class didn't ease the pain.
Then any shot he had at redemption this year was cut short--literally--when he filleted his foot back home in Australia just as the season was getting underway.
Of course, those blows look trivial now. They pale in comparison to the one that hit Parko in the gut on November 2. The loss of his dear friend Andy Irons was something he had to deal with while back at home, removed from his family mates on tour, who (at the very least) were able to mourn together. When he got the call, Parko had to slip away from his kids so he could weep without them seeing him.
He needed his trip to Hawaii this year--probably more than ever. He knew it'd be therapeutic.
On Kauai last week he rejoined his tour mates along with thousands of Andy's friends and loved ones to say goodbye. And Hawaiians sure know how to say goodbye. In the heavenly setting of Hanalei Bay the outpouring of love was astounding. The energy is still permeating the islands, and will be for weeks if not months. Parko, a man as close to Andy as anyone, was undoubtedly filling up on the vital energy source. Emotionally, he was mending as well as can be expected.
Parko is also back in the water. His physical therapy is coming along nicely too. Not surprisingly, his return became the immediate storyline of the Reef Hawaiian Pro. What was surprising though, was that his first ride, of his first heat back in months, was a perfect 10.
Honestly, the contest was over at that point.
Granted, there was plenty of work left. But right then, right there, in that moment-- of this year-- well, you could tell there was something bigger at work. Parko was tapping into something other worldly. He looked as fresh as ever despite having just been out of the water for months.
In the dying moments of the final he seemed to acknowledge that force. Kicking out of his heat-winning wave Parko made a gesture that might have easily been mistaken for a claim, only it didn't look self congratulatory, and it certainly wasn't aimed at the judges. To me, it looked like it was directed at somebody else, somewhere else. And to me, well, it looked a lot like a thank you...
"Andy's part of the ocean forever now," Parko said on the podium.
GRINDTV NEWSWIRE-HUNTINGTON BEACH, California/USA (Thursday, November 18, 2010) - On November 2, 2010, the world was shocked and saddened to learn of the unexpected and tragic passing of Andy Irons (HAW), 32.
The following weeks have been filled with reviews and preparations, with ASP working closely with the Irons family.
The Irons Family have released the following statement:
Following a beautiful memorial service on November 14th, 2010 at Andy's beloved Hanalei Bay, the Irons family would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to everyone who has reached out to them from the far corners of the planet.
"Andy's passing was met with the most overwhelming and powerful wave of love and support," said Andy's mother Danielle, adding that the family could not have imagined the range of Andy's impact and influence on people around the world.
"The friendship and concern that has poured in from everywhere has been unimaginable," says Andy's father, Phil, "and we are deeply, deeply grateful. Words are beyond us." Danielle adds, "It's like one big giant hug, arms around you, of comfort."
The entire family wants to thank their friends at Billabong, who were there for the family from the first moment. "Then they orchestrated such a soulful, loving day for the community and for Andy. Andy would have loved it! It was an extraordinary memorial," said Danielle.
The Irons family too wants to recognize the special community of Hanalei, where Andy and his brother Bruce were born and raised on the North Shore, and thank them for extending the aloha spirit in coming together, opening their arms and sharing their generosity "with us and everybody", and in continuing to support the Irons family. "We are still feeling the community's sorrow so deeply. It helps to go through this together," said Andy's father, Phil.
The family would also like to thank the ASP Medical Team for their role at the ASP-sanctioned event at Puerto Rico and want to convey their appreciation to the ASP-approved Rip Curl Pro Search Doctors who treated Andy there. They were professional and did everything they could to take care of Andy's health, says Danielle, on behalf of the family. "I know how stubborn Andy can be, and once he makes up his mind there's no changing it. He was set on coming home."
The ASP completed its preliminary medical review for the Rip Curl Pro Search Puerto Rico several days ago, concluding that the medical staff met and exceeded protocols, offering Andy Irons the best possible care.
A memorial service took place on November 14, 2010 at Pine Trees in Hanalei Bay, Kauai. The service included an honorary paddle-out to pay tribute to his legacy.
There will be a second and closing ceremony to celebrate his life during the start of this year's Pipe Masters.
For more information, log onto www.aspworldtour.com
Andy Irons was supposed to be playing a spoiler role this month in Hawaii. His plan when he left Puerto Rico earlier this month, was to get home and rest up for the final three events of the season.
The three-time world champion was a huge force on his home turf, winning the prestigious Triple Crown of Surfing four times.
Now we're left wondering what might have been, still trying to find the balance between mourning his loss and celebrating his incredible life.
There are several tributes to Andy out there floating in the internet ether, all of them very moving. But as the Triple Crown got underway the producers of the morning show decided they'd dedicate a special episode to Andy, the same day ceremonies were being held in his honor all over the world.
For the most part, this episode flew under the radar. I hadn't seen it until today. But if you have time (it's an hour long) I recommend you sit and watch. There are incredible flashback segments that will throw you back on the roller coaster ride that was Andy's amazing journey...