Pro Spotlight – Joel Parkinson

Snippets Of A Determined Mind
Interview by Jesse Faen
March 9, 2005

Driving down the Gold Coast Highway in Queensland, Australia, you soon realize how famous Joel Parkinson has become. A huge Billabong billboard overhanging the road midway between his home break of Snapper Rocks and Burleigh Heads depicts an aerial maneuver he launched inside a Singaporean wave pool last year, while at virtually every bus stop, Pepsi advertisements promote his face.

At just 23 years of age, he’s already finished as runner-up to the ASP world title twice, ahead of Kelly Slater and the pack, but slightly behind Kaua’i’s all-conquering Andy Irons.

The following interview almost didn’t happen, and then, at one of the most inappropriate times to push a microphone in front of someone’s face-the day after a massive party began in celebration of his good mate Mick Fanning’s amazing comeback victory at the recent Quiksilver Pro-it did.After tracking him down to Fanning’s house-where tour mates like Mark Occhilupo, Bruce Irons, Mick Lowe, and Beau Emerton, together with a bunch of other Cooly kids and surf-industry friends, were set to rage long into the coming night-Parko sat with daughter Evie inside, avoiding the full brunt of the festivities going on outside.

Amidst the commotion, and while the beers flowed all around, these words were spoken …

Having to do this interview now must feel like the one aspect of your life that resembles work.

Parko: Yep, that’s kinda true. This will probably be a really bad interview ’cause my brain’s like a … it’s not working today. The switch is off.That’s fair enough given what happened yesterday. Let’s start by talking about what did go down and why everyone’s still celebrating now.

Well, Mick won and showed that he’s back, I suppose-back better than ever. It wasn’t the best of days for you, but to see your mate win … and be the first to run down to the water’s edge to carry him up the beach afterward must have been really special.

Yeah, he did it to me when I won, so I had to do it to him. It was unreal. Even though I didn’t win, I felt just as much joy for him to do it.

The interview pauses while we’re handed a couple of beers by Matt Gye, director of the film 3 Degrees about Joel, Mick, and Dean Morrison a couple of years ago.

How’s your memory of yesterday? It was a big day, starting with round four in the morning and a heat no one expected you to lose to Tommy Whitaker. What happened there?

I’ve been falling a lot, I noticed. I had a good first wave but blew it. There were only two set heats, so whoever got the really good wave at the start was usually going to win. Not many guys won from being behind yesterday, they all led from the start.

There were definitely a lot of expectations on that event, being the first one of the year, and obviously on you too, being at home and all. How hard was it to deal with losing in round four?

Shivers … I mean, most of the top guys lost. Kelly and Andy only got one place better than me, so Mick’s the only one who really got ahead. The rest of the guys will come good. There are thirteen events this year, so we’ve got twelve to go, and it’s definitely not a short year.

After your heat, I saw you sitting up on the balcony of the Rainbow Surf Club drinking beers with Monica (Joel’s fianceà‡), your dad, and his brother Darryl, while the boys were still competing. What was it like to watch and then see Mick take it out?

It was good. I would’ve obviously liked it to have been me, but I was sitting next to Phil and Danielle Irons (Andy and Bruce’s parents), too, during Mick and Andy’s heat, and I told them “I’m going to have to go for Mick, but I’ll just cheer as hard for Andy as well,” you know? For me, I thought that was the heat of the day. That was the biggest matchup, and I knew if Mick beat Andy, it would be a Mick event.

You almost looked more devastated about being kicked out of the Surf Club after the final and not bei able to celebrate with the boys than when you lost.After we carried Mick out of the water, I got so wet and sandy, so I went and had a shower in the clubhouse, and took my clothes off. Then I grabbed a towel and ran out to get some dry clothes from the car. But for ages I couldn’t find anyone, or especially Monica with the car keys, so I was running around nude basically (laughs). So they kicked me out because I had nothing on, and when I went back to get my wet clothes, they’d been stolen. Finally I got some gear out of the car … the boardies I’d been surfing in earlier.

So what happened when you finally reconnected with the boys last night?

Yeah, it was a massive night. That bar definitely had a lot of heart and soul in there. Lot of great local people, so it was an awesome day/night, which seems to be still going (laughs). What’s the time now anyway?About 3:00 p.m., but I don’t think this party is going to finish anytime soon.Yeah, but I’ve got to go to ASL (Australia’s Surfing Life magazine) party tonight.

Ugly. Well, let’s move away from yesterday and reflect on last year for a moment. You finished second in the world for your second time. How’s that sitting with you?

It’s definitely fueling the fire.

Do you feel your surfing performances were good enough to win the world title last year?

I think I need better for sure. I need to get back into the same head space I had for Japan and Trestles and Bells… that whole leg I felt unreal, and I had a really good attitude of not losing. I just need to get to that head space and keep it going all year.

You did miss two events last year when Evie was born, and Japan was a huge turning point, also. If you’d won that final, which you were leading over C.J. until the last few seconds, it would’ve made a big difference. Have you thought much about that final and how it played out?

Yeah, but I’ve also thought a lot about my heat with Hedgey at J-Bay. That’s definitely an event I think favors me for gathering points, and I made a couple of bad mistakes. I should have put more effort in there, I thought. But it was my first event in a couple of months after Evie was born. I think about every heat I lose.

Let’s speak about Evie. Here we are surrounded by mates celebrating Mick’s win, but you’re being the responsible father looking after her inside the house.It’s all good. I’ve been enjoying myself, but this is what I have to do. Monica is busy taking care of plans for the wedding today, so I said I’d take care of Evie. When the contest is on it does take a lot of my time and you have to be a bit … selfish, I guess.

Well, that’s your job.Yeah, but it gets hard for her. So after ten days of getting up at 5:30 a.m. to leave for the contest site, it’s good to have the day with Evie and let Monica have a day off. She’s still busy with the wedding, so it’s not really time off.When is the big day?

The nineteenth of March.

How’s that sounding?

Things have definitely changed. Ado (good mate Adrian Wiseman) keeps giving me shit, saying it’s going to be the best day of waves for the year (laughs). It’s funny, ’cause you think surfing is your whole life, but then when you make a family it seems like it’s not at all.

It definitely seemed like Evie brought you a lot of luck the first couple of events she came to, in Japan and Trestles.

It’s true. Happiness is a big thing.

It must have been a hard decision not to bring her and Monica to Brazil then.Yeah, it seems like when I brought them on tour I started doing really well, so probably. But it’s hard. As soon as I got to Brazil I missed them so much. I can stay away from home for ages if they’re with me, but that trip I really missed being there. I needed a little Evie fix (laughs).

Thinking about Brazil and when the world title did become Andy’s, how do you reflect on what happened-losing to local wildcard Tanio Barreto?

It wasn’t a very good event for anyone, I didn’t think. Except Taj, of course. I hate that actual wave we were at (Praia da Vila, Imbituba). I lost there the year before, too. I’ve never done too well in Brazil. The best I’ve ever done is a semifinal, and I think I blew that, too.

Even though you were a long shot, I remember how cut you seemed directly after the loss. It affected you more than anyone was expecting, which shows how determined you actually were.

I was. I never gave up, and I’m proud of myself for that. I thought, “Fuck it, I can do it, I can do it.’ I kept telling myself I could. I knew I was a long shot, but I kept telling myself that as long as I can win and make the finals, I’ll have a good go at it. Even if I lost still, ’cause Andy makes it far enough, it would’ve been okay, since I knew I did my best. But because I lost myself, that hurt. I can control what I do, but I can’t control what Andy does. So that was the hardest part. I wasn’t thinking, “Andy’s going to lose,” but if he did, great.

Definitely shows your competitive nature to be entering events sure you can win.Those events I had to win.

Well, it didn’t pan out, so what have you done between then and now to get ready for 2005?

I haven’t really changed anything, just trying to keep the same mentality as last year. I went on holidays. I had one surf in the first 24 days of the year. I surfed once for half an hour at Snapper on the second of January, and then I didn’t surf again until the twenty-fourth. I went to New York then to Canada to go snowboarding. Just got away from the whole beach culture. I took the whole family, and my brother and sister-in-law.

Recharge the batteries?

Yeah. I missed a good swell at home, and everyone was telling me about it, so it was good. Made me really want to get back in the water.

I want to get your take on Andy now. Three years in a row he’s dominated the tour, so I’m wondering what you think is going to change that?

The new judging criteria might make it a lot fairer. I think the criteria now will be fairer for anybody. If you put it on the line and pull it off, you’re going to get rewarded. So that could make it really handy for all of us.That was pretty evident in the first event with Wardo and his scores.Yeah, Wardo was rewarded for punting it, which was good.

Were you impressed with his arrival on the ‘CT?

It was unreal. I was thinking, “No rookies do that shit.” So it’s unreal for him.

For you, after winning two Billabong World Junior Titles and placing runner-up twice for the crown, does a world title feel like destiny?

Yeah, I suppose it does. I really want it, and I believe that I can do it. You feel like a goose saying it, but you do have to believe you can do it. You have to be able to convince yourself, ’cause if you can’t even do that, you can’t do it. Sometimes I feel like an idiot talking about it, but yeah, I do. Like Rasta’s old man’s call in Blue Horizon, where he goes, “Think it, feel it, do it.” That’s classic I reckon, and it really is a good way to take competition. I mean, you’re in it to win.

I’m glad you brought up Rasta. You guys grew up together, but your paths have obviously gone really different ways. Do you get jealous of his more relaxed lifestyle?

The grass is always greener on the other side. I definitely always say I wish I had Rasta’s job and could just cruise, but I imagine being in Rasta’s shoes and not being able to compete, because I love competing. He doesn’t enjoy it at all and isn’t into it, so I guess for him the grass isn’t greener.

Do you guys hang out much these days?

Nah, I hardly ever see him. I haven’t seen him for ages, but I always hear about what he’s up to.

It’s funny how much publicity Rasta gets for riding all these different boards, as I know you love trying alternative shapes, too. Are you finding much time these days to experiment with boards?

No. I’m just a stale, boring surfer (laughs).

Hardly.

I had a lot of fun when I used to ride all those weird shapes, but there isn’t much point in me doing ithat actual wave we were at (Praia da Vila, Imbituba). I lost there the year before, too. I’ve never done too well in Brazil. The best I’ve ever done is a semifinal, and I think I blew that, too.

Even though you were a long shot, I remember how cut you seemed directly after the loss. It affected you more than anyone was expecting, which shows how determined you actually were.

I was. I never gave up, and I’m proud of myself for that. I thought, “Fuck it, I can do it, I can do it.’ I kept telling myself I could. I knew I was a long shot, but I kept telling myself that as long as I can win and make the finals, I’ll have a good go at it. Even if I lost still, ’cause Andy makes it far enough, it would’ve been okay, since I knew I did my best. But because I lost myself, that hurt. I can control what I do, but I can’t control what Andy does. So that was the hardest part. I wasn’t thinking, “Andy’s going to lose,” but if he did, great.

Definitely shows your competitive nature to be entering events sure you can win.Those events I had to win.

Well, it didn’t pan out, so what have you done between then and now to get ready for 2005?

I haven’t really changed anything, just trying to keep the same mentality as last year. I went on holidays. I had one surf in the first 24 days of the year. I surfed once for half an hour at Snapper on the second of January, and then I didn’t surf again until the twenty-fourth. I went to New York then to Canada to go snowboarding. Just got away from the whole beach culture. I took the whole family, and my brother and sister-in-law.

Recharge the batteries?

Yeah. I missed a good swell at home, and everyone was telling me about it, so it was good. Made me really want to get back in the water.

I want to get your take on Andy now. Three years in a row he’s dominated the tour, so I’m wondering what you think is going to change that?

The new judging criteria might make it a lot fairer. I think the criteria now will be fairer for anybody. If you put it on the line and pull it off, you’re going to get rewarded. So that could make it really handy for all of us.That was pretty evident in the first event with Wardo and his scores.Yeah, Wardo was rewarded for punting it, which was good.

Were you impressed with his arrival on the ‘CT?

It was unreal. I was thinking, “No rookies do that shit.” So it’s unreal for him.

For you, after winning two Billabong World Junior Titles and placing runner-up twice for the crown, does a world title feel like destiny?

Yeah, I suppose it does. I really want it, and I believe that I can do it. You feel like a goose saying it, but you do have to believe you can do it. You have to be able to convince yourself, ’cause if you can’t even do that, you can’t do it. Sometimes I feel like an idiot talking about it, but yeah, I do. Like Rasta’s old man’s call in Blue Horizon, where he goes, “Think it, feel it, do it.” That’s classic I reckon, and it really is a good way to take competition. I mean, you’re in it to win.

I’m glad you brought up Rasta. You guys grew up together, but your paths have obviously gone really different ways. Do you get jealous of his more relaxed lifestyle?

The grass is always greener on the other side. I definitely always say I wish I had Rasta’s job and could just cruise, but I imagine being in Rasta’s shoes and not being able to compete, because I love competing. He doesn’t enjoy it at all and isn’t into it, so I guess for him the grass isn’t greener.

Do you guys hang out much these days?

Nah, I hardly ever see him. I haven’t seen him for ages, but I always hear about what he’s up to.

It’s funny how much publicity Rasta gets for riding all these different boards, as I know you love trying alternative shapes, too. Are you finding much time these days to experiment with boards?

No. I’m just a stale, boring surfer (laughs).

Hardly.

I had a lot of fun when I used to ride all those weird shapes, but there isn’t much point in me doing it these days. In January, when I first started surfing again, I was on a Button’s twin fin I bought in Hawai’i. I was riding that, which was pretty funny, and had a couple of surfs at Snapper on it. But other than that, no.

Are you spending a lot of time with Darren Handley (DHD Surfboards) refining your boards? Or are they basically the same as the past few years?

Not changing much, actually. A little bit, but it’s funny, he can do a board that seems virtually the same, but is different. Sometimes I think a board can go just as good as another board, but sometimes you just feel more confident on one of them. I have boards where if I do well on them, I know I can just pull it out whenever and I’ll go straight to the headspace of it fitting it. One board might actually be better, but the other gives you that confidence to know what it can do.

The memory rides with you.

Yeah, it does. Like the board I won Bells on last year, I’m thinking about cleaning it up and changing the spray on it, so it looks like a fresh board for this year. Which would be kind of heavy, ’cause I don’t think these judges like to see you on a stale two year old board.

What is your standard board these days?

A 6’2″, 18 3/8″, 2 3/8″. Rounded square or rounded pin, with a little bit of concave, depending on where I’m going. You’ve got to spice it up a little bit now and then.

We’re looking at a bunch of Mick’s new boards across the room. How many boards you go through these days?

In the month before the contest, I reckon I had 45 boards. I’ve got that many it’s been a joke lately.

How do you sort through them all?

I surf morning and arvo, and every time on a freshy. Then I when I get a good one I’ll ride it two or three times and put it away for the comps.

What can you tell me about this movie you’re working on with Jack McCoy?

It’s called Free As A Dog, and will be coming out January 2006. Its got a funny plot to it, with some acting and stuff. Its should be real funny. Jack’s been following me around for a few months, since before Hawai’i last year. Nothing to do with the tour, which has been a good break.

Nathan Hedge walks in, drink in hand, and he and Joel’s attention turns to the huge flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. A house race is on, and while no bets are placed, they watch keenly and make educated predictions. Evie starts crying and Joel says he’s got to get her home and to sleep.

Captions

Joel’s signature style, known as one of the most casual and flowing ever in the history of the rad world. Photo:

Parko’s backhand is a rare and beautiful sight. Imagine if the Superbank was a left.

Parko’s not scared to tow in to some death bombs. His style stays brilliant, even in heavy situations like this one.

Tube wizardry at it’s finest. Joel tickles the womb at the Superbank, or as it should be called, Joel’s Bank.

Snap at your grill. North Shore, brah.

Frothy, windy, whippy roundhouse in South Africa.

Joels carves a beautiful arc and leads the viewer to wonder how he managed to bury his rail that deep.

Parko lofts into a South African sunset. g it these days. In January, when I first started surfing again, I was on a Button’s twin fin I bought in Hawai’i. I was riding that, which was pretty funny, and had a couple of surfs at Snapper on it. But other than that, no.

Are you spending a lot of time with Darren Handley (DHD Surfboards) refining your boards? Or are they basically the same as the past few years?

Not changing much, actually. A little bit, but it’s funny, he can do a board that seems virtually the same, but is different. Sometimes I think a board can go just as good as another board, but sometimes you just feel more confident on one of them. I have boards where if I do well on them, I know I can just pull it out whenever and I’ll go straight to the headspace of it fitting it. One board might actually be better, but the other gives you that confidence to know what it can do.

The memory rides with youu.

Yeah, it does. Like the board I won Bells on last year, I’m thinking about cleaning it up and changing the spray on it, so it looks like a fresh board for this year. Which would be kind of heavy, ’cause I don’t think these judges like to see you on a stale two year old board.

What is your standard board these days?

A 6’2″, 18 3/8″, 2 3/8″. Rounded square or rounded pin, with a little bit of concave, depending on where I’m going. You’ve got to spice it up a little bit now and then.

We’re looking at a bunch of Mick’s new boards across the room. How many boards you go through these days?

In the month before the contest, I reckon I had 45 boards. I’ve got that many it’s been a joke lately.

How do you sort through them all?

I surf morning and arvo, and every time on a freshy. Then I when I get a good one I’ll ride it two or three times and put it away for the comps.

What can you tell me about this movie you’re working on with Jack McCoy?

It’s called Free As A Dog, and will be coming out January 2006. Its got a funny plot to it, with some acting and stuff. Its should be real funny. Jack’s been following me around for a few months, since before Hawai’i last year. Nothing to do with the tour, which has been a good break.

Nathan Hedge walks in, drink in hand, and he and Joel’s attention turns to the huge flat-screen TV mounted on the wall. A house race is on, and while no bets are placed, they watch keenly and make educated predictions. Evie starts crying and Joel says he’s got to get her home and to sleep.

Captions

Joel’s signature style, known as one of the most casual and flowing ever in the history of the rad world. Photo:

Parko’s backhand is a rare and beautiful sight. Imagine if the Superbank was a left.

Parko’s not scared to tow in to some death bombs. His style stays brilliant, even in heavy situations like this one.

Tube wizardry at it’s finest. Joel tickles the womb at the Superbank, or as it should be called, Joel’s Bank.

Snap at your grill. North Shore, brah.

Frothy, windy, whippy roundhouse in South Africa.

Joels carves a beautiful arc and leads the viewer to wonder how he managed to bury his rail that deep.

Parko lofts into a South African sunset.