This Monday, Joel Parkinson will board a plane on the Gold Coast and fly to Hawaii, land at Honolulu Airport, and drive to the North Shore. It’ll be the 12th time he’s made the trip as a WT surfer. And, maybe the last time as a man who doesn’t own a world title. He’s been close. He’s finished second in the world four times. Twice to Andy Irons, once to Mick Fanning and once to Kelly Slater. He now faces the latter two in a Pipeline decider for this year’s title. But Joel is relaxed. Consistency is a warm blanket. He’s had a quarters-or-better for every result of the year (counted, that is) and, if all falls into place, that’s where he’ll be at Pipe. And probably, so too will Kelly. And then it’s the battle of the highest placegetter! Does Joel deserve this title? Can a man win a legitimate world title without a contest victory? Is he worried about the greatest surfer who ever lived? These are the things Stab had to know. So, we called and found Joel driving through Coolangatta with his son.
Stab: We’ve spoken with you a few times this year and you’ve said you’re not thinking about the title. You have got to be thinking about it by now?
Joel Parkinson: Oh, for sure, a bit more. It’s hard not to, but I try to just think more about the event coming up, like I have all year. Thinking about doing well in the event. You can’t win the contest or the title in the third round. But, the earlier rounds at Pipe are the hardest rounds. You’re up against all the local wildcards and you’re not sure how the waves are gonna be. But those guys at Pipe, they’re Pipe specialists, they know the wave inside out. You’ve gotta be wary of that. You come up against Jamie O’Brien, it’s… pretty radical.
Do the Pipe scenarios keep you up at night? Not really. We all understand. For me, I don’t care about the points and scenarios, it’s just about the result. We all know what we’ve gotta drop. You just worry about th–
(Some commotion is audible in the car.)
Oh, I just hit a bird while I was driving! Rasta will be off me, I just hit a bird! Sorry…
Is it just as sweet winning a world title if you don’t win an event all year? Yep. I don’t care. It’s been done a lot, f’sure. I wouldn’t care at all. The guys that are in the race have been amazing at some places, and ok at other places. I’ve been really consistent and I’ve been happy with that. If you don’t have any wins, it’s much of a muchness. Hopefully the year of consistency prevails, and not just the coupla wins and coupla ok results.
Pressure-wise, where does this decider rate compared to previous years? I definitely think this is the most relaxed I’ve been. In ’09, when I came in with Mick, I had my ankle injury and felt like I’d just got my surfing feeling right. I only starting surfing without pain two weeks before Pipe. Surfing with pain for those few events just killed my whole thought process. I’m also more used to being in this situation. It’s a bit easier to prepare for, and I feel better prepared. If I win, I win and if I lose, I lose. I’ll still wake up and go surfing. If I win, it’s not going to change me. I’m quite content in my life, with my family and stuff. It’s definitely a dream I’ve always had, and I always want it, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.
This could potentially be runner-up number five, the most in surfing’s history. Does that thought wear you down? Nah.
Do you feel like you deserve this title? Yeah, for sure. I feel like I’ve worked hard enough and put enough in to deserve it. I’d love to think that it’s my turn.
Why head home for so long, rather than going straight to the Rock and getting in the rhythm of Hawaii? I’m glad I didn’t go over straight away. It’d kill me if the waves pumped. Actually, if they pumped I’d probably jump on a plane and fly over there, but with the waves not pumping… a week in Hawaii feels like a month when it’s flat. Most people might not think that’s true, but you’re there to do a job, not sit by the pool and drink cocktails and have a great time. I mean, if I was there for a week and it was flat and I could do that, it’d be unreal. But you’re there for a reason. So I’ve been at home training, spending time with my friends and family. You don’t get that pressure that you get on the north shore. At home I’m just Joel, and it makes life easier.
Mick’s a threat, but ratings and history would suggest Kelly’s the biggest concern. He’s competing in the Triple Crown, which is unlike him. Do you think about that? It doesn’t bother me what Kelly does. But we’re all in with a shot. Mick could easily win it. It’s mother nature. At Pipe, there’s not always a lot of really good waves in half an hour. You get one and a back up one. One wave can make a heat out there.
You make it to the business end of Pipe, it’s finals day, and it’s 15 foot. What do you eat for breakfast, what board do you grab, and who do you least wanna draw? I get up and have eggs. Then I grab the biggest fucken board I’ve got. I’d grab my 7’4″ quad. I’d love that, that’d be so sick. And on that day, I would not wanna draw Kieren Perrow. You ever see the guy out there? He’s unbelievable. He would take off under the lip and… any of the Pipe guys would be bad to draw, but I just know that guy goes like you wouldn’t believe. – Elliot Struck