Stab Magazine | Joel Parkinson Reveals His Five Favorite Surfing Styles

Joel Parkinson Reveals His Five Favorite Surfing Styles

“Style is all about making the hard things look easy.”

style // Jul 29, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

When talking about style, there are no hard rules. 

Some like the rough, thrashy approach of Ozzie Wright. Others prefer Machado’s economy of movement. Nobody (and we mean nobody) hates Tom Curren. 

Another name that gets tossed around in the style debate is Joel Parkinson, the 2012 World Champion who, like many smooth operators before (and after) him, earned his clean and steady rhythm on Australia’s Gold Coast points. 

While Joel’s lifelong pal and sparring partner, Mick Fanning, might have more Titles to his name, and their other mate Dingo probably spent the most time in the tube, Parko will always be remembered as the most stylish of the Coolie Kids. 


Like Renaissance art! Photo: WSL

And as any surfer will tell you, few things, if any, matter more than how you look on a wave.

So we asked Parko, what does style mean to you?

“For me,” Joel replied, “style has two parts. One, it needs to be pleasing to the eye. Two, it needs to make the hard things look easy.”

With his criteria clearly defined, we then asked Joel to tell us five of his favorite styles in surfing. Here’s where he landed:


An impossible cakewalk. Photo: WSL

John John Florence

Joel: “John is pretty probably the best at making hard things look easy. The way he absorbs his own weight and makes hard landings look soft and cushy will never cease to amaze me. Even with his carves… John gets a bit of criticism because he just uses the speed of the wave and his body torque, but I think there should be the opposite response. He doesn’t need to chuck a pizza or throw an arm with it. I think that’s so amazing… the way he carves with his arms at his sides. Everyone else seems like they’re throwing a pizza in the air, but John proves that there’s no need to.” 


Does any modern surfer look better on a wave? Photo: WSL

Steph Gilmore

“For me, Steph’s the queen. She just oozes natural style and ability on a wave. Steph also has great foresight of what’s coming ahead, so there’s no panic in her surfing. I think growing up on pointbreaks kinda does that… it gives you a good idea of what’s ahead so you don’t look that stressed on a wave.

“Steph also never forces a maneuver. She always has plenty of time and space to do whatever she pleases. When Steph gets to the end of the wave, it looks like she knew what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go before she even stood up. And you get that same sense about her when she’s out of the water as well. She’s just a stylish human.”


Power meets form.

Conner Coffin

“I think Conner Coffin has a modern-classic approach, if that’s a thing. Kind of like that California-Gerlach-Curren-Dane vibe.

“Conner surfs quite aggressive, like he’s always on the attack. He’s got that animal in him, but he’s also really into body positioning and making sure everything’s right.

“And there’s a difference between trying hard and being aggressive. Like with Brother, sometimes it looks like his body is doing more talking than his board. When everything connects he looks insane, but when he gets it wrong, his surfing loses that beautiful effect.”

Bobby’s backhand railwork is effortless, he’ll almost convince you that you can do it too.

Bobby Martinez

“Bobby has one of the best-ever styles ever in surfing. Watching him when we were young… he would just stand on the tail an do whatever he wanted. While everyone else was trying to get speed, Bobby would just have it. There were no bumps along the way, it was just so well put together. And he had the smoothest rail game—he would so effortlessly transition from one side to the other. His board just never went flat. It was always on rail.”

No words necessary.

Brendan Margieson (AKA ‘Margo’)

“Margo, for me… he was just the best. He’s like a big teddy bear and such a nice guy, but he surfs with this amazing, kind of weird energy. It looked like he was not even gonna be able to do a turn, then he’d get into a wave and you’d be blown away.

“Margo had that knock-kneed, back-knee-in style backhand. For me, it was unbelievable to watch. I remember going down the coast with him when I was a kid, and he was just going upside down, with this crazy, perfect backside surfing. He was so strong. There was so much spray. But he also had this smooth, perfect style.

“The turns he was doing back then were way better than what most, if not all, of the surfers on today’s CT are doing. I don’t think people realized how influential Margo was to my generation. He was in everybody’s top three surfers, and he wasn’t even on Tour. Taylor Knox was always Mick’s favorite, and Margo was mine.” 


Everything in its rightful place.

Then we asked Joel the hardest question of them all: what do you think of your own style?

“I always think I’m so hunched over and shitty [laughs].

“Whenever I thought I was actually surfing well, someone would go, ‘Hey, you gotta go back to what you were doing before.’ And I’d be like, ‘What? Why? I’m going fast.’ And they’d say, ‘Yeah, you’re going fast, but you’re not really doing anything,’ [laughs]. 

“The thing is, we’re all influenced by someone. We all take little pieces from here and there. I was influenced by Margo, Taylor Knox, and a bunch of the other local boys on the Goldy. So any style I have can be credited back to them.


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Be Yourself and Have Fun

An Interview with Jaleesa Vincent on her new film, 'Macaroni in the Pot'

Oct 6, 2022

Can Proper Surf Instruction Mitigate Chaos In The Water?

Here's why you need certification to earn the title "surf instructor" in 80 different countries.

Oct 6, 2022


No Contest Off Tour Heads To Thumping Fiji

Inside: Julian describes the mongo Cloudbreak milieu and AG does a Kava cooking course.

Oct 6, 2022

How Surfers Get Paid, Episode 3 

Nike has entered the chat.

Oct 5, 2022

“I Always Had A Mega Chip On My Shoulder”

UnSound Surf's Mike Nelson and Dave Juan have been the backbone of New York surfing…

Oct 5, 2022

Unlocked: Leonardo Fioravanti’s Stab Edit Of The Year Entry 

Watch 'The Cut' now, and baffle at the quality of both the waves and the…

Oct 4, 2022

The Pro Surfer Who Filmed A War Documentary In Ukraine

Damien Castera's got a story to tell.

Oct 4, 2022

Honest Review(s): O’Neill Hyperfreak Fire

Pushing the Limits of Wetsuit Tech for Men & Women

Oct 3, 2022

How Much Would You Pay For A Session Like This?

A cost-per-vision breakdown of Kian Martin and Tai Buddha's latest strike mission.

Oct 2, 2022

Ongoing Dialogue: Jack Freestone And Album’s Matt Parker On How They Get Sparks To Fly

"Nowadays, a standard thruster feels pretty alt to me." -Jack

Oct 2, 2022

Davo’s Death Strikes At Surfing’s Core

The underground icon battled demons til the end. His untimely demise is yet another cautionary…

Oct 1, 2022

Macaroni in the Pot

Jaleesa Vincent and 200 Lefts in the Mentawais

Oct 1, 2022

Introducing A Brand New Travel Series (With A Familiar Name)

Watch the first New York episode of Stab & Red Bull's No Contest Off Tour.

Sep 30, 2022

Leandro Dora: Pro Surfer, Businessman, Punk Rock Festival Organizer, Spiritual Mentor, And World Title Winning Surf Coach 

Meet one of the most beloved and effective individuals in the athlete's zone.

Sep 29, 2022


You’re Gonna Click On A New Oscar Langburne Video

Style that can't be denied.

Sep 29, 2022

Long Read: An Angel At My Table

From Stab Issue 15, October 2006: Chris Davidson has one more shot at the big…

Sep 28, 2022


Watch: Kalani David’s Last Dance

A final surf part from the Hawaiian surf/skate prodigy.

Sep 28, 2022

Taylor Steele Won’t Let Surf Filmmaking Die Without a Fight

Movies shown, filmmaking advice, punk rock at the 2022 Solento Surf Festival.

Sep 28, 2022