Joel Parkinson Reveals His Five Favorite Surfing Styles
“Style is all about making the hard things look easy.”
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.
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:
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.”
“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.”
“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 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.”
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.”
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.
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