Joel Parkinson’s (Near) Two Decades On Tour By The Years With Dingo Morrison
Twenty years of tour surfing, summarised!
Joel Fucking Parkinson, where do we start?
Eighteen years on tour, an innumerable number of boards, 12 event wins, four runner-up places, three Triple Crowns, two perfect heats, one World Title and a style that will be emulated for generations. Just ask any grom who grew up between Sydney and the Sunshine Coast, or ask rookie of the year hopeful Griffin Colapinto who his favourite surfer in the world is…
And in Stab’s eyes, Joel was the best surfer walking the earth in both 2009 and 2012.
Jordy Smith, Mick Fanning, Thomas Carroll and the rest of the surfing world wouldn’t be sharing their admiration for Joel if he hadn't legitimately changed what post-2000 surfing was and will continue to be.
Joel Parkinson’s CT career kicked off nearly two decades ago, when he took out the Billabong Pro at J-Bay in ‘99. He was 18, and it was his first event win – at a locale and wave he surfed for the first time.
Retiring where it all started is only fitting.
Joel might not have quite experienced the CT successes of the likes of Kelly Slater or fellow 'Coolangatta kid', Mick Fanning, but his impact on generations of surfers will remain. Joel is one of surfing's most beloved style masters.
There’s no ‘Heat Analyzer’ for someone's surfing career, nor could a brief 're-cap' cover the enormity of Parko's, so let’s scroll through some of the most memorable nuggets from his near-20 year stint on the dream tour.
The boards, the injuries, the second places, and of course, that elusive world title...
"He’s amazing at just letting things be and things come to him," Dingo Morrison on Joel Parko. Here's Joel letting a Duranbah wedge come right to him.
1999 – His first ever event win, Jeffreys Bay.
At 18 years old, a junior-tour dominating, Joel Parkinson, emerged from Coolie-kid obscurity.
Fresh off the back of a finals appearance at the Newcastle City Pro, Joel had just fallen to his good mate Dean 'Dingo' Morrison in the first round of a QS event on Reunion Island.
“I’d actually just beaten him at Reunion [laughs], then he flew over to Jbay early.” Dingo told Stab. “That was his first time surfing Jbay too.”
Joel expected to be decimated by the world’s best at a wave that dichotomises the truly good surfers from those who can simply put on in slop.
But by “holding the inside” and attempting “not to make a fool of [him]self”, Joel found himself in the final against Ross Williams and took out the final, as he says, with a 7-point layback. "I kept assuming Ross would get the score he needed, but it never happened," Parko recalled.
“When he sets that rail on his bottom turns he generates a lot of speed out of it, he just keeps driving and makes that off the top look so effortless.” Dingo continued.
As any 18-year old, bright-eyed Aussie would, Parko hit the piss and hard. "I can’t remember much about the party. I remember walking home later that night, blind drunk, and I walk in at two in the morning and here’s this local guy rolling my boardbag out the door. I’m walking into my room and this guy has got my coffin boardbag with six boards in it, including the board I’d just won the contest on." Joel told J-Bay news when reminiscing on his breakthrough win.
He might not have been on the tour just yet, but the world was suddenly wary of yet another Gold Coast kid.
“When he sets that rail on his bottom turns he generates a lot of speed out of it, he just keeps driving and makes that off the top look so effortless."
2002 – His first 'runner-up' on the first proper year on tour
While it wasn’t exactly his ‘Rookie Year’ (2001 was, but the 9/11 tragedy cut the year short), winning two events and finishing up in second place isn’t a bad effort for your first full-time year on the circuit – especially at 21-years old. The other two thirds of the 'Coolie Kids', Mick Fanning and Dean Morrison, were already on the tour, but in '02, Parko appeared the biggest title threat of them all.
"He was already ‘the guy’ back then when he was only like 11 years old." Dingo told Stab. "I’d watch him everytime he surfed, he’s always been an amazing surfer."
He kicked off the year's proceedings by taking his first win at Snapper Rocks, he had a few shifty showings throughout the mid-section and then won again at the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach – all the way back when four man heats and 30-point heat totals were still a thing.
This near-rookie year was simply another warning sign of the jersey adorned dominance to come from Mr. Parkinson over the following 16 years.
2004 – Just another runner-up year for Parko
Once is tough, twice is frustrating, but little did Joel know it was about to get a whole lot heavier on the runner-up front...
2005 – Free As A Dog
In 2005, his fifth year on the circuit, Joel slipped down outside the top-10 for the first time – despite promising Stab he’d take home the title for Aus earlier in the year.
That same year Joel was filming for his canine-narrated bio-pic, aptly named, Free As A Dog; a quasi-comedic tale which follows Joel’s surfing alongside the shining stars of Australia’s surfing future, Ellis Ericson and James Wood*.
Parko's boardies might've changed along with the JS shapes he rides, but his ability to dice a D-Bah wall will never die
Jack McCoy, the film's director, aimed at bringing a little humour back into the sterile surf-film, and while the film’s aged rapidly in comparison to some of that era’s other gems, there’s no denying that Parko’s surfing along some of the East Coast’s lesser known locales heavily outweighed the deliberately piss-poor acting.
Joel’s still certain he hasn’t seen Caloundra Bar as it was during filming and Julian Wilson, a Sunny Coast local, is spewing he never scored it as good as Joel in ‘05.
*Hindsights a wonderful thing.
2006 – You guessed it…
That’s right, another second place finish. People were starting to wonder whether Parko would become another case of the 'best surfer to never win a world title.'
2008 – The perfect Pipe heat
While it wasn’t quite the first ever perfect-20 – Slater took those honours at Teahupoo back in ‘05 – it was the first perfect heat at Pipeline and the Triple Crown.
“You never really expect that, you expect to try and win a heat by getting a couple of high scores, but every now and again you have those random heats where everything goes your way, this was one of those heats,” Parko said after his perfect heat against local, Dusty Payne.
“The last one [the second 10] I was kinda more relaxed in, ‘cause I had the lead of the heat. The first one I can’t remember, all I remember was trying to focus and there was so much going on.”
"Each time Joel brought out this board for a CT event, he won, 3 times on the trot. Snapper (finals at big Kirra), Bells, and then J-Bay. We also call this board by the number of heats it won in a row, but Joel would have to confirm it exactly, as he coined the phrase..." Jason Stevenson, Joel's lifelong shaper on the board that nearly won him the title in '09.
2009 – A world title ruining ankle injury
2009 would haunt Joel Parkinson to this day if it wasn’t for his belated, yet inevitable, title win in 2012.
Five events into the year, Parko had nabbed three wins and hadn’t stooped lower than a 9th placing. With a magic 18-heat winning board by Jason Stevenson and one hand set on the trophy, 2009 was looking like the year it might all finally come together.
That was until Parko blew out the ligaments in his ankle practicing air reverses (whatever happened to Parko’s air game anyway) in the Kuta shorebreak during the mid-year holidays...
“When I first did it and felt the pain, I thought it was a compound fracture,” Joel told Stab. “It wasn’t a flesh or a bone sound so much, but it was like tearing tarps.”
Parko wasn’t about to throw away his best shot at a world title easily though; he tried to push through at Trestles, but something was noticeably wrong and he fell at the 17th place hurdle. Joel then continued this trend for the next two events.
Come Pipeline the title was still up for grabs between a white-hot Mick Fanning (who snuck three wins over the seasons back-half) and Joel who was barely crutching himself towards the figurative finish line.
“I was in the water with them both since I was surfing against Mick next.” Dingo Morrison recalled to Stab. “Joel had to make that heat [Round 3] to keep the title alive, Joel lost to Gavin Gillette and therefore Mick won the world title while all three of us were in the water.
“Joel was the first person to carry Mick up the beach [after his heat], that alone shows what sort of character he is after just losing the World Title to him.” Dingo continued.
“He had such a stranglehold on it and then he had that ankle injury, so as a friend it was hard to watch that. If I wasn’t in the race I would’ve been gunning for Joel for sure.” Mick said about the world title win over Joel in '09.
Not the ankle squandering air reverse, but a flashback to Parko's air game of yesteryear
2010/11 – Losing half his heel and yet another runner-up
After six top-five finishes and three runner ups, by the time 2010 came around, it almost looked as if Joel’s competitive fire was relinquished.
He started off poorly in 2010 with a string of ninth places, but those were the least of his new-decade concerns. While surfing at home at Snapper, Joel snuck under a dredging behind-the-rock bomb, got caught up on the foamball where his fins essentially sliced half of his heel off. Thankfully, Andy Irons was there to help Joel up onto the sand for those present to witness the gore and agony of what glass ons can do.
We'll save you the gore, Parko's facial expression should be enough to convince you it was fucked
He was out all the way up until Pipe and it took him six weeks of rehab before he could even “toe-crawl”.
In 2011 courtesy of an injury wildcard, Parko was back and doing what he did best – getting second place finishes.
It was nowhere near as devastating, nor close as his 2009 loss, but another cock-teasing second place while Kelly took home his 11th title.
2012 – Finally...the maiden World Title
Kelly appeared to be going back-to-back in 2012, having won three events and looking in career best form in his 40’s, but Joel’s string of finals, semis and all around top-five finishes ended up being enough to best Kelly’s fleeting moments of beauty.
“[Joel] and Kelly were neck and neck, whoever lost was going to be the world champ,” Dingo remembered. “Kelly lost in the semi’s to Kerrzy meaning Joel had just won the world title.”
And finally, Joel Parkinson was a fucking World Champion.
"Joel's world title winner, the Forget Me Not step-up", JS. This is one board Jase won't be letting go of anytime soon.
“He just makes it look so easy,” said Kelly after losing the title to Joel by one heat, “He’s ultra smooth, charges, pulls out wins when he needs to. I’m really happy for him.”
At the time of taking the title (during the semi finals at Pipe), Joel hadn’t won an event in 2012, which had some dissenters up in arms over the possibility of a world champ being winless throughout the year. But with a win over fellow Gold Coaster, Josh Kerr, in the Pipe final, no one could deny that Joel Parkinson deserved that World Title alongside he Pipe Masters trophy.
“My approach to surfing in 2009 was a lot more technical-based. I was more aware of how I was surfing, what positioning I was getting in, and how it was looking. In 2012, I surfed a lot more based on feel. I went with power, and how it was feeling.” Parko told Stab when comparing his closest second and final world title victory.
At the Billabong house after the win, he wore a shirt that read, “I finally fucking won.” A well deserved and fitting piece of attire after 12 years of trying.
2013 – His second perfect heat and final event win… so far
A year after winning his maiden world title there wasn’t much left for Joel to accomplish in the world of competitive surfing. Although no one's ever going to complain about another double dosage of perfect 10’s – whether the scores were slightly overcooked or not.
You can be sure Parko will be spending a lot more time here in retirement. Here's a photo of Joel getting drained when knee-lengthers and necklaces were in fashion.
2018 – The best and biggest barrel at Snapper...well, ever
At the start of the year, a number of cyclone swells lined up against the Superbank; one of which happened to align with the tailend of the Quiksilver Pro. Those remaining in the finals day draw made their way down to Kirra, while those who were eliminated, like Parko, found themselves surfing what is now considered some of the best and biggest Snapper in its 15 years of existence.
Nick Vasicek and Mitch Parko called it the “best day ever”, and judging from the large sum of money thrown around for the water angle of Parko’s wave, just about everyone else agrees.
"I was pushing my kid on the swings at Rainbow when Joel pulled into it" Dingo told Stab. "He came out and I knew it was the best and biggest wave I'd ever seen at Snapper."
Parko has six years left on his Billabong contract and an unquenchable thirst for tubes.
We won’t be seeing him take to an open wall in a jersey again after Pipeline, although we will hopefully be receiving a constant drip feed of Parko footage, "[It's] kinda sad but we'll do our best to make sure everyone still sees plenty of Parko clips," said Sam Zubevich from JS.
Rumour has it he’s psyched on what Mick’s been doing post-retirement, and while he won’t exactly be surfing alongside his Coolie counterpart, he will be taking his own approach to post-retirement over the next few years. Twin fins and all-round more playful boards are just some of what Jase Stevenson has planned for Parko's post-tour quiver.
Old gems, a batch of fresh JS', wetties, beers and a skateboard. What else could you possibly need post competitive life.
He’s got one of the world’s best point breaks at his doorstep, a brewery owned with his best mates up the road at Currumbin, and a fresh batch of boards direct from JS whenever he needs. We’re sure Parko won’t be regretting his retirement decision.
“Twenty years doing anything is a while, he’s been there, he’s done his best, and he can walk away and be proud of what he’s done.” A sentiment from Dingo that we’re sure everyone agrees with.