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Joel Parkinson - Biography


ASP judges are told in no uncertain terms that style cannot count in any objective assessment. The argument is that style is a subjective concept that cannot be defined numerically. My thought was that the term “style” was a factor in that it exhibited control and poise in difficult situations, and in that way Joel “Parko” Parkinson should have world champ years ago. Other surfers recognized his controlled approach when he was still a teenager. He was the guy whose line across the wave was elongated, whose stance stayed firm with extra weigh on the tail, and whose approach looked just a little too casual. Heck, if he was in that much control, he must not be ripping, right?

Wrong. Even though Parko’s approach may have cost him precious points from judges who were looking for multiple spastic gyrations with recovery attempts that left surfers lying on their backs in the white water, he never pandered. Parko never ended a big turn with a manic spin out or flailing arm flaps to garner a few added tenths. Instead, he drove hard in the pit, stayed centered over his board, and oozed smoothness from his core.

Joel Parkinson was born April 10th, 1981 in Queensland, Australia. He got his first surfboard as a Christmas gift when he was 3 years old. He continued to surf and improve over the next 10 years, but not until his move to Coolangatta did the competition heat up with local kids Dean Morrison and future world champ Mick Fanning. With insane surf and a lineup full of legends and blazing groms, Parko took a massive leap in performance, winning the World Junior Championship and a World Championship Tour (WCT) event (Billabong/MSF Pro) held at the famous Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa. Still a teenager, Parko proved his potential on world class waves and became the youngest non-seeded surfer to ever win a World Tour event. In the 18-year-old regular foot, the surf world saw shades of Tom Curren in his casual yet aggressive approach to the J-Bay’s winding walls. In the next two years, he won the World Junior event second time and moved up to 21 in the world rankings, qualifying him for the ASP WCT.

By 2002, Parko was in 2nd place and poised to take the top slot with haste, but it wouldn’t be that easy. Injuries and close calls would cost him dearly while his Coolangatta mate Mick Fanning would take two titles right from under him. Parko would finish runner-up again in 2004, 2009, and 2011. It seemed he would be forever the bridesmaid for sure.

In the midst of his quest for the title, Parkinson made time for a few kids and a signature surf movie – Free as a Dog - produced by noted Billabong documentarian and maker of classic surf flicks, Jack McCoy.

But as the 2012 kicked off, it looked to be Groundhog’s Day as Parko kicked it off with a series of great results, but many anticipated the inevitable injury or bad luck that would follow. But fate be damned, he was in first place heading into Hawaii. One problem: Kelly Slater was a close second. But at the conclusion of the Pipe Masters, Parko stood tall as both event winner and newly crowned world champion.

The older and wiser Cooly kid never wavered or tried to fit the system. And although many critics have called Parko’s surfing classic and lacking progressive flair. They are part right, he surfs classically with deep, powerful, and controlled turns in the pit, but many fail to see the progressive element of his performance. Blow tails, reverses, and massive air are all part of his repertoire but they are interwoven seamlessly.

Joel Parkinson is a surfer’s surfer: an athlete, a father, a mate, Pipe Master, Triple Crown winner, and now World Champ.

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