By Nathan Myers
“Surfing’s greatest bridesmaid.” That’s the legacy Joel Parkinson nearly had to bear after
finishing 2nd place a record FOUR TIMES over his twelve years on tour. That’s hardly a fitting
mantle for one of the world’s most beloved surfers. But we can say shit like that now, because
it’s all over.
Joel Parkinson is world champ. He always will be.
“This win wouldn’t have been nearly as sweet if it had just fallen into my lap early on,” says
Parko from his home on the Gold Coast. “This was my journey. And for me it means a lot more
His journey is a lesson in not giving up. In working hard. In believing in your dreams and in
yourself. But none of these virtues would have made the front page if they’d all amounted a
baker’s dozen of bridesmaid dresses. No one remembers second place.
Joel Parkinson is a world champ.
SURFING: Damn, it was close at the end there, Joel. And you’d been in this situation
four times before? Weren’t you nervous?
PARKO: I was pretty calm actually. Just cruisy. But I could tell everyone on the beach was
Because you were up against Kelly Slater. This is what he does.
Exactly. He’s the dream crusher, isn’t he?
But you weren’t freaking out?
Nah, I was good. The whole race was back and forth the whole time. I lost the lead, I won the
lead, I lost the lead, I won the lead. Kelly makes a heat, he’s in the lead. I make a heat, I’m in
the lead. So, I just figured it was going to come down to the final. I’d set myself up for that most
of the day. Then about halfway through that semi-final heat with Kerrsy it started to hit me. I
started losing my breath. The wind went real north and even the small waves were unmakeable,
just clampy and ugly. And there weren’t really very many wave to begin with. Kelly had a last
wave with about three minutes left and it didn’t happen. Then there was only a minute left and
you could tell there was nothing coming. I just wanted to jump for joy. I lost it.
Who was there with you?
Bruce was right there, which was unreal. Makua was there. My shaper JS, my wife and my little
boy Marley. Sean Doherty and my friend Kendall, who was shooting behind the scenes stuff. I
just kept pacing from the veranda to the bedroom to the bathroom to the varanda, playing video
games with my son… I couldn’t sit still. I felt like I was getting ready to jump out of a plane
without a parachute.
After you won, was it hard to pull it back together and go out to win the final?
I don’t even know. I’d just drank about half a bottle of champagne on stage and I was a little
buzzed. Bit of a daze. And then JS grabbed me hard by the arm and says, “Win this f–king
thing.” He looked me right in the eyes and that kinda brought me back. But I paddled out and
saw Kerrsy and I was like, “Yew!” I had this song in my head and I was singing the song. We
were taking turns on waves. It was one of those heats where if he got the waves, he’s win, and
if I got the waves, I’d win.
Was there an Andy moment for you during all of this?
Definitely. During that Damo heat I had a little chat with him. I was paddling back out with
about ten minutes left and I heard, “Joel, you need an 8.4.” And I was like, “Oh no, not this this
again. This can’t be happening.” I guess I was kinda sitting out there talking to him, asking for a
bit of help. And then I got two more waves, and that one right at the end. It didn’t even really
occur to me until afterwards… but it was one of those weird moments when you feel like
someone’s looking after you.
Was there a moment being world champ finally set in for you?
That night, it didn’t really feel real at all. I had so much nervous energy from the day, like,
everyone was drinking beers and partying but it just didn’t quite feel right. I woke up the next
morning feeling a bit dusty and slow and I’m in the bathroom brushing my teeth and my wife
walks in. She smiled. And then I smiled. And we hugged and it was like, “oh f–k, it really
happened, didn’t it.” And I had a tear and then she started to cry so I started to cry… that’s the
moment where it all overwhelmed me. Right then.
How about coming home to Australia? I don’t think most of America even knows when
a new world champ is crowned. Australia’s a bit different though, huh?
It was unbelievable. I arrived in Brisbane and they rushed me downstairs to a private car that
brought me to a helicopter that took off straightaway and landed in Coolangatta at our own
terminal where there were hundreds of people waiting. Normally you get quarantined and stuck
in customs for ages. But you know how Aussies are about our sport. Most of the country has a
good appreciation for surfing as a sport.
How about next year? Are you fired up for more titles?
No, I’m done. [laughs] Of course I’m fired up. The day before things ended in Hawaii someone
told me I only had three heats left to surf and I was kinda disappointed. Id’ be excited to keep
competing even if I ended up in 13th place. Doesn’t matter. I just love doing it. I’m already
starting to train up for next year.
Come back next week to relive Parko’s world title victory in our comprehensive flipbook of the Vans Triple Crown.