Is there a person reading this magazine that doesn’t love watching Parko surf? I doubt it. But if there is, I’d like to meet them just so I could slap them about the head and tell them they’re tripping. I think that my mate Joel Leslie Parkinson is one the most naturally talented surfers of all time.
There are only a handful of surfers that make riding a surfboard look like magic. Curren, Occy and Kelly do it, and I think Joel does, too. When we were groms, I was a little in awe of Parko: He had that now-famous style, took super unique lines, and made the impossible look way too easy. He is a little older than me and there was a bit of a buzz about him and he’d already been in a couple of surf mags. When we eventually met in our early teens, we hit it off straight away and became good mates.
We started competing against each other; he always beat me. In fact, the bastard’s still got it over me when it comes to man-on-man heats. For me, surfing against Parko has always been mentally tough; he had the edge until just a couple of years ago when I started getting a few back on him.
On November 6 2007, Parko and I were sitting in the lineup at Imbituba, Brazil, about to surf a semifinal against each other. When Taj Burrow was knocked out in the quarterfinals it was announced that I was World Champ. I launched at Parko and he gave me a massive hug as I celebrated the win.
It was a special moment for me, and sharing it with Joel, a close mate since we were groms, made it even more incredible. I know he was happy for me, but I’ve sometimes wondered what else he was feeling that day.
I’ve thought about what would have been going through my mind if I’d been in his position. I know I would have been over the moon for him, but deep down the competitor in me would have been rattled.
We all know Joel doesn’t need a World Title to be in this list of all-time greats, his surfing needs no validation, but I think he needs a crown for his own peace of mind. You can guarantee I’ll be doing everything I can to stop him, but if he gets there I’ll be the first one there to give him a big hug and chair him up the beach.