Joel Parkinson (AUS), 30, is one of the best surfers on the planet. No one disputes that. After a decade amongst the world’s best, the Gold Coast style master has racked up 10 elite tour victories, 11 additions victories and inspired an army of youth to surf their brains out. The man has been one of the favorites in the hunt for the ASP World Title the past several seasons, yet injury has stalled any ascensions to the throne the last two years. However, Parkinson is healthy, he’s back in form and he’s back in Jeffreys Bay. JoelParko.com recently caught up with the man, the myth and the legend to see where he’s at and what he’s going to do. This…is their story…
Talk to me about the contrast between how you feel today, getting on a plane to J-Bay, and how you were feeling 12 months ago sitting on your lounge with a few dozen stitches in your foot?
My mind is pretty much the same. I think I dealt with the disappointment of the injury pretty well – but at least I’ve got a foot that’s not in two pieces. I’m so excited to go to J-Bay. I’ve wrapped myself in cotton wool this week and made sure I didn’t do a repeat of last year and got on that plane healthy.
Does it seem like 12 months ago since the injury?
Not really. I mean everything still feels kind of fresh for me, but so much has happened since then. It doesn’t feel like that long ago, but when you look back and realize what’s gone down since, there’s a bit in there.
How has your seven-week holiday from pro surfing treated you?
Awesome. I went to Bali for a Billabong boardshort shoot and got some amazing waves at Deserts, and I’ve just had an amazing week in Fiji. I had really nice Cloudbreak two days of epic waves, then the rest of the time just cruising and relaxing and enjoying island life with the family before I got stuck into 10 days of training at home getting ready for J-Bay and the rest of the year.
So your backhand tuberiding is probably going okay after Fiji, how are you going on your forehand?
I’ve gone right enough in my life for that to always be there. My backhand tuberiding is the one I love working on.
What’s the one thing you’re most looking forward to at J-Bay?
Everything. After two years, everything about J-Bay excites me, but the one that’s in the forefront of my mind is that wave. I’m so excited about getting there and surfing that wave again after two years away. So excited, just the sensation of going so fast. My first wave when I get there I’ll probably just fly along it without doing a turn and just soak it all up. I’m really excited about going back to J-Bay, but feeling really relaxed about going there at the same time, if that makes sense. Once you get there the whole vibe of J-Bay will take the edge off it and relax me.
Is surfing J-Bay instinct for you now after doing it for so long?
I guess so. The more you can rely on instinct out there and let the natural stuff take over, the better it is for your surfing. Better for me anyway. Trying to force something for me doesn’t work out there. It takes a little bit more time at J-Bay to assess the day – the direction of swell, the break between sets, which waves are hitting the reef just right – all those little things. But once you know in your head, which waves are the better ones, when you find the wave you want you can just go with it. Where you do your turns is the most crucial thing with J-Bay. Too early and the wave will take off without you. You just really need to be in a rhythm with that wave to surf it well.
What kind of surfing will win J-Bay?
That depends on the conditions, but in pumping J-Bay full rail surfing and monster turns with a couple of barrels will usually do the trick.
Given you’ve won here twice, how important is a result here at J-Bay for you?
I guess it is. We’ve had a break, we’ve had a bit of time off, and so it feels like we’ve just come out for the second half. No one can say they’ve got momentum. You haven’t surfed a heat in months and your mind drifts away from competitiveness when you have seven weeks off, so you have to get back in that zone and in that routine of getting ready for your heat and building that confidence again.
And there are a few unknowns at the back end of year?
I guess so, definitely. New York, I suppose you can prepare yourself for some pretty small beachbreak stuff. You never know, it might get some waves but from what I’ve heard it’s going to be pretty hard to run a good contest up there. You might have some moments, but all up it mightn’t be so good. San Francisco I have no real idea. I’ve heard it can get okay. I’m not sure what we’re going to get at either, but the one thing I know is that we’re all in it together. If it’s ordinary we’re all surfing the same thing. It will be one of those things that whoever adapts to what we get the quickest will win.
Looking at the ratings at the moment, do they mean anything to you? Guys like Taj and Mick have surfed as good as they can at certain stages but sit fourth and eighth. Do you give any weight to the ratings going into J-Bay?
Not so much. I think Adriano has been surfing out of his skin this year, but I think Taj has probably been the best surfer in the world with Mick not far behind, but their results haven’t been there and so they’re not up there. But there’s no point in looking at the ratings right now. Once the routine kicks in and these back-to-back events start to go down, that’s when you’ll see some shuffling and you’ll see who’s going to make a challenge. They’ll be worth a look then.
For more insights from the Gold Coast stylemaster, check out JoelParko.com
Catch Joel and the rest of the ASP Top 34 doing battle LIVE at the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay