Joel Parkinson: "I Just Want to Put on a Show"

Daniel Jenks

Joel Parkinson turned 35 during the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. By the time he made it to Round Four he was the oldest surfer left in the competition. Parko marked the occasion by advancing to his first semifinal since 2014, at J-Bay, nearly two years ago.

Though many of his friends and fellow vets are stepping away from competition, Parko has been remarkable quiet on the retirement front. So how does he see himself on tour, as one of the few elder statesmen still in the game?

Joel Parkinson, on a Roll
Parko made the Margaret River semifinals, thanks to a few stunning performances like this one.

"I might be one of the oldest guys in the draw these days, but I'm probably the most frothing grom internally," he said. "That's what I strive for."

Parko has been a pillar of the elite during his 16 years on the CT. He's racked up more than a dozen CT wins, four runner-up finishes to the title, and of course there's his 2012 World Championship that came with a Pipe Masters win. But as one of the "older guys" on tour he's relying more on his signature rail game than his aerials these days, which is something that keeps him motivated.

Parko Rips Through Round Three
The former World Champ scored a 9.00 in his heat against Michel Bourez.

"It's pretty cool, it keeps me inspired to surf better and use the strong fundamentals that I grew up on," he said.

"And I get to watch some of the absolute most amazing surfing that's being done these days. At Snapper I was really enthusiastic, super eager and super keen to win and just turn up. I knew results would follow. I had a quarterfinal which is a pretty good result, but I felt like I had more to show. I'm not talking World Titles, I just want to put on a show."

Joel Parkinson placing equal third after being eliminated in the semifinals at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro in Western Australia. Parko hadn't made the semis since 2014 until the Margaret River Pro, yet his classic style hasn't failed him. - WSL / Kelly Cestari

While Parkinson hasn't revealed any future plans, he seems to be mulling life on the road -- and the tradeoffs therein. After his quarterfinal win at Margaret's, he was caught off guard when Rosy Hodge asked him about the difficulties of leaving family at home.

"I grew up on the Tour with a family," said Parkinson, with a slight tremble in his voice. "I was young when I got on and we found a balance over time. It's hard, but we're pretty lucky with what we have."

Joel Parkinson winning his Quarterfinal heat. Clean faces and offshore wind made airs tricky for the acrobatic young guns. Advantage Parko. - WSL / Ed Sloane

And yet, as the years march on and the tour's up-and-comers are dominating the conversation, Parkinson is more youthful than ever.

"I feel like I'm getting younger, I feel like a grommet," he said. "There's so much talent now, you can only surf the heat in front of you. You can't think what's beyond. The way the talent is, you can't get ahead of yourself."