Joel Parkinson won his first Championship Tour event as an 18-year-old wildcard at Jeffrey's Bay in South Africa. Now 20 years later, he has retired from WSL competition with the Pipe Masters as his last event.
Parko is one of those rare surfers that comes along once every couple of generations to disrupt the status quo. Sure, the world had seen great style before Parko, but never had someone made it look as effortlessly radical. When Parko came onto the scene in the late '90s he was in a league of his own. The crazy things is that two decades later, he basically still is. Always replicated, never duplicated. Talk about timeless.
But before Parko rode off into the Hawaiian sunset, we wanted to hear how the 2012 World Champion influenced the generations that followed him. Below we hear from Championship Tour surfers Ryan Callinan, Griffin Colapinto, Caroline Marks, Seth Moniz and Conner Coffin.
Parko's effortlessness and flow is what stands out most for me. Growing up, there was always this feeling I had of wanting to be able to do everything so well, but also make it look easy, and I think Parko is the master of that. The thing is, it's really hard to do what he does. Not many can.
His style just never goes out of style and the way he was able to keep that up for so long and never lose what he embodied has been an incredible thing to see. Also the fact that he is one of the best blokes around makes him so much more memorable. He was a legend when I started watching him as a kid and has only become more of one now, all of these years later. To me, he has gotten better over time and the more I watch him the more I appreciate what he does, both in and out of the water. Parko is forever one of my heroes.
Parko has influenced me in so many ways - more than I can put into words really. But this past year, competing against him, I really started to appreciate his style and the flow he has on waves, more than ever. To surf the way he does is so hard and so technical that most people can't actually understand it.
He has also inspired me in the way he approaches contests. I really like how he isn't overly serious. He seems like he has found the perfect in between. Maybe he could have won more World Titles if he had approached the Tour in a different way, but I love how he did it the way that works for him.
But most inspiring is the way he interacts with people. He doesn't act like he is higher than anyone. He is just a genuinely humble guy. I'm really happy we got to have one year together on the CT.
I've looked up to Joel's surfing ever since I started surfing. It was always a little harder for me to relate since he is regular and I'm goofy, but he is one of the guys I've watched on repeat my whole life. I love the way he attacks waves, but also makes everything look so easy and fluid because he has one of sickest styles. You know someone is a great surfer when everyone tries to copy them, but nobody actually can. That's Joel. I'm super stoked that I was able to be on Tour with him this past year, because I got to learn that he is also one of the nicest guys ever, which is really the coolest thing.
The last couple of years I've gotten to know Parko really well. But what stands out the most is the first time I met him. I was a shy little kid and I walked into the Billabong house and had no idea he knew who I was. And he just goes, "What's up Seth?!" I was so stoked. That's when I first became really stoked on him. He went out of his way to come over to say hi to me and that is what I try to remember today. I know how much it means to groms when you approach them, call them by their name and maybe even give them a wave in the water.
Also, I love how Parko is just a super genuine family guy. That's always been really cool to me. And he was on the Tour for what, 18 years? He won a bunch of CT's and one World Title. He did it all.
I feel like everyone tries to copy Parko's carves, but nobody does carves like him. Him, Andy Irons and Mick Fanning have the perfect rail game. I definitely look at Parko's carves and try to incorporate them into my surfing, but it's pretty much impossible [laughs].
It's funny, when I was a kid I didn't really watch much Parko ... I don't know why. I think I was just in the bubble in Santa Barbara so I was obsessed with Tom Curren. Even when I got a bit older I still wasn't a huge Parko fan. But then, somewhere along the way, he won me over big time. There is a part, I believe in one of the Campaign movies, where Parko was doing the biggest whippy rail carves I had ever seen, and from then on I always loved to watch him.
Parko is one of those guys who just looks good on a surfboard and everything he does is rad because his style is so good. I never really knew him personally until I qualified for the Tour, but since I've been on Tour he has been so cool to me. He and Mick were so rad and welcoming. It's weird to go up against your idols and try to beat them ... and then try to beat them again.
This year at Snapper, I did step-offs with Parko behind the rocks on that big day. I actually paddled over the shoulder of Joel's insane tube that ended up on the cover of Surfer. That night, we ended up back at Parko's house with Mick, the Harrington twins, Parker [Coffin] and Ryan Perry. We sat in Parko's man cave listening to him and Mick bicker over their World Titles, drinking beer out of his World Title cup, and checking out his garage full of his old boards and Andy Irons' boards. Are you kidding? It was a day I never would have dreamed of having.
I'm just so stoked that I qualified for the Tour when I did and got to experience a few years with Joel and his generation. He is part of an era of surfing that is just so sick.