Joel Parkinson announced his presence on the world stage as a wildcard at Jeffreys Bay in 1999. Upsetting the power balance on Tour at the time, he won the contest, then in 2002, joined the ranks of the Championship Tour full-time. He's hardly looked back since.
The 2018 Vans Triple Crown and the Billabong Pipe Masters will mark the last stop of his distinguished career. He's the owner of a World Title, 12 CT victories and three Triple Crown titles. This year, sitting second on the Triple Crown leaderboard after a command performance at the Hawaiian Pro, he stands the very real possibility of going out in style with a fourth Triple Crown title.
At the start of the Pipe waiting period, Parkinson shares his feelings about his recent win and his current Triple Crown standing:
How did you feel going into Haleiwa?
To be totally honest, not that good. Physically, I'm fit enough to surf but mentally I wasn't right. Two days before I was starting to think about how I was going to get out of this Triple Crown and just do Pipe. Then the night before, I hadn't even started packing for my flight the next day, my wife was like, 'Just go and do it. Just go surf. It's the last time you'll ever pack a board bag for an event. It's the last time you'll ever do it, so just go and do it.' Then as I left, I was kind of keen. And I got to the North Shore and there were waves and I was excited just to surf.
In my first heat I felt like I was going into no-man's land. It wasn't due to my surfing ability, it was just how I was feeling. Then I put the jersey on and started to enjoy it. I fell into it, thinking to myself, this is your last one, just go enjoy it and see what happens. Regardless of the result, just do it.
Each heat I was keen to surf. I guess my surf legs were coming back and I was feeling comfortable on each wave. I started getting into that rhythm. Then I got into the Final and figured I needed to turn it up another notch again and not just cruise through. Light the fire. I pulled it out for that one heat. My will to win again was really strong.
Was there a sense of relief when it was all over?
My goal is the Triple Crown. It would be a nice way to go out, but regardless, it's not going to really change who I am or what I am. For sure, it'd be a nice fitting end, but if it doesn't happen, I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I feel this Hawaii season is a victory lap regardless of the results.
You've been coming to Hawaii for a long time. Besides a victory lap, does it also sort of feel like coming home?
Yeah, definitely. I feel so comfortable here in Hawaii. I love everything about it. It's probably the only other place on the planet I think I could live beside my home. I definitely couldn't live in California. Maybe Hossegor in France. That's how I kind of judge a place, whether I could live there. This is one place I could live.
You have a lot of great moments and memories from Hawaii. From your friendship with Andy [Irons], to your World Title and Triple Crown titles, are there things you get nostalgic about when you're here?
Yeah, a little bit. Some of the events. Some of the waves I've seen ridden out here. Even some of the generational shifts. From those early years to what it is now. My first day I ever stepped foot in Hawaii, the first thing that I witnessed was the year that Rob [Machado] and Kelly [Slater] high-fived at Pipe. First day, I woke up to that. I watched as a 14-year-old boy.
Did that 14-year-old boy ever dream you'd be where you are today?
Not at all. It's not until you get close to stopping, or stop, that you start to look back. If you'd have told me as a 16-year-old kid with dreams to be a professional surfer and make a living out of it and achieve dream goals, I would have signed up for my career in a heartbeat. I would have signed on the dotted line. I guess that's a nice way to be able to say that I feel like I didn't really have too many stones unturned. I have had heartbreak, losses, sweet ass wins and lots of life lessons on the road.
Have you thought at all about what it will be like to surf your last heat at Pipe?
It's lurking in my mind, the emotional time that it will be on the beach. I will never come in for a wildcard. I'm never going to surf again with the purpose of trying to win. I'm going surfing for complete enjoyment for the rest of my life and I will hold my word to that.
Watch Parko's last lap at the Billabong Pipe Masters live December 8-20 on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.