After 18 years of “dream tour” life, Joel Parkinson has hung up the jersey for good. It seems much longer than six months ago when Parko confessed that his competitive fire had burned out and that the 2018 Pipe Masters would be his final contest. Maybe that’s because it’s hard to imagine the ‘CT without him, but the time has come and Parko is officially retired.
The finessed power surfing that Parko brought to the World Tour as a wildcard at the J-Bay Pro nearly two decades ago is just as relevant today as it was in 1999. When a surfer does a searing cutback, the rare kind that feels really good and fills the body from head to toe with euphoria, chances are he or she hopes that turn bore a sliver of the style that Parko’s are drenched in.
Parko says he doesn’t know what’s next for him, but let’s hope that somewhere down the line he faces off with Mick Fanning or Kelly Slater in a legacy heat. Pumping Kirra would be fun to watch.
The perennially top 10-ranked competitor and 2012 World Champ racked up a good amount of accolades over his near two-decade run. The photo gallery below doesn’t do Parko’s career justice, but it highlights some of the many moments he made competitive surfing absolutely great during his tour tenure. Congrats Parko and thank you.
As a grom in 1994, Parkinson was rocking both the mullet and the front-foot traction, long before Mikey Wright was even on the scene. Photo: Joli
With his smooth style, Coolie kid Parkinson calmly navigates the hectic backwash at his home break, Snapper Rocks. Photo: Joli
Pure oceanic elation, circa 1999. Photo: Joli
From mullet to mohawk, 1999. Photo: Joli
Parkinson’s victory dance after winning the 1999 Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay as a wildcard. “The first time I went to J-Bay was 19 years ago,” Parko wrote on his Instagram about the contest. “I was just a kid back then. I'd just finished last in a contest in Reunion, turned up at J-Bay with a toothache, but then got my first glimpse of the wave and the pain went away. It was six foot and perfect from Boneyards to Impossibles, I paddled out through the keyhole, caught my first wave and that was it. I was gone. I lost my mind. Next thing I was standing there on stage holding the trophy, not sure what had just happened, but I knew I'd found my second home.” Photo: Joli
J-Bay’s long walls have always suited Parkinson’s famed blending of power and finesse. Above, he races down the line in 2002. Photo: Joli
(From left to right) Danny Wills, Joel Parkinson, Nathan Hedge, Al Hunt and Lee Winkler. Portugal, 2002. Photo: Ellis
In 2002, Parkinson won an award for “Most Innovative Maneuver” during the Oakley Over the Top contest at Lower Trestles. His trophy was a novelty-sized check plastered on the side of a bomb–imagine getting that through customs. Photo: Ellis
Although Parko’s competitive legacy will undoubtedly be attached to his flawless rail work, he’s been known to boost an occasional air. Parko, blasting off a Portuguese ramp in 2002. Photo: Ellis
Rivals and best mates, Parkinson and Mick Fanning grin for the camera as full-time ‘CT newbies in 2002. Parko finished the year ranked number two behind Kelly Slater, and Mick was 2002’s Rookie of the Year. Photo: Ellis
Parko, vaporizing a Bells Beach lip with his signature forehand carve at the 2009 Rip Curl Pro. Photo: Joli
En route to ring the bell after winning his second Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in 2009. Photo: Joli
The 2009 World Tour is still one of the most dramatic title races in competitive surfing history. Parkinson won three of the first five events before Fanning rallied in the latter half of the season to overtake his good friend. Above, Mick Fanning and Parko embrace at the 2009 Pipe Masters after Fanning won the title. Photo: Joli
(From right to left) Owen Wright, Kelly Slater, Andy Irons, Taj Burrow, Joel Parkinson and Mick Fanning at Bells Beach in 2010 at the start of the contest’s waiting period. Photo: Joli
Parkinson with his wife Monica and son Mahli in 2010 at Pipeline shortly after he won his third Vans Triple Crown. Photo: Joli
One of the perks of the ‘CT that Parkinson said he’ll miss most is getting to surf the best waves in the world with no crowd, including his local spot, the infamously crowded Snapper Rocks. Parko kicked off his successful 2012 World Title campaign with a quarter final finish at the Quiksilver Gold Coast, above. Photo: Joli
The opening ceremony of the 2012 Volcom Fiji Pro. Photo: Joli
During the 2012 Volcom Fiji Pro, a huge swell hit Tavarua. Ultimately the decision was made to put the contest on hold because of the big surf, as many of the ‘CT guys were way under gunned. After the contest was called-off, Joel Parkinson and a handful of other ‘CT competitors paddled out to join the best big-wave surfers in the world for a paddle session at Cloudbreak. The epic session is known as “Filthy Friday.” Photo: Joli
2012 was an incredibly big year for Parkinson. Along with winning his first World Title, he became a Pipe Master. Runner-up Josh Kerr (left) and Gerry Lopez (right) applauded Parko’s achievement as he hoisted one of the most coveted trophies on Tour in the air– a Pipe gun shaped Mr. Pipeline himself. Photo: Joli
Parkinson’s 2012 World Title celebration at Pipeline.
(From left to right) Mark Occhilupo, Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Billabong founder Gordon Merchant, Stephanie Gilmore and Jack Freestone celebrate Parko’s World Title win at a huge outdoor street party at the Snapper Rocks parking lot. Over 2000 people showed up to hear Australian rock band Wolfmother play, watch fireworks and, of course, to congratulate Parko for a job well done. Photo: Joli
2012 World Champions Parkinson and Stephanie Gilmore during the ASP World Surfing Awards at the QT Hotel in Surfers Paradise. “It’s beautiful to have everyone here tonight,” Parko said at the event. “We all come together and really celebrate last season amongst our friends and family. The new year, for me, begins tomorrow. Tonight, I just feel so fortunate to be up here and to be supported by my beautiful family. I love them and am only here because of them.” Photo: Joli
The burn seen ’round the world. Kirra fired on all cylinders for finals day of the 2013 Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast. Both Parkinson and Slater landed 10-point rides in their respective semifinal heats. When the two met in the final, Parko, the defending World Champ, locked into a flawless Kirra tube, Slater utilized priority and dropped-in on him. Slater’s strategic snaking blocked the inevitable excellent-range score Parko would’ve received for the wave and Slater won the contest. “I had to throw the bird up and be like, ‘You bastard!'” Parko said jovially in his post-heat interview. Photo: Carey
The ASP (now WSL) tossed Bali, Indonesia event on the 2013 schedule. Keramas’ hollow and rippable sand-bottomed right resonated well with the defending World Champ. Parkinson dropped a perfect 20 heat score in round five, eliminating John Florence, who finished the heat with a 19.20. Parko was unstoppable and went on to win the event. Photo: Jimmicane
“It’s just like free surfing,” Parko said about his heat with two perfect 10s. “It doesn’t really feel like an event, it’s just so enjoyable. The heat was 35 minutes long and I didn’t want it to end.” Photo: Jimmicane
Although Parkinson admitted his competitive fire has burned out, he still managed to dismantle some of the top-ranked surfers on the ‘QS and ‘CT during the Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa just weeks before his retirement. Parko’s win made him a serious contender for the Vans Triple Crown, and he ended up finishing runner-up his retiring year. Photo: Tktk
Parkinson, savoring his final moments as a dedicated 17-year veteran of the ‘CT at the 2018 Pipe Masters. Photo: Macfarlane
One of the benefits of announcing your retirement from the Tour early on is that every remaining event becomes a farewell party. It all crescendoed at the Billabong Pipe house where half of Metallica played for the retiree. Photo: Macfarlane
Probably the most joyous reaction to an elimination ever, Parkinson celebrates his retirement as the hooter of his last heat sounds during the 2018 Pipe Masters. Photo: Macfarlane
Chaired up the beach by fellow World Champs Mark Occhilupo and Mick Fanning. Photo: Macfarlane
From flipping birds in the barrel to throwing peace signs, Parko’s not really sure what’s next for him now that he’s retired from the tour, but you can guarantee there’ll be a whole lotta this. Photo: Macfarlane
And this as well. Cheers Parko and thanks for all the amazing performances that kept us entertained the last 17 years. Photo: Macfarlane