Detailing The Best Competitive Surfer of 2014, with Joel Parkinson

by stab March 08, 2016 4 min read

Story by Lucas Townsend

While Joel Parkinson may’ve arrived in Hawaii minus a shot at the World Title, there’s few better positioned to resolve judgment on why this year’s best competitive surfer was so. Joel’s won and lost heats against our contenders this year and has seen 12 years of intelligent surfing at the elite level. Speaking to Stab from the Billabong wave house in front of a sand-covered Pipeline reef, Joel offered his call for this year’s best on the World Tour.

Stab: When Gabriel beat you in the final at Snapper, did you think he’d be coming into Pipe as a title contender?
Joel Parkinson: Yep. He’s a freak. He’s the most unbelievably talented surfer I’ve seen for quite a while. John John Florence is probably more freakish, but Gabriel has an amazing ability to win.

Why does Gabriel stand out to you? It’s his confidence, even just simply walking down to the beach. He has an amazing ability to put himself in the right positions for finding waves. For a lot guys who first make the tour they struggle with figuring out Teahupoo and Fiji and Pipe and all these harder waves. Beachbreaks and points are quite easy, but Gabriel really knows the harder lineups and he’s learned quicker than anyone.


As Kelly Slater wrote on his Instagram: “There’s no denying it… this guy lit it up all year. A very deserving #WorldChampion in @gabrielmedina.Congratulations. He #SetTheStandard of straight up shredding and competitive savvy and in doing so switched his position from challenger to leader.” Photo: Tom Carey

Would you say he is the best competitive surfer this year? I would say he has been the all-round best competitor, yes. But I’d say Mick was better when he needed to be. When Mick needed results, and the pressure was on, he could pull it out. When Gabriel folded in the Portugal event, Mick took his opportunity to stay in contention. He did it in J-Bay, too. But he hasn’t looked like the best surfer at the events he’s won.

A heat where Gabriel impressed you… The final at Snapper. His will not to lose then was gritty. I don’t think he won. But that’s just my advised opinion. I grew up on a pointbreak and learned to take off from top to bottom. The judges may have got a little caught up in the end of the final, as they sometimes do. But anyway, that’s just surfing, it comes and goes.

Sans jersey, who’s the best surfer of 2014? The most freakish thing I’ve seen this year was John John during one surf in Portugal. Mick and I went and surfed this crazy, big rivermouth righthander. It was eight foot and gnarly and there was crazy amounts of water moving. You could sit up on this big rip bowl but it was heaving and there wasn’t too many you could make. It was really difficult to get out. John John went straight to the top of the peak, it was crazy and ledging, and he was so relaxed taking off under the lip. He was standing tall in them, pumping through sections and making barrels right through to the end where you shouldn’t be allowed to get to. It was a long way out, it was evil and he was just toying with it. I was so impressed. I came home and was still completely baffled by what he was doing.

John John Florence and a non-obvious choice at wind-wrecked (or perfected) Log Cabins. hoto: Matt Paul Catalano

John John Florence and a non-obvious choice at wind-wrecked (or perfected) Log Cabins. photo: Matt Paul Catalano

And John will find the competitive consistency, yes? Yeah, both those guys in the next 10 years – it won’t be a matter of if they win, it’ll be a matter of when they win a world title.

Has it been refreshing being in Hawaii without the pressure of a World Title? I suppose, yeah. It is nice to come here knowing all I want to and need to do is get barrelled, make a few heats and hopefully win the Pipe Masters. And especially when I hang out with Mick, holy shit, it reminds me it’s just always at the forefront and back of mind, it’s on every part of you. In saying that though, I’d really have loved to have been in it.

How was Mick’s state of mind compared to previous world titles? Calm, mate. Super calm. He’s been in that situation before and he knew it’s not won or lost on the beach or anywhere else, it’s won in the water. He was waiting for his turn. He just had to win his heat, he can’t win every other heat – a lot of people forget that.

Mick, Chopes. ASP/Kirstin

Mick, Chopes. ASP/Kirstin

And where did it go wrong for you this year? It was consistency, for me. I’d have one good result, one bad result. I started well in Australia with a couple of quarters but you’ve got to have consistency. It hurts you coming from a good result, straight into a bad one. You need to notch them up early.

Equipment wise, what’s changed this year? A lot of the boys, including myself, are riding quads as soon as it’s clean and glassy because they are amazing in the barrel. They don’t turn too well for guys that really want to lay it over but the amount of guys riding them has definitely changed.

Changing of the guard. Cliche or truth? The cream rises to the top. If Gabriel won this year and everyone went, oh it’s the changing of the guard, I could bet you Kelly and Mick go on another five years of winning them. Or myself. I could get another one. You can’t buy experience on this tour. Once you know how to win at places, it’s hard to get beat.

Who’s impressed you outside of competition? Jack Robinson. This kid is so good, it’s a joke. He’s such a nice kid, too. I like his patience, that’s what I noticed at Teahupoo. He’s so patient, he wants to get the best and the biggest wave. Most groms come and scrap around and get whatever they can find. But he will sit there and wait. It’s an amazing thing to have. If he gets on tour he’ll be unbelievable. Tour is mostly surfing good waves, and he’s got an ability to find them. You have to learn to tuberide on tour. You see how many heats John John’s won from amazing tube rides.

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