Good Times On The Road With The World’s Favourite Surfer
Photos by Frank + Shorty, Edited by Sean Doherty

Watching Joel Parkinson surf is to know that all is still good with the world. But while the Coolangatta surfer’s syrupy, sublime talent has taken him to the world’s dreamiest waves, it’s the guy’s laidback groove that’s seen his friends in each of these locations, over the years, become family. The Hawaiians have a word for it – hânai – an outside child taken in and looked after as one of their own. In Hawaii and Tahiti, Jeffreys Bay and Angourie, Parko’s bonds to his adoptive families and the places they call home have been made strong by all-time waves, clownish misadventures, stories around the campfire a thousand miles from home. Told with the help of the surfing’s most colourful storytellers and finest photographers, Joel’s story is as much about the places and people in his life as it is about Joel himself. As Joel says, “It’s a book about me that’s not all about me.” Equal parts campfire story, biography, coffee table and travel book, Parko+Friends is a celebration of surfing and the gravitational pull it has to bring people together.


“He’s got an aura about him out at Snapper. He’ll paddle 20 feet deeper than everyone else and they’ll all write him off; he’s never going to make a wave from there. He’ll take off, do two pumps, and he’s flying through the backwash section where everyone else is trying to take off. All of a sudden he’s being spat out of barrels no one else would even think of taking off on. Actually where he’s taking off is easier; you just have to be a bloody good surfer to do it. It’s easier but the consequences if you eat it are that you’re on the rock. Everybody eats shit out there; even Joel from time to time. Anybody who’s had a really good barrel has paid their dues to get it.” – Uncle Daryl

EUROPE europe

I got the phone call in France. I was sleeping downstairs and I woke up to a dozen missed calls from Monica back at home. I’ve eventually woken up late, typical France time, grabbed my phone and there are all these missed calls. I called back and Mon goes, “Joel, are you sitting down? I’m pregnant.” I’m still half asleep at this stage and I go, “Pregnant? With a baby?” For two weeks I didn’t say anything to anyone. For two weeks. I went to Mundaka and then flew to Brazil still without telling anyone, and it was eating me up the whole time. I’m sitting with Mick in Brazil, been there a few days, and out of the blue he goes, “So when do you reckon you and Mon will have kids?” I’m like, “Well, I dunno Mick. Why do ya ask?” He looked at my face and he knew.
“She’s pregnant, isn’t she?”
And I go, “Yep, she’s pregnant.” He gave me a big hug and we both cracked up, even though at the time I wasn’t quite sure why I was laughing. – Joel

“Joel, I’m pregnant.”
“Wow. Oh, wow. Wow.” He couldn’t speak, that’s all he could say. I said, “Well I’m going to hang up. When you can think of something to say, call me.” And I said to myself if he doesn’t call me back in 15 minutes, we’re done, I’m a single mother. He rang back in 10. The first thing he said was, “I’m going to be a dad.” He went on to Brazil and came home three weeks later. But it was sort of good to have that break, cause we had three weeks apart to work it out in our own heads instead of being in each others pockets, going, “Oh my god, how do you feel?” As soon as he came home three weeks later we were both so excited. We’d worked through our own stuff in our own time. And from that moment onwards he’s stepped up to the plate big time as a father. – Monica


On the morning of Occ’s birthday I got up early and went fishing in the bay and caught three tailor as a birthday present for him. I just gutted them and threw them on ice cause we had to leave to go surfing. We went surfing all day and came home and the tailor were still there on the ice and needed to be cleaned and filleted. I was busy cooking up everything else for the birthday feed, so I go to Occ, “Mate, can you walk down the beach and clean these for us?” Ten minutes later Craikey comes over the hill and he’s laughing so hard we couldn’t understand what he was going on about. He’s going, “Occy just had a fight with a seagull!” Occ had filleted the fish on the sand and put them in the bucket, but had turned his back on them and next thing there’s a seagull in his bucket flying off with his fish. He’s started chasing it and it’s flown off and he’s still after it, chasing it down the beach. It’s dropped the fillet into the water and he’s looking round for it but can’t find it. Craikey reckoned it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen in his life. Occ comes back and goes, “Geez, Joel, I’m sorry mate.” Instead of six fillets he’d come back with three. It could only happen to Occ… and that’s why we love him. – Joel

I couldn’t believe it. The tailor were so precious cause both Joel and I love eating ‘em, and Joel had got up early that morning to catch them just for my birthday. Anyway, Joel was busy getting the barbie ready, so he goes, “Occ all you have to do is clean the fish.” I’m like, “Sweet, I can do that.” I walk down the beach with them and I’m cleaning the fish while I’m having a beer and talking to Craikey. All of a sudden I turn around and there’s a seagull in my bucket and the thing flies away with my fish! I’m chasing him down the beach he’s flying off with it. It must’ve looked pretty funny. And I didn’t get it back. I check my bucket and somehow three fish have become one. I’m thinking, Joel’s not gonna be too happy about this. I get back up to the camp and Joel’s looking at me, and the one fish I’ve got and he goes, “What happened?” I go, “You don’t want to know.” – Occy


There’s always been a friendly rivalry between Joel and I. As soon as that horn goes off I wanna beat him as badly as he wants to beat me. And it’s always a major scalp, and I remember all the wins and losses against him because they mean so much. I used to smoke him in the early days but he’s come back lately. I remember beating him with two fours in the final in Japan, stuff like that. And then he’s got me some really good ones that’ve scarred me, one time at Bells in a semi in particular. I got the inside first and got caught behind on my first wave. I’ve kicked out in time to watch him get a 9.9 or something, and then paddle back out and get a 10. Then he paddles over to me with 25 minutes left in the heat and goes, “I think I’m gonna go in soon cause I wanna be warm for the final.” I went, “This guy is heavy!” I was ready to do a deal with the devil right there for some miracle to happen and me come back and win that heat, just to see the look on Joel’s face. It was like, if you’re going in, I’m going in. There’s no way I’m sitting out here on my own with 10,000 people watching me getting my ass kicked in a triple combo. It was embarrassing. – Andy Irons

Joel and I have both grown up a lot. He’s always been a bit more mature than me, I think, and in a lot of ways he’s really helped me mature as I’ve got older. Him with his family has really been cool, cause I’ve got to watch his girls grow up. I don’t have kids yet, so I feel whenever I’m with the Parkinsons that I feel like part of their family. I love playing with Evie and Macy. He’s been there for me in the good times and the hard times, and there are only a handful of friends who I can say that about. For that guy to be Australian, a guy from halfway round the world, that means a lot. It really does. I remember the day in Brazil when he told me Monica was pregnant with Evie. He was 23, and we’re sitting there and he just goes, “I’m gonna be a dad.” I’m like, “What!?” And if you think his smile is big now, it was ear-to-ear back then. You look at him now and he’s just the perfect father. His family has grown and he’s got this beautiful house on the river, Occ’s down the street, and Snapper’s his oyster. Big things ahead. I definitely like his style. But don’t worry, Joel’s not smiling all the time. I know the red buttons; there’s not many, but they’re there. You know though, I never really met someone who is so happy-go-lucky. It’s hard to break him out of his groove. My brother’s tried and done pretty well a few times but he’s the master, he’s been born with a gift to find peoples buttons. That’s why it’s so good to travel with Joel, cause I whine a lot on the road. He just goes, “Will ya stop whinging!” I hate hearing it, but it makes me stop and question what I’m bitching about. It usually snaps me out of it and things are good again. The glass is always half full with Joel. I’m there trying to pour it out and he’s there trying to fill it up. – Andy Irons


“We fly into Tahiti late at night and have stayed at the Beachcomber, which looks straight out over the reefs. I open the curtains and look out and there it is – eight foot of swell wrapping up the reef. I don’t say anything to Mon. I’m just thinking, holy shit, what’s Moorea going to be doing? We drive onto the ferry and we get across to the little bay on Moorea where the ferry docks, and on the corner of the reef pass is this sickest right, four foot and grinding. It’s onshore and wild though, so I’m going, okay this mightn’t be so bad. We drive around to the north side of the island where our hotel is and check in. We’re staying in one of those bungalows that sits out over the lagoon, but we’re on the sheltered side of the island so there’s no swell so I’m going, okay, if I can’t see the waves they don’t exist. Tree falling in the woods. So that night we’re cocktails, nice dinner, honeymoon love. The next morning I get up at six. It’s eating away at me, so I go to Mon, “Babe I might just go and have a look at the surf. I’ll be back for brekky.” Mon was a little hungover so I had some time. I get in the car and just fang for The Right on the other side of the island, which I thought might have been three or four foot at best. I pull up and… holy shit! It’s six-to-eight foot and out of its mind. There are three guys out. Most waves I was just cruising on my six-two, do a couple of carves, then pull into the end section which would just drain out. A couple of times I pulled out thinking if I get cheese-grated on my honeymoon this marriage is over. I can’t go back to hotel sliced to ribbons sticking to bed sheets going, “Sorry, Mon, I can’t do anything.”
“I surf it from seven to 10am, and race back just as Monica is starting to wake up. She’s had her little sleep-in and is happy. We go and have a nice lunch and we’re sitting by the pool in the afternoon and all I’m thinking of is four stand-up barrels per wave. I didn’t go that afternoon, but I sat there stewing on it. The next morning I get up at six again and sneak out the door. I surf till 10 again. Come back, same thing, have some lunch. If I want to surf again though I’ve got to get Mon into it, so I go, “Monica, you’ve got to come and see these waves! You’ve never seen anything like it.” I was playing any card I could by that stage to get an afternoon surf. So we drive around to The Right and it was off its tits with hardly a soul out. But there’s not even a beach there, its just rocks, and it’s not the prettiest part of Tahiti. It just backs onto suburbia, and on Moorea – the most romantic island in the world – it’s probably the last place you’d ever take your girl. But Mon comes down and sees the wave and even she is blown away by it. It’s a novelty wave; it bends out to sea and breaks along the beach, not into it. She sat down and read a book while I surfed from one to about five.
“So that night we went out and had a nice dinner. Next morning, up at six again. Third morning in a row I go and surf and this time it was bigger. It was eight foot with the odd 10-footer and only one other guy out. We surfed it amazing. Then at 9.30 it just goes whoosh, starts blowing as hard as it can onshore. I just go, thank you! You’ve never seen someone happier to see an onshore in his life. Monica was going to divorce me another day of this. I went back had the afternoon together by the pool with Mon then we left the next morning. A four-day honeymoon and three of the best days of surf I’ve ever had. Monica reminds me every day, and will do so every day for the next 60 years.” – Joel

“Travelling with Occy is the best thing you can do. I'm pretty lucky. I mean are you kidding me, do you know how funny that guy is? He is always happy, 100 per cent always happy, always positive, always up for a laugh and a good time. This year in Tahiti was typical. He had this song he just loved, Sunshine Reggae. He’d just play it over and over and do a little dance every time. The song would finish, and he’d look around with that smile, and say, “Just one more, hey boys?” And we’d groan, and then sure enough he’d hit the iPod and play it again, and do that dance and we’d all start cracking up. And he did that for two weeks. Or in the mornings we’d be going for the super earlies, just as the sun was coming up. Occ would come out, whack on Barry White, like, really loud. “Can't get enough of your love baby," would be blaring and we’d be sort of dancing on the way out to the boat, with the sun coming up and the mountains behind us. It doesn’t get much better than that. And it’s so easy to play little tricks on him. This year he’d worked out you could watch movies on your iPod as well. So he’s walking around everywhere watching movies. I mean, he trips over enough as it is without watching bloody movies. Anyway, one day he comes out looking confused and he’s like, “Houston, we have a problem. The movie’s stopped.” I said, “Occ, you have to take the tape out and rewind it.” He was like, “Really? Wow, I didn’t know that’s the way the sucker works.” I was sitting with Barca one afternoon and Occ was in form and Barca goes, “Ya know, surfers should get paid on personality.” And I looked at Occy and said to him, “If they paid you on personality, Occ, you'd be as rich as bloody Bill Gates.” – Joel




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