And will Kelly’s return aid him in that endeavour?
We’re a week away from J-Bay. We’re perhaps only six months away from the end of the road for one of the smoothest operators to ever pick up a surfboard. Joel Parkinson claimed his first tour victory at Jeffreys Bay as a gangly teenage wildcard back in 1999. Now, nearly twenty years on and with every conceivable achievement behind him in the sport, it’s time to ask if the stylish Queenslander has one last victory left in him at the iconic right-hander.
It’s been a tough couple of years for veterans. The last few seasons have seen a handful of the tour’s senior members either retire or fail to requalify. For Parko, 2018 has been shaky to say the least. In four events (he skipped Brazil) he’s yet to make it past the third round. He’s currently ranked 28th in the world. If things continue like this then he’ll soon be farewelling the tour whether he plans to or not.
But it’s hard to imagine a surfer of Joel’s calibre wanting to leave without adding a final touch to his legacy. We’re talking about a former world champ here, after all. And not just any world champ, but a guy who’ll be remembered as one of the all-time greats of professional surfing.
Thing is, if he’s going to claim one last victory, J-Bay may be his only opportunity. No one who saw him surf at the Founders Cup would rate him as anything but an outside chance to win the wave pool event. The beach breaks of Portugal and France seem equally as unlikely. He’s won Pipe before and finished runner-up at Chopes, but with John John, Gabby, Jules and Flores in the mix, he’s facing some formidable opposition.
But J-Bay’s not out of the question. Despite what Filipe showed is possible there on the smaller days last year, it’s still a wave that demands to be surfed rail-to-rail, with style and fluidity. And Parko’s got plenty of that left in his arsenal. We saw it earlier this year at the Quikky Pro. After a slow Round 1 heat, the silky natural-footer put on a dominant performance at Snapper in Round 2, easily posting the highest heat total of the round against Patty G by combining deep tubes with trademark rail-work. It was vintage Parkinson. It showed the old dog still has the kind of form that helped him claim countless victories in the past, even if he did go down by a whisker to a kid who’s modelled his surfing wholeheartedly on Parko in Griffin Colapinto.
So we wait to see if he’s still got the magic that’s made him synonymous with Jeffreys. Two wins there and a runner-up finish in 2014 ensure he’s got the experience, but there could be another factor working in his favour. If anything, his mediocre results this season have appeared as much to do with motivation as they have with age. He just doesn’t seem inspired to do battle anymore. But Kelly’s coming back, and we know those two have a history.
It could be just the thing to drive Parko to one last victory.