Joel Parkinson just announced that he’d be hanging up the jersey after Pipe. It’s the beginning of the end of a long and storied career. At 37-years-old, and after nearly two decades on tour, Parko’s retirement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It is, however, a disappointment for many. He’s a solid fixture in the so-called Old Guard, and with his announcement, that guard is basically finished.
“I love everything about it, but I just can’t keep competing,” he says in Billabong’s announcement video. “I have no more fire or desire to want to win.”
Parko, of course, isn’t retiring from surfing altogether. It’s just surfing for points that he’s tired of. “I just want to surf and enjoy it… it’s not like I don’t have fire in the belly—fire in the belly is always something you have when you’re a surfer, I think. You always love to surf—that part, good waves or bad waves—sometimes you just have an itch to surf that’ll always be there. Just putting the jersey on is the one thing I’ve had enough of.”
His career on the CT began back in 1999, and it didn’t take long for him to win his first event. At the J-Bay event in 2001, where he competed as a wildcard, he walked away with top honors. He joined the tour full time in 2002 and hasn’t taken a year off since. It was clear from the start that Parko wasn’t going away, and although it wasn’t until 2012 that he won a world title, there were more than a few years where everyone knew he deserved it.
Parko is close with Fanning and Occy, both of whom have volumes of retirement knowledge. Fanning with his newfound freedom and Occy as a veteran retiree both gave advice to him, but Fanning’s was perhaps the most useful for the rest of Parkinson’s final season. “Now that you’ve got this off your chest,” he said, “you can go and just surf for you now. Put on the performances that you’re proud of. It doesn’t matter the results or anything like that, it’s the results that you are proud of. I think it’ll give you an extra spark.”