Laughing with Parko... and at him. Photo John Respondek


When Joel Parkinson retired back in 2018, we asked a bunch of his closest mates for a story to roast their mate… they were lined up down the road. 



“We were all camping over at Moreton Island, a bunch of the boys all over there for Mick’s birthday. We were all there having fun surfing, fishing, and having a few beers. This night there would have been 20 of us sitting around the campfire and everyone’s pretty tired from surfing and fishing and drinking piss, and the boys are winding down. It was pretty quiet and some of the boys started yawning and saying they might go to bed. Joel wasn’t into that, and there was no way he was letting anyone go to bed. He pulled out a plastic jerry can of petrol, and as a party trick he chucked a lid full of it onto the campfire, which goes up in flames. Everyone jumps up going, yes, that was epic. Suddenly Joel thinks he’s killing it. The petrol was his magic trick. The party was back on! So then he does it again just with more petrol this time. Everyone’s up on their feet laughing and going off and by this time Joel thinks he’s really killing it. He thinks he’s some kind of magician. So then he goes and does it again. This time he doesn’t use the lid, he chucks it on straight from the jerry can. Everyone just watches in horror as the flame follows the petrol straight back to the jerry can. Joel panics and blindly chucks the jerry can and it goes straight under Mick’s brand-new Jeep. Suddenly the whole thing goes up and there’s flames shooting out from under Mick’s Jeep Cherokee. Everyone’s freaking out. Someone grabs an esky that was full of water and chucks that on it but that just spread the fire. The flames are up to the windows by this stage. Then Joel reaches in and kicks the jerry can to get it out and it goes straight under Lanky’s car and now it’s on fire too, only this time the flames are right under the fuel tank. Two cars are on fire now, and Joel’s reached under with a towel around his hands and just grabbed the jerry can and hoiked it again and it’s gone straight into the bushes and next thing the bush is on fire as well! Everyone is panicking, people are running for their lives, it was complete chaos. People were running for their lives. We thought the cars were going up in flames. We eventually worked out you needed to throw sand on it and we managed to get the fires out. Ten minutes later Joel’s standing there nude because his boardies and shirt had caught fire and burned off, laughing, drinking a beer, with his monobrow all singed off. Everything’s still smoking and Mick’s car had scorch marks all over it. We’re all looking at him going, mate, you dickhead. We called him Sparko the rest of the trip.”


Baby Dingo and Joel, age 12.



“I’ve got the one. He’s going to hate me for this, but it’s amazing. Me, Joel, Shagga and Hedgey all went up to Ireland a few years ago. We stopped in and saw my family. We took boards but we weren’t surfing, we were there for a piss up mainly. Earlier in the trip we were in Portugal and France and because I didn’t like the breakfast in Portugal I was only eating bread and eggs. By the time we drove to France I thought my appendix was bursting, so I went to hospital where they told me no, you’re just constipated.

“Anyway, we’ve gone on to Ireland and we’re at the airport having a Guinness and Joel asks me, “What did it feel like when you’re constipated?”

I said, “Mate, it’s just a bad pain in the guts.”

He goes, “I think I’m constipated then. I haven’t taken a shit in five days.”

“We were up with my family and were about to drive down to Galway for a couple of days to party. I’ve gone to see my great aunt and my godfather and the boys have gone to do some shopping and Joel goes, “I’m going to the chemist and getting some laxatives.” They’ve gone into the chemist and there’s a really cute girl and Joel’s lurking around the aisles trying to find the laxatives while being real incognito about it, and Hedgey barges in and yells at the top of his lungs in his worst Irish accent ever, “Excuse me, love! You don’t know where the laxatives are? My friend here hasn’t taken a shit in days!” Joel has gone bright red, so embarrassed, and just yelled, “Shut up, Hedgey!”

“They’ve bought the laxatives and the instructions were to take two at night and Joel goes, “Nah, I’m taking two right now.” We were about to go on a four-hour drive and he’s popped two. Halfway down to Galway we’ve stopped in for lunch and a Guinness and just before our meal arrives Joel has got this look on his face and he goes, “Oh god” and just runs for the toilet. He’s in the toilet and he reckons he was like Harry in Dumb and Dumber. He’s in there for ages and we’re finishing our beers and Hedgey looks at me and he goes, “You know what we should do?” and I looked at him and go, “No mate, you can’t.” And he goes, “Yes we can.”

“Joel comes out of the toilet and as he walks out and there’s a nine-year-old kid waiting for the toilet and Joel goes, “I’m so sorry, mate.” He gets back to the table and we start geeing Joel up, going, “Hurry up and drink your beer, mate. We need to get on the road.” He’s necked his beer and got to the bottom and here’s these two dissolved laxative tablets sitting in the bottom of the glass. He just went white and yelled, “You pricks!”

“We’ve jumped in the car and we got to Galway and checked into the hotel and Joel’s dancing around going, “I’ve got to check in quick… this is heavy!” He’s sprinted up to his room and we didn’t see him for hours. He kept sending me messages from in the toilet saying, “I can’t get out of here!” So we went off to another pub and he shows up half an hour later looking half his size. He sits down and takes half a sip and then goes, oh god, and bolts for the toilet again in one of the seediest pubs in Galway. For the next three hours we’re doing a pub crawl through Galway and Joel’s doing a toilet crawl.

“We’ve gone to this one nightclub to finish up the night and he’s in the toilet again and he’s about to walk back into the club through these big swinging doors just as they turn the lights on and everyone spills outside. Hedgey has run out the door as Joel was walking in, and Joel’s been pinned against the wall by the door as the whole nightclub spills out onto the street. He couldn’t get out, he’s stuck in there, and there was this circular glass window and you could see his face there and his nose being squashed and him yelling.

“We bailed back to the hotel and me and Shagga are in one room and Hedgey and Parko are in the other. Hedgey’s going, “Let’s have one more drink, boys. Let’s have a nightcap!” Me and Shagga have snuck out and locked our door. Joel is exhausted and jumped into bed in the nude to go to sleep, but Hedgey has poured two rums anyway, going, “C’mon Joel, get up have a rum with me!” Joel’s telling Hedgey to go to sleep, so Hog has picked up the glass and thrown rum all over Joel in bed. Joel has got up and it’s on, they’re wrestling, Joel’s nude, fully like the scene out of Borat. Hedgey is standing by the door and Joel is running at him at full speed to tackle him then just as Joel gets there Hedgey has opened the door, moved out of the way like a matador, and Joel has run straight past him out into the hallway. In a split second Hedgey has closed the door and locked it. Joel’s outside in the nude banging on the door and Hedgey’s inside going, “Nah mate, sorry, you should have had a drink with me!” Joel is locked out and all of a sudden the elevator goes bing and this couple get out and here’s Joel’s in the foetal position sitting by the door. Hedgey just left him out there. Joel eventually had to go down to reception in the nude and get another key to get back in.



“There was definitely a night surf phase we went through. I think it only ended when I turned 21, that’s when we stopped travelling together because he went contesting and I didn’t. We had a Mundaka night surf. We were sleeping in this van that was parked on an angle on the hill and we woke up at three in the morning on top of each other and went this is gross, let’s go check the surf. We thought it was just before dawn but it was actually three in the morning. It turned out to be my best surf at Mundaka ever. The tide was low and you have to surf Mundaka on the low tide. We’re getting changed and then Elko, Powelly and Dave Scard stumble out of the bar and they’re singing this song and they see us and go, “What are you doing groms?” And we tell them we’re going surfing and they go, “We’re coming!” They somehow get their gear together and we jump off the wharf and into the river together and those guys just vaporised, just disappeared into the night, while Joel and I have made it onto the bank. The moon was full, so once you took off you just pulled in and the moon would light up the tube like a nightclub. It was so amazing and we surfed for an hour before anyone came out. It was magic.

“Then J-Bay was next. We got to night surf J-Bay and the only reason I remember it was that someone took a photo of us coming in across the rocks at dawn. We were not in any state to be surfing J-Bay in the day, let alone at night. But our worst/best night surf was actually in Hawaii, just after we signed our first Billabong contracts as adults. We were in Hawaii and staying at this guy, Mike Trisler’s house, which had a jacuzzi and there were parties and lots of people around. This night the party is still going at two in the morning and someone had the idea to go surf Sunset… proper 10-to-12 foot Sunset. We took Bubba McLean out there with us but we lost him instantly. Brian Conley was with us and we lost him too and a Californian kid by the name of Jeff Brack. We lost him too. I remember being out there with Joel and you couldn’t see anything until you were on the wave looking back at the beach, where there was enough street light to light up the wave. When someone was on a wave you could see them perfectly. I remember eating shit and getting waves on the head and struggling to even stay afloat out there, and suddenly I hear this wild man cackling laugh and out of the dark Joel comes flying straight past me. I saw him do this perfect bottom turn into the inside bowl around me as I was being sucked up the face. He was having the time of his life, just laughing going past me with the biggest smile on his face, and I’ve been picked up by the wave and smashed, washed in across Val’s Reef all cut up. By the time I got back in all bleeding here’s Joel in the jacuzzi with a beer. He pulled it. He pulled it perfectly in true Joel style.



“The one I remember that cracked me up was being in South Africa a few years ago. Being on the Billabong team together for so long, one of the most punishing things you have to do are store signings. Sometimes they’re fun but most of the time they’re pretty taxing, and we’d always be coming up with excuses to get out of doing them. If one of us would go to the signing but the other didn’t, or they turned up late, you’d always be suss on them and hit them up, “Where were you, mate?” And they’d always have some bullshit excuse that you could always see straight through. The team managers had heard every excuse in the book by this stage, and after a while the excuses just started getting wilder and less believable.

“Anyway, this time in South Africa and we get to the signing and everyone is there except for Joel. We’re there signing away for an hour, cursing him all the way, going, “That bastard’s off surfing for sure.” Then with about five minutes left and the crowd has all gone Joel walks in the door. I’m straight onto him, going, “Mate, where have you been, you prick?” And he has this googly-eyed look on his face with his hands up, fully serious, fully playing this up. He was acting like Steve Irwin. He goes, “You’re not going to believe it… a lion just attacked my hire car and ate one of the tyres!”

I’m like, “Mate, c’mon, you’ve had all this time to come up with an excuse and that’s the one you expect us to believe?”

He goes, “I swear to god, a lion attacked my car!”

And that was it. He blew it for all of us, because after that the Billabong guys wouldn’t believe anything we said.”



“We were groms, really young, maybe 12 or 13. We were best mates and we’d hang out with Serena Brooke a lot around that time. She was winning Aussie titles, Joel was winning Aussie titles, I was winning club rounds at Windansea. Me and Joel used to fight like good mates do, have punch-ons all the time. Anyway, I remember this time that Joel spread this rumour around the school that I had red pubes, and it got back to me through Serena. She told me and I was that angry… and for the record they weren’t orange, they were actually blonde. So anyway I confronted him at school about it, and he kept on banging on about it over and over in front of everyone. I got pretty pissed off and I ended up decking him in front of everyone. He had these flashy brand-new Nikes on, thinking he was killing it, but I’ve decked him, just lifted him up and threw him onto the concrete, the full wrestling move, just hammered him. Well he gets up and he doesn’t know whether to cry or hit me or what to do, so he just yells out in front of the whole crowd, “You’re just jealous that I surf like Kelly Slater and you don’t!” Then he ran off in his new Nikes, crying.”


What trouble could these two possibly get up? Joel and Bubba.



“We were surfing Moffatts one day in the middle of winter, we must have been 10 or 11, and I remember this day was freezing cold. The waves were pumping and I’ve come in and taken off my wettie. Joel’s come in soon after, and we’re there with a mate and we’re so cold we decide to light a little fire to warm up so we can surf again afterward. We were sitting around the fire and the thing has just taken off and jumped into the scrub nearby and started burning up the whole headland. I’ve freaked out and have run off to get help. There’s all these million dollar houses up there and I’m thinking they’re all going to catch fire. I’ve taken off to ring the fire brigade and all these people are coming out because there’s smoke everywhere and I’m running away and they all think I’m trying to escape so they’re all having a go at me. I’m running back to Mum and Dad’s and they’ve called the fire brigade, and so I bolt back to the headland and all these people are giving me death stares. I looked like the full arsonist. Anyway, Joel and I had these brand new Aleeda wetsuits with fluro down the side, and they were our pride and joy. I used to wear mine around the house and take showers with it on. I loved that wettie, and I get back to the headland and here’s Joel using my brand new Aleeda steamer to beat the flames down. I’m looking on in horror. I can see my wettie melting and on fire, while his wettie is just sitting there on the ground next to him. Anyway, by now there’s all these other people there and they’ve run down and seen Joel fighting the fire, and they think wow, this kid’s a hero. He started the fire! And these are the same people who saw me running away, so the story goes around the neighbourhood that I was the arsonist, and Joel was a hero. So bloody typical. And my wettie was just a blob of melted rubber.



“The Moorea honeymoon. I wasn’t even going to bring a board at all, then thought about it and went, “Babe, we’re going to Moorea for four days, the kids are at home, why don’t I bring one board just in case I wanna have one surf?” For some reason Monica’s agreed, so the board got the official sanction. I go to the garage and I haven’t got a single boardbag – I’ve only got a triple – so I’ve gone, well, I might as well fill it up with three. Mon’s seen it and has started blowing up. I wheeled out some bullshit excuse about needing to take three so they don’t get dinged on the flight.

“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, it’s 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.