Deano and Joel at Joel’s place on the Sunshine Coast. A few weeks later Joel would move to the Gold Coast, down the road from Deano and over the hill from Mick Fanning, and a Coolangatta dynasty would be born.

Little Mister Magoo


I first met Joel at Caloundra. He was eight. His Uncle Daryl had moved down to the Gold Coast by then but Joel was still on the Sunshine Coast with his dad, Brian. Joel was a little kid, humble, quiet. I’ve met a lot of people in my life but I distinctly remember meeting Joel Parkinson.

What happens next, this is mixed up with the whole three of them. Dean’s family unit disintegrated, but Dean did more than land on my doorstep – he picked the house I was going to live in. When I’d won the ‘82 Surfabout I had a $20,000 cheque,  which was good money back then, and I’d bought this block of dirt up in the country, which is where I’d always wanted to live. I had Wayne Deane build me my dream house. He built it singlehandedly. I went up to see him one day and I said, “Where’s your crew?” and he said, “It’s just me.” He was a master builder and this house was beautiful.

Anyway, Deano has come into my life and I’m driving down to pick him up in the back streets of Kirra to go surfing and we drove past this block of apartments they were building and in this squeaky voice he goes, “Bugs! Bugs! You should live there!” This went on and on ’til it was built and Dean kept banging on about this unit to the point where one day I pull in and sure enough there’s a real estate agent there. He goes, “I’ve been waiting for you.” I’m sceptical but I walk up and it’s the middle apartment and I look out and it’s a clean offshore morning and this perfect three-foot Kirra wave runs in front of me like a movie. I’m there going, oh my god. Next minute Deano goes, “I’ve got my room, Bugs!” and that was it. That unit became a bit of a hub. We’re there at Kirra, then next minute Joel has moved down with his dad and they’re around the corner in Rutledge Street, and then the Fannings have moved up and it all really just fell into place.

Those kids got the very last of perfect Kirra. I remember seeing Parko getting unbelievable barrels at Kirra and Deano ended up in the front bedroom at my place, so he was the closest heartbeat to Kirra Point. Now, people don’t realise Kirra used  to be perfect at three feet, and they were getting 10-second barrels. Kirra had a lot to do with how good a tuberider Parko became.

Then I took them to Hawaii. The first trip was when the old flight used to arrive late at night and we drove out to Johnny Theodore’s place at Sunset where I had this grom ghetto going. It was an incredible set up and perfect to stack the kids in  there, you could walk down the track and if the dog didn’t attack you you’d be looking at Sunset. It was a gauntlet just to get to Sunset.

The very, very first morning we arrived was the morning of October 2nd and on the TV screen even though the TV wasn’t on it said, “Tsunami alert.” There’d been an 8.2 earthquake off Japan and this tsunami was heading for the North Shore. The  sirens went off so I’m getting the kids together and Joel is out surfing. I finally get him in and I go, “I’m  not mucking around here, we need to get up the hill now!” And Joel goes, “Oh, hang on, I just want to grab all my boards.” I said, “Joel, seriously, if a tsunami wipes this place out you won’t be needing your boards, mate.” So off we go and, stopping in for rations from Foodland – 10 packets of choc chip cookies. We were sitting on the Pupukea escarpment dangling our legs over, waiting for it to hit.

The Haleiwa harbour rose a bit, but that was it. We drove back down the hill, and past Rockpiles and you get to see the ocean and I remember Deano has looked out the window and gone, “Bugs! That’s the tsunami!” It wasn’t the tsunami, it was the first big swell of the winter. That afternoon I took them to Waimea. They surfed Waimea Bay that day and it was 15 feet. It was standing up, 15 feet Hawaiian. Joel handled himself well. One of the biggest waves of the  day came and Deano was so far out in the channel… he took it, but the chops were as big as he was.

A big Joel smile. Just one of a billion so far this lifetime.

The best Parko story though that says everything about him happened when I took them to Hawaii again the following year. This time it was Joel, Deano, Rasta and Damon Nicholls. We’re back at Johnny Theodore’s and Deano is waking me up early and he’s yelling, “Bugs, I’m going out!” I knew it was forecast to be big and out of the west,  and I’m like, “Hang on, Deano, you and me will go and check it out.” We sat on the concrete there at Sunset and the channel was boiling. It was  soooo big. Deano then tells me that Parko, Rasta and Damon are already out there! And that’s when I see it.

Out of the west this most unbelievable sight, rippling from way, way out to sea beyond Kammieland is a 20-foot, 20-wave set. This set  mate was 20 foot and these kids I’m supposed to be looking after are out there, and not only out there but way up at Boneyards. Boneyards.

This set was so big and was drawing so much water toward it that it had a leading edge wave in front of it, and the leading edge wave was a perfect six foot Sunset Point wave. Parko takes it. He’s just doing his Parko thing, these beautiful turns. He could surf Sunset from the very start and he’s gliding along while I’m freaking out. He rides it and connects it from Sunset Point to the Bowl all these beautiful turns, just in heaven, loving life, so casual. As he flicks out on the inside it’s all white to the horizon behind him. Rasta and Damon Nicholls got blown over Boneyards with boards broken, strafed, lucky to be  alive, and here’s Parko, clean as a whistle, like little Mr. Magoo, walking up the beach like nothing had happened. It was most beautiful sum-up of all time.

He made it look so easy, while it was complete chaos all around him.

The Parko tribute issue is now on sale.

Surfing World