Words: Chris Binns
“I hope he cracks!” laughed Kelly Slater on his way into the annual ASP World Surfing Awards, when asked if he had given Joel Parkinson any tips for his world title speech. It was a common theme. “He can work it out,” laughed Mick Fanning, “I had to.”
“Just let the words come,” was Stephanie Gilmore’s rather more sympathetic advice. And the words did come, with Parko’s speech undoubtedly the highlight of the snazziest awards night the ASP has put on in years. “I’ve got a lot written down,” began a visibly nervous Parkinson, “because this is one of the most imsportant (sic) moments of my life.” A second later he cracked for the first time. “Don’t cry, come on Joel,” he urged himself, the room warming to the warrior with his heart on his sleeve. Then the tears came. “Ah fuck, I’ve pretty much lost my speech already. Can someone get me a water please?” Cue Matt Hoy bringing a beer to the stage.
On the blue carpet Surfing Life had joked with Joel as to whether he’d hit the 20-minute mark. “I hope not,” he laughed, “I’ve only got 10 minutes of material.” At night’s end the oratory lasted somewhere in the middle, a heartfelt talk on all that drives the man. Family played a huge part ¬ – “I was a dad at 22! Evie had been to 13 countries by the time she was 12 months old!” – and not just in terms of blood. “Accepting this trophy isn’t a monkey off my back like a lot of people think, it’s a celebration of 20 years of memories.” Joel also paid huge tribute to his fallen friend Andy Irons, whose wife Lyndie was in the room. “If it wasn’t going to be Andy winning, I know he’d want it to be me,” said Joel. This was in stark contrast to Kelly, who minutes earlier had said he could imagine “Andy up there, laughing at me. Joel was his boy.” Parko was joined on stage by Steph to round out formalities, and as confetti rained from the roof there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
What happened earlier? After years of abusing the formal dress code with jeans and sneakers the majority of the fellas scrubbed up sharply in 2013. Matt Wilkinson of course put on a star turn, in an outrageous vampire outfit, though grumbled something about having trouble talking through his fangs. After arriving with a cross-dressed man on his arm last year he no doubt felt the pressure to back it up, though it says something about what a laidback sport we’re involved with that there was barely a raised eyebrow as a blood-smeared Wilko entered the room. Julian Wilson, Jack Freestone and Kolohe Andino were dashing, and Owen Wright, while admitting it was his girlfriend who dressed him, was smooth in an all black outfit. Adam Melling ran a loud camouflage shirt under his suit while Kelly, as ever, refused to wear a tie but dazzled all the same.
On the girls’ side of things there wasn’t a dud in the pack. Steph and Sally Fitzgibbons looked stunning, and daring, in see-through numbers, while Sage Erickson, Laura Enever and Alana Blanchard all wowed with their ensembles. “Why would you ask me who made my dress?” laughed Tyler Wright about her vintage number, “I have no clue, I bought this in an antique shop in Lennox.”
As is always the case at this event the surfers are happy to be there, but keen to leave. With competition beginning tomorrow a late night is not what the athletes want, and with that in mind the ASP condensed the presentation part of proceedings and rattled through the awards in record time. Taylor Knox and Sage were given Surfers’ Surfer honours, and Taylor’s video acceptance received one of the biggest ovations of the evening. In the Manoeuvre Of The Year category it was Kelly’s 10 at Bells that claimed the gong, but the single biggest cheer of the night was given up for the video of Dusty Payne’s under-scored aerial against Slater in Santa Cruz. Carissa Moore claimed the women’s Manoeuvre Of The Year and gave a passionate plea for the girls to have more events and more waves to showcase their wares. On a similar note world longboard champion Taylor Jensen pleaded with the crowd to support the sports’ roots and show the loggers some love.
Junior world champs Nikki Van Dijk and Jack Freestone smiled and waved and thanked all the right people, while Adrian Buchan was honoured with the Peter Whitaker award for services to surfing and gave a suitably classy response. Outgoing CEO Richard Grellman was presented with lifetime membership of the ASP and a stunning red single fin, a moment that left him speechless and the room feeling good about how far the ASP has come, and how bright it’s future is looking.
“I think it’s closure,” Joel told Surfing Life, of finally receiving his trophy. “Now I can focus on the year ahead. I’m pumped. Was my speech OK?” It was fine mate, just fine.