It's the playoffs for Parkinson

NFL football is still in preaseason and the Australia's National Rugby League is in the middle of it's schedule. But for Joel Parkinson, it's time for the playoffs. Game faces. Some will find glory. Others will go home. Although Parkinson holds the No. one slot in the world right now, anyone in the top six is right there and heading into the business end, the rest of the ASP season is go-time.

This is Parko's 11th year on tour. He's finished as runner-up in 2002 and 2009, and he knows that the competition has only gotten stronger. He's been in this spot before. In the past, he's jumped out to early leads and then fell behind, before coming back strong in Hawaii. The last year he's had some of the highest and lowest points of not only his career, but his life. We got a few words out of Parko as he headed to the Billabong Pro Tahiti. And he had some good advice for those gifted, but lazy, shredders.

ESPN Surfing: So, we've just passed a year from when you sliced open your heel on that fateful freesurf. Do you still get nauseous thinking about it?
Joel Parkinson: I don't sit there looking at photos of it, that's for sure.

I imagine not. Are there ever times when you pull back to avoid injury?
In a freesurf, sure. I'm very much more aware of the concept of wrapping myself in cotton wool in the lead up to events. No more suicide punts the day before the contest. But in a heat, no. You can't have that lurking around upstairs during a heat.

Between the injury, losing a great friend, having another child, winning a Vans Triple Crown and now being back to the No. one slot, those kind of emotions have got to wear on you.
Yeah, I was on the rollercoaster last year, for sure. It was a sad and beautiful year all wrapped together. But I've had time to get things right in my head and allow everything to find some balance so I can concentrate on the next few months.

Someday, you're going to tell Little Mahli about the year he was born. What do you think that will be like?
You know, I don't think you're ever going to make sense of a year like last year. It was just too crazy, too up and down.

With so much uncertainty in the world right now, what's it like to be a father of three?
I don't worry about the world my kids are going to grow up in. I've got faith their world is going to be totally awesome. I like looking on the bright side of life.

Are you into taking the family on the road? It seems to help you focus.
For sure. We're the Griswolds. Evie had 13 stamps on her passport before she was one, so it's what we've always done. We've done it for so long now that we know where to stay at each tour stop, we know what patisserie the kids like eating at in Hossegor, and which lion park to go to at J-Bay. We've kind of got the travel thing pretty down. And for me having them there is great, it makes every contest a home contest.

How is it different to be in the number one slot halfway through the year than at the beginning of the season?
In a lot of ways, even though this is halfway through the season, it's almost like it is the beginning of the season. The ratings point spread is pretty even between the top guys, and now the events all run back-to-back until the music stops and one guy finishes with more points than the others. It's almost like we're in the play-offs now ... your results up until now in the regular season have got you into the playoffs, but it's like everyone is starting again from scratch in Tahiti.

We're hearing a lot of mixed reviews on the 2011 tour stops. First we hear that the surfers love going to the cities, taking in the culture and punting airs in beachbreaks. Then we hear that everyone is bitter and wants to go back to huts on an atoll? What's the deal?
You're never going to please everyone. I'm happy to wait to see what we get in New York before I get too judgmental, but my preference is always going to be for good waves over anything else. I'd gladly swap beachbreaks and art galleries for a six-foot day at J-Bay. The thing that everyone seems to forget with this argument though is that for the past five years we've gone to Dream Tour locations, and a lot of the time we've been skunked. If you compare the last five years of waves on tour to the five years before that, you realize we've been pretty unlucky with surf. No one would be too worried about New York if Snapper, J-Bay, and Tahiti had been all-time.

How about you? You seem like a surfer who's going to excel in either. What do you think?
Personally, I'd love to have 12 events a year at Snapper and leave it at that.

Yeah, I don't know how the Coolangatta locals would feel. We all seem to think of your bud, Mick Fanning, as taking training to the next level. You're right there in terms of seriousness. Are you seeing things change in Cooly in respect to younger surfers changing routines?
It's not just in Coolangatta. The next generation of guys around the world know that if they're serious about making a career out of surfing, they've got to work at it. They know all the talent in the world won't save them if they're a slob.

Do you think the ASP had some bugs to work out the last year?
There's always going to be something to work on with the tour. And I think the upside of all the controversy is that it shows people care about pro surfing.

Despite everything that came of the J-Bay event, folks seem to think it was just a low point for surfing. But now it seems with the mid-season cutoffs, a bunch of exciting events, and anyone's title, it could be an amazing finish.
The beauty of the next four months is that everything is back-to-back. The tour will have some real momentum as it heads toward the end of the year and people will be able to follow it week in, week out without it taking a two-month break.