What professional surfer Joel Parkinson knows about money

27 June 2024

Image: World champion surfer Joel Parkinson 

  • Get to know Joel Parkinson, world champion surfer and respected figure in the surfing community who started from humble beginnings on the Gold Coast.
  • Learn about the financial dynamics of professional surfing, including the role of prize money, sponsorships and Joel’s transition to an ambassadorial role.
  • Joel reflects on friendship, rivalry and memorable moments throughout his career, alongside his enduring passion for surfing and the impact he continues to make on the sport.

From Gold Coast grommet to surfing sensation

Meet Joel Parkinson, one of Australia’s most respected and successful professional athletes, a world champion surfer whose journey began on the sun-kissed shores of the Gold Coast. For Joel, surfing has been more than just a lifestyle – it’s been his livelihood. He’s conquered some of the world’s most challenging breaks and claimed some of the most coveted trophies in the sport.

Navigating the world of professional surfing

Reflecting on his career trajectory, Joel dishes on the financial aspects of professional surfing. “Prize money is a big chunk of how we make money, but sponsorship is still probably our biggest source of income,” he explains. “I’ve been lucky enough to be with Billabong for 30 years now.” Joel’s transition from competitive surfing to an ambassadorial role has allowed him to embark on surf trips, keeping him connected to the sport he loves.

The joys and challenges of competition

While Joel cherishes being in the water with fellow surfers, he admits to not missing the competitive aspect of the sport so much. “I miss the camaraderie of being in the surf with some of the best in the world,” he shares. “But I also have no desire to return to competitive surfing.” These days, he prefers to savour the memories of past achievements.

From golf balls to world titles

Reflecting on his humble beginnings, Joel shares that his first job was cleaning golf balls. “I used to get one cent per ball for a bucket of 100 so I’d make about 10 dollars all up," he recalls. And what did he spend it on? “Probably hot chips and chocolate milk – I was only about 12 years old!”

A lasting friendship with surfing icon Mick Fanning

Joel’s friendship with fellow surfer Mick Fanning is a testament to the bonds forged through shared experiences. “Mick and I grew up together in the same town,” Joel recounts. Despite moments of tension during their competitive years – and tension in the water while competing – their friendship has only strengthened over time, transcending rivalry to become a source of mutual support.

An eternal love for surfing

Despite his retirement from competitive surfing, Joel’s passion for the sport remains undiminished. “I just love it. I just want to surf as much as I can,” he says. Riding the waves isn’t just a career – it’s a way of life.

As Joel continues to inspire surfers around the world with his remarkable journey, his legacy as a surfing icon continues to grow. 

Georgie and Joel

Things you should know

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