Parkinson’s world title link to Coast
NATHAN Hedge was surfing with Joel Parkinson when the new ASP world champion's cheekiness was more pronounced than his ability on a board.
Hedge's late father Greg and Parkinson's dad Brian worked as builders together on the Sunshine Coast, and would regularly take the boys - both aged well under 10 - on surfing trips to Double Island Point.
It was the genesis of a lifelong friendship and two highly successful careers.
Hedge, a former world top 10 surfer trying to reignite his career after an extended hiatus, would later move to Sydney with his family while Parkinson's family relocated to the Gold Coast.
But they have remained friends.
Hedge returned to the Sunshine Coast to live last year, and now divides his time between here and the Gold Coast.
He feels connected to the Sunshine Coast, as does Parkinson.
Hedge recalled: "He was pretty cheeky, a bit of a larrikin.
"He was always a good kid but definitely a pretty cheeky sort of grommet. That's probably the best way to describe him.
"But always respectful. He said please and thank you but yeah, he definitely pushed it as a kid.
"I think that's a good attribute to have. A good quality to have."
That verve and immense natural talent established Parkinson, a four-time world championship runner-up, as one of the most successful surfers of his generation.
But it was not until he won his maiden world title at Hawaii's famed Pipeline reef break on Saturday morning that he finally found peace in a sporting sense.
Hedge said his friend's elevation from bridesmaid to world champion was the result of a focus recalibration.
Hedge said the genial Parkinson's mate, Australia's two-two world champion Mick Fanning, had also been instrumental in Parkinson's ascension to the very top.
Hedge recently caught up with Parkinson while competing in the first two legs of this year's Triple Crown of Surfing in Hawaii.
Parkinson, Fanning and 11-time world champion Kelly Slater all had a chance of finishing the season at No.1 at the Triple Crown's last leg, the Billabong Pipeline Masters. Hedge said he had never seen Parkinson looking fitter.
"He's got three kids … he's a family man but he still keeps it pretty light-hearted," Hedge said.
"When I sat down with him in Hawaii, there was not one word about pressure or winning the world title. He was pretty relaxed, joking around.
"Joel's Joel. He's probably got his switches worked out now. When it's time to hit the water, it's game on."