SJ’s interview with Mike Parsons

Mike Parsons
SJ – Are you in London today?
Mike Parsons – Yeah, I’m actually flying back to Mundaka/Spain tomorrow. I came from California two days ago for the Billabong Pro event in Mundaka and flew over to London this morning, so I go back there for about a week before I go home.


SJ – How have you found the day so far?
MP – It was really good. Richard and Judy were really cool. That was a fun show to go on. They were genuinely really interested in surfing and that was really cool.


SJ – Do you know what the surf forcast is for the Billabong Pro contest at Mundaka?
MP – It’s supposed to get real good for this weekend. So far they’ve had two days of the event and there’s two days left so I think the event will probably go ahead maybe late Saturday but most likely Sunday and Monday.


SJ – Where did the idea for the Billabong Odyssey come from?
MP – In 2000 we went to Cortez Bank, which is actually an underwater sea mountain that is 106 miles off the coast of California, and it is where I was lucky enough to catch the wave that was measured at 66ft, and this was the first time it had ever been surfed. So it was an incredible discovery to realize there were these giant waves almost in our backyard that had never really been surfed. That was the idea behind the Billabong Odyssey, what else is out there and what other discoveries. Surfers have always been chasing waves around the world, but we’ve never looked for big waves, and that’s the whole concept and idea behind the Odyssey, it’s been searching for these outer reefs or just places where the surf gets absolutely huge or unique in a certain way.


SJ – Can you explain where Cortez bank is?
MP – It’s 106 miles directly off the coast of Southern California. There are no landmarks, but there is one buoy out there and that’s it, that’s the only indication. Some ships have wrecked on the reef there over the years, and it’s kind of a famous reef for fishing.


SJ – Did you grow up in Southern California?
MP – I’m from Southern California. I grew up at Laguna Beach and currently live in San Clemente, which is about an hour South of LA (Los Angeles).


SJ – Who are your sponsors?
MP – Billabong, Globe shoes, Von Zipper sunglasses, and the surfboards I ride are by a local shaper called Timmy Patterson. So some of my other commitments besides Odyssey, are that I do some marketing work for Von Zipper and for some of their surf teams, and I do various projects for Billabong and I am a contest director for some of their International events around the world, just regular pro-surfing events.


SJ – When you get to go back home, when you’ve finished competitive surfing, when you’re not working for Billabong. What would you describe as a typical day back at home?
MP – I hang out with my girlfriend and surf with her. I typically surf almost every day, about 350 days a year. I also enjoy snowboarding and rock-climbing in the mountains, and just to have a bit of leisure time in Southern California really.


SJ – You started surfing at quite a young age didn’t you?
MP – I began surfing at 6 years old, and I’ve been surfing for about 33 years now so it’s been a part of my life since as long as I can remember. My dad is an avid surfer and still is at a place called San Onofre, which is where I learnt how to surf.
SJ – You spent quite a long while on the WCT (World Championship Tour) didn’t you?
MP – I was the number one rated surfer in the United States in 1991 and I was ranked as high as number 4 in the world. I spent 12 years on the WCT from about 1984 to 1996 full-time and then continued to do sporting events here and there for a few years beyond that. Now I compete in regular surf events at home, the ones that make sense geographically as I still love to compete in regular small waves.


SJ – What has been the biggest challenge or difficulty within all your years of surfing?
MP – The big wave surfing has for sure been the biggest challenge – it kind of takes all your knowledge as a surfer to figure out and ride some of these waves and it is the most strenuous on your body physically. To stay at that level where you want to ride those waves and be involved with it you have to be on top of your game. So it’s been challenging, but at the same time it’s what I love to do and I wouldn’t even consider it a job. Now, it’s a means to travel and surf the waves I always wanted to.


SJ – It’s many peoples ideal dream – to get paid for doing what they love.
MP – Yeah, 100% – it’s exactly what I’m getting to do and feel pretty fortunate. Yeah, it’s a dream for sure to be able to live this lifestyle.


SJ – When you were growing up in your teens when you probably started on the contest scene, who did you respect the most? Was it a surfer or someone else who helped you through probably the tough times?
MP – My parents were a big influence, especially my dad. My favourite surfers were Rabbit Bartholomew and Sean Thompson, and beyond that I looked up to Tom Curran even though he was my same kind of generation because of his style of surfing. But I would say my parents have been my biggest influence and inspiration on my life.


SJ – It’s probably hard to imagine, but if you never took up surfing what would you see yourself as doing?
MP – That’s a pretty good question!! I don’t know. I think I would probably live in the mountains and be a rock climber or a snowboarder. I like the outdoors and could never see myself as having a regular sort of job in a big city; I just don’t fit there. I like to be out amongst the open space and yeah I think I’d live in the mountains if I couldn’t surf.


SJ – When you were on the World Tour and you were competing against the top echelon of surfers what would you see as the bad points of competitive surfing or did you enjoy the lifestyle?
MP – Yeah, I really enjoyed the lifestyle although it was a little difficult at times with so much traveling you have to do. How many times you pack, re-pack, reach the airport and get a taxi and that sort of stuff can be a little bit demanding but there are the rewards of being able to see all this country and to ride all these different kind of waves; also I love competing as I’m a very competitive person. Along with the Odyssey project now and having been on the tour, it was an incredible time in my life and it’s definitely the richest and most memorable period of my life for me, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I think I’m incredibly lucky and blessed to be a part of it.


SJ – You’re probably one of the most well traveled surfers in the world especially with getting to travel around with the contest scene and now with Billabong. In terms of culture around the world what would you say were some of the best points you remember?
MP – That’s a really good question!! I love parts of Australia. I really love Tahiti. There’s an island called Tavarua in Fiji where the people are just incredible in the way they live and are so at peace with their life on a little tiny island – they’re incredibly happy people. I really enjoy all over Europe, France, Spain, and Portugal. I really enjoy Europe in the summer – I like the lifestyle and I could see myself living around Hossegor in France, or parts of Australia. I really enjoyed South Africa, it’s an amazing country and still one of my favourite places to go although I’m a little scared of all the sharks there, buut they have some incredible people there and the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen in the world are I would say South Africa. So it’s hard to pick one favourite, as I have so many great memories and so many different types of people I’ve met and incredible places I’ve been able to experience all through surfing.


SJ – Surfing in the last 4-5 years seems to have gone through another explosion with a lot of money now being invested by the likes of Nokia and Billabong, and a lot of companies have pumped a lot of money into the sport, especially women’s surfing as well. What are your thoughts on what’s happened?
MP – There’s been a real boom in the surf industry. Hollywood’s really taken to it, there’s been a lot of movies made about it; women’s surfing has just gone crazy. So yeah, it’s an incredible time in the sport and in the lifestyle and it seems like everyone wants to surf. It’s actually amazing how in the last three years we’ve seen it almost triple or quadruple at my local beach as to how many people are learning how to surf or are enquiring about surfing and I think these people are finally beginning to realize that it’s such a great feeling – it’s a free ride on a wave on no two rides are alike. I think when someone tries it, and realizes the joy in it, they’re hooked for life and it doesn’t surprise me at all that the industry is doing so well and so many people are making good.


SJ – How has the explosion in surfing affected your home-breaks?
MP – My home break is kind of like Trestles in San Clemente and it’s not hard for me to stay motivated to surf little waves or surf there a lot. In summertime it’s real small but it’s real nice that I can ride my bike from my house down to Trestles and park it on the beach and surf and ride my bike home. So it’s something that even when the waves aren’t good I look forward to that exercise and that’s the spot I surf every day.


SJ – What are you doing next and where do you see yourself 5 or 10 years down the line?
MP – Next I go back to Mundaka and I enjoy being around the best guys in the world and watching guys like Kelly (Slater) and Andy (Irons). And working for Billabong on those events, I’m sure as time goes on I will do more of that. Billabong also just bought a sea-plane and I will be a part of that project and we’ll be going around the world surfing out of that plane and going to places that have never been surfed and we’ll actually have watercraft on two of the wings of that at certain times. When we’re searching for big waves it’ll be used as a means to surf new spots so I’ll be doing some projects with Billabong and surfing over the next five years. In the long-term I will probably raise a family and kids some day and teach them to surf and to enjoy the lifestyle I have come to know.


SJ – Any last comments…?!
MP – There’s a lot of great surfers from here (Britain), and I would encourage anyone thinking of a career in surfing whether it be in the industry or a professional surfer or anything to so with the sport, culture, and lifestyle I would encourage anyone to pursue it. I think it’s the greatest sport in the world and you can’t live a better life than that of a surfer. So if you have dreams and aspirations of doing it I would strongly recommend it.