• PARKO BACK AT BELLS

Happy with how you surfed at snapper?

Yeah I was. I thought it was unlucky that I got Dane Reynolds in that kind of form. All in all though I thought I was in pretty good shape, I had good rhythm. It was the best Dane's surfed in a heat and it was unlucky that it was me surfing against him when it happened.

After getting so close to the title last year has it been hard to not feel deflated at the start of the new campaign this year?

Maybe I've felt a little bit of nervous pressure leading into Snapper, but that disappeared as soon as I surfed my first heat. After I surfed that first heat I didn't feel any different to last year at all. My goals are the same and my focus are the same as they were in 2009.

Your thoughts on the surfing you saw at Snapper? Did you feel like it had lifted a couple of notches across the board?

Definitely. I really liked what I saw up at Snapper. The judges were really rewarding innovation and repertoire and going for it, which is a great thing. What makes a good surfer is someone who can do everything on a wave. They were rewarding that and I think that was all-time.

There's a new head judge and a lot of new surfing in the mix at Snapper; did anything surprise you in terms of how that new surfing was being interpreted by the judges?

I think they were pretty much right onto it. Maybe the only thing I'd question is how bottom turns were being scored. Guys like Mick and Kelly were bottom turning right out, fading wide and deep, but their scores were on par with bottom turns that were being done halfway up the face. But at Bells that's likely to change a bit, just because of the wave itself and the fact you can't do those huge wide bottom turns.

And with the bottom 16 dropping off the tour after Tahiti, did you notice some more spice in your early heats?

Yeah, it put some extra zing in your early heats. Time will tell quickly after a few events, and the closer we get to that halfway mark the more important each heat is going to be for the guys in those spots on the ratings. Survival on the tour started at Snapper.

Is Bells a wave you can always learn something new about?

For sure. Unless you live there and surf it in every mood you can always keep learning something out there. You can get a good base knowledge of that wave, but fine tuning it is another matter altogether. Guys who have been on the tour a long time get to know it to a certain degree, but to really get to know it takes a long time. I'm happy with the relationship I have with it, and every time I surf it I try and pick up some knew piece of knowledge about it.

What's the key to mounting a successful campaign at Bells?

Wave selection. That's the key at Bells. First wave of the set? Second wave? Which one connects through? There's nothing worse than you think you're on a gem you get one good turn in and it dies in the arse and you end up with a couple of fat cutbacks. It all happens on The Bowl, and if you can pick that one that runs across The Bowl it makes winning your heat a lot easier.

What have you been doing since Snapper?

Surfing at home, training. I went to Margies and got used to surfing in a wetsuit. The last couple of days have been really good for me. I've been riding two boards and they've both been going amazing.

Have your boards changed at all this year?

They have a bit, yeah. The board itself, not so much, but I've been experimenting with my fins. Trying to find the drive and speed, more so my drive. I've had a pretty big off season training and have been working on my leg strength, and with my boards I've felt I've needed slightly bigger fins to turn that leg strength into drive.

This time last year you'd won two from two, but this year you're in the chasing pack. Is it a relief the focus isn't on you this time around?

Definitely. This time last year I felt all the eyes were glued on me every heat. Right now I have a really calm feeling about it all. I know what the job at hand is and it's pretty simple. After the intense pressure toward the end of last year with me and Mick going for the title, now it feels like I'm a step sideways out of the limelight, just lurking in the shadows. But I feel like I'm doing my best surfing, I feel like I'm surfing better than I was this time last year.

And Taj is in the position you were in at this time last year, rolling heat after heat. What's changed you think?

You never know why or what changes when you get on a roll like that, but it seems like his mental approach is really positive, and his surfing has improved a bit through the confidence. But his approach to an event and even a heat, he's got a really good system going with it and he's reaping the benefits.