Surfing is synonymous with Port Macquarie and at the weekend, Port News reporter Melissa Pretorius caught up with one of the world's greats, Joel Parkinson.
"THE way I see it, it's just another event," says surfing world title contender Joel "Parko" Parkinson of what is set to be one of the most anticipated showdowns of his career.
As current World Championship Tour (WCT) ratings leader, Parko is looking his best chance yet to bag the World Title at the Billabong Pipe Masters in Hawaii this December. But the easy-going, surfing icon seemed unfazed by the hype surrounding the event of his life.
"I know what I've got to do, and that's all that matters," he said.
"I've got the same attitude same preparation and same head space."
Just a few short days before his flight leaves for Hawaii, Parko visited Saltwater Wine Surf Centre in Port Macquarie to share the stoke with the local surfing community.
It was his first time back in Port in 12 years.
"I've been here a few times as a kid," Parko said. "I absolutely loved it. When I was about 12 to 15 we used to do a drive up the coast with Billabong and this used to be one of our two-day stops we were just loving it."
The 28-year-old remembers surfing the beach break at Lighthouse and getting some great waves at the river mouth.
"We used to stay up on that cliff face at Townies, it was unreal. I remember being freaked out a lot actually, I was pretty young then, you know, 12 or so."
Parko and his manager Sasha Stocker had driven the six or so hours from his home town of the Gold Coast, and back, on the weekend.
"I was happy to do it," Parko said. "I knew that Occy had a bit of a drama when he tried to get here and they hadn't had anyone to stoke everyone out in a bit."
But Parko admits fans were not the only ones who felt inspired after a meet and greet with their hero.
"You always walk out with some kid who made your day," he said. "There's kids' faces you'll never forget."
"I remember when I was a kid meeting pros' and it was just such a big thrill."
Although the athlete's training schedule has been nothing short of gruelling, a day out to spend time in Port would not effect his performance in Hawaii, he said.
"I've got a while, if it was the day before it might be different," he said.
"I actually have a bit of a break from surfing before I leave, especially when you go to Hawaii because you spend so much time in the water when you're there. So I'll have about a week where I don't surf. By the end I'm so itching to get in there. You feel sort of like a bull out-of-a-gate."
Hawaii is like a home-away- from-home for Parko, who said he would be moving there with his family for three months next year. And if his second home shows him some goodwill, as in the past, the three time Triple Crown winner and surfing prodigy could very well deliver the goods. With 11 time world champion Kelly Slater hot on his heels, Parko will need to finish at least two rounds ahead or win the event outright.
Wearing his characteristic mile-long smile Parko said his thoughts could be no further removed from his rival.
And the self-confessed optimist gives the impression he will be laughing all the way, with or without the 2012 World Title.
"I really don't care about too much," he said, laughing. "I don't dwell on things."