Occhilupo wins incredible final at the Margaret River Pro;
twenty-one years after his first win at Margarets.
Legendary Australian surfer Mark Occhilupo completed a fairytale finish at the Margaret River Pro presented by O’Neill, winning in incredible circumstances today.
Occhilupo, who turns 40 this year, won the first-ever professional event at Margaret River 21 years ago, way back in 1985. He returned to the event this year to try and claim a second win in what he had announced as his final time competing at the Margaret River event.
The win couldn’t have been more nail-biting or controversial, as with only two minutes remaining, Occhilupo was in second place before paddling for a wave alongside leading Final surfer and good friend Jake Paterson. With only one surfer allowed to take the wave, both Occhilupo and Paterson collided. The judges deemed the collision to be Paterson’s fault and he was penalised for the indiscretion, losing half his points for his second scoring ride and slipping from first to third position, allowing Occhilupo to take the win.
Paterson looked to have the final won with the highest-scoring ride of the final – an 8.83, which he scored midway through the final before backing it up shortly after with a strong 7.5. Occhilupo made his charge late in the final when he scored an excellent 8.4 ride to move from fourth to second and issue a challenge to Paterson.
That was definitely the most bizarre finish I’ve ever been involved in – that was crazy! — Jake Paterson
When the interference occurred, with only two minutes remaining, everyone wondered who would be penalised. Most assumed both surfers would likely to be penalised, following multiple interference calls due to similar collisions over the final two days of the event.
Delighted with his win today, Occhilupo said: “I really felt that final wave was mine and I think it was the right call. I’ve never been involved in that sort of finish before. It was an amazing situation to be caught in. In surfing, you’re friends up until the final three minutes and then it’s anything goes, and that really was.”
Before the event, Occhilupo announced the contest would be his last competitive appearance at Margaret River, but the win today made him again change his mind.
“I really do love this event and after this I’ll be back, even if I am retired next year. My wife Mai would here and she’d love to come across. Twenty one years ago was my last win at Margies, so you wouldn’t really call this a back-to-back win hey!”
Paterson was disappointed with the final decision, but was philosophical. “It’s great that Occy won. I guess as he’s been a fantastic supporter of this event. That was definitely the most bizarre finish I’ve ever been involved in though – that was crazy!”
“Margaret’s is a left and right-breaking peak, so it often presents situations like that. I actually thought it would be scored as a double interference and I probably still would’ve won. In hindsight I should have let him have the wave and made him surf for the win, because he required a big score. Still, that’s surfing!”
Second in today’s final was South African Ricky Basnett. If a double interference had been called, Basnett would have won the final, though runner-up position was still a great result for the 20-year-old South African.
Fourth place went to local Margaret River surfer Tom Innes, in what was his highest-ever-placed performance in professional surfing. Innes is the son of arguably Australia’s greatest-ever female swimmer, Shane Gould and his result today may well spur him to chase the World Qualifying Series (WQS) throughout this coming season. His performance today also saw him take out the Highest-Placed Regional Surfer award, presented by the WA Department of Sport & Recreation.
1st Mark Occhilupo, Gold Coast, Queensland – 14.83
2nd Rick Basnett, South Africa – 13.67
3rd Jake Paterson, Yallingup, Western Australia – 12.58
4th Tom Innes, Margaret River, Western Australia – 12.50
The Toohey’s Extra Dry Expression Session was also a feature of the day’s action, with young Newcastle surfer Travis Lynch taking out the win with some big powerful moves over the shallow Margaret River reef.
The four-star WQS Margaret River Pro, as part of the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) World Tour, offered AUS$100,000 in prize money. The week-long event attracted thousands spectators, was watched by millions live on the internet via a real-time webcast and will be televised to over a billion people in more than 48 countries.
Around 200 professional surfers took part, representing 14 nations, including Hawaii, the USA, Brazil, France, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia.
Major sponsors were Tourism Western Australia and new presenting sponsor O’Neill Australia, the world’s leading wetsuit supplier and a committed supporter of Australian surfing and ASP events worldwide. Other sponsors included Nova 93.7, Department of Sport & Recreation, SunSmart, Brownes Chill, Tooheys Extra Dry, Odyssey 2020, Surftech, Coca-Cola, Leeuwin Estate, Chooks Fresh & Tasty, The Sunday Times, Margarets Beach Resort, Margaret River Law, FCS Fin Control Systems, Tracks, Surfersvillage, Shire of Augusta Margaret River, Association of Surfing Professionals and Surfing WA.