Occy’s Third Wind

Can Mark Occhilupo re-qualify for the World Tour at 45?

| posted on May 24, 2012

Occy obliterates a J-Bay lip in 2005. If the waves deliver, Occy is liable to produce another solid result at this year's J-Bay event as well. Photo: Joli

It was Round of 16 at the Nike Lowers Pro when a 45-year-old man took the water against a Trestles specialist in his prime. Mark Occhilupo could conceivably be Pat Gudauskas’ father, and their approaches spoke volumes to the generation gap. Occy linked brawny backside hacks with fluid efficiency, blowing the top off of each right without a single unnecessary turn. Pat took the road less polished, but more technical. Occy lost the heat, but it was due to tactical error. Had he not caught his last wave and held onto priority, he would have made it into the quarterfinals of a Prime event for the second time this year. Regardless of the loss, his Lowers result put him in an interesting position—32nd in the world, to be exact. It also left him with an interesting question: Can a middle-aged power surfer make it back on Tour among the most progressive field in history?

“I went to Margaret’s primarily to commentate, but I didn’t do too much commentary,” says Occy of his breakaway performance at Margaret River that ended in the semis. “Now that I’m in this position, I’m like, ‘Wow, what am I doing?’ I’m looking to do other events this year, like Africa. I’ll go to J-Bay of course, and hopefully I’ll do the 6-Star Prime before it. This morning I was talking to ‘Bottle’ Thompson, and thinking, ‘Where else can I go?’ I’ve told everyone that the main reason is to just try and get back in the Triple Crown, but it’s starting to go a little further than that. I just keep pinching myself, thinking, ‘Is this really happening?”

With teenage prodigies like John John Florence and Gabriel Medina making a case against the old guard with each event, it seems ridiculous that a surfer who got on Tour nearly a decade before they were born would stand a chance. Multiple airs on a wave, inverted grabs, and full rotations are quickly becoming the way to win heats. Quite frankly, Occy can’t do any of those things. What Occy can do, however, is destroy a meaty face on his backside more efficiently than anyone else in the world. This was true 10 years ago, and its still true today. “I mean it might be due to the equipment, which has gotten a lot better—thinner, faster, better boards. But, I probably am surfing the best I ever have,” says Occy. “It’s hard to tell but it kind of feels like it. I would probably have to look at footage, but it feels like it. Especially at Margaret’s and at home on the Gold Coast when it’s early in the morning and nobody’s watching. But who’s going to believe it because nobody’s watching!”

People started watching after his first heat at Margaret River, and will likely stay engaged until Occy’s campaign comes to an end, win or lose. We’ve already seen massive Twitter hash-tag support (#PutOccyInBells2012), and he’s a fan favorite in most heats. If Occy is able to round out his year with a few more good results (J-Bay, Haleiwa, and Sunset should help his cause), then it’s not inconceivable that we’ll see a 45-year-old mixing it up with the new kids on the World Tour in 2013. Stranger things have happened, like the time Occy fell off the Tour and into drug addiction in the early ‘90s, only to come back and win a World Title in 1999. “It’s probably about the same amount of time that I took off last time,” says Occy. “But last time, I put on a lot of weight and got depressed. This time I’ve just been cruising and having kids and I’ve still been surfing. I trained really hard last year and got really fit. I’d have to probably train a lot more and I’m thinking about that. But I mean, I’m not really putting any pressure on myself. Now, I don’t know. I’ve got two results though. I seriously don’t know what I’m doing, but it’s good.”

  • Scotty B

    Right on, Occy! I would rather watch someone decimate a wave with deep tubes and power carves than another trained circus monkey doing aerials. (They really start to look the same after awhile…) Fans (and hopefully ASP judges) will eventually tire of these tricks and will be rewarding surfers who pull into giant tubes and surf big waves with style and power.

  • Fire Mountain

    GO THE OCC !!

  • Dan Sainile

    “They really start to look the same after awhile…”

    Couldn’t be said better.

  • ras

    I hate to say it because I’m a fan. but who cares? the ASP is really quite boring right now. all the bro-talk from the commentators is boring, they are never willing to criticize when the the critique is due. the problem is that the ASP is too closely linked to the sponsors. it’ll like pro wrestling. like the WWF. no one really believes it’s real. and besides at least wrestling has drama. bringing Back Occy is hardly a fix.

  • Matt O’Brien

    Occy in the Hurley.. er I mean Nike US OPEN? That would be rad – hell throw Curren in the mix and let’s enjoy a show…

  • Chris

    If the Fanning v Slater final means anything, Occy may actually have a chance at some solid results. At least in Australia.

  • Stupid Comment.

    Sorry bro, but that was a stupid comment. Unless you’re watching an Air Show, I dont reckon seeing airs being used so often as you may say. Actually, only in beach breaks (where they belong).

    I don’t remember anyone trying a 360 on Portugal or Pipe. For what I can remember, in big and/or perfect waves only one of the Gudauskas got a good score, but that was for a rodeo on a shallow reef. The point is, nothing is wrong with the air criteria.

    But some remark about asp/brohoe/WWF is spot on.

    I would love to see Occy back tough.

  • michael

    I hope not… Give youth their space.

  • Mentawai SurfCats

    Go Occy!

  • Mr. Burns

    OCCY!! Bring back Sunny with you! Lets put some power back on tour!!

  • Whamo

    Go Occ, go. He might stay hot until age 50.

  • Stucco

    I hate the “give other guys their space” type of comments. If you’re one of the best in the world, and you want to be on tour, go ahead and be on tour. It’s the same shit about people thinking Slater should retire. Why? He’s the fucking best in the world? Why don’t people want to see the best surfer in the world do his thing? It’s not like most of us have an opportunity to watch guys like Slater and Occy surf everyday, so if they want to be on tour, I say bring it on. They won’t be around forever; enjoy watching them while you can.

    And there’s more than 1 way to be a dynamic surfer and get scores, as well it should be. If everyone just does airs all the time, it looks like fleas jumping off a dogs back. The air reverse, especially with a grab, has basically become the roundhouse of the new century. NONE of the younger aerialists guys can do what Occy does, and he should be rewarded accordingly.

  • jeff

    Watched both contests and was sooooooo stoked on the man hacks! It made me realize that we have really lost something … Hey, the airs are cool and all, but watching the OCC rip the top off a wave is something else altogether…

    GO OCCY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Cesar

    Go for it mate !!! You are a Legend !! Regards from Portugal

  • Barry Crump

    Bring it Occy!! Maybe the ASP should seriously consider a Masters Tour again. I can watch Occy, Curren, Pottz, Carroll, etc… anyday. Way more style. Just do it!!

  • tbuck

    Pure power surfing, one of the best backside surfers ever!!! Good luck and go get em Occy!!!

  • Pablo

    Watched his heat at Lowers and he only “lost” by a fraction of a point to a desperate Gudauskas. His smooth (no hop) projecting backhand bottom turns are unique in today’s surfing and harder than they look to accomplish. Surfing’s current love affair with aerial tricks means he won’t win in a trickster contest, but he’s a joy to watch and try to emulate. Go Occy! Love to watch you surf.

  • The Other Mike

    Bring Occ back! I thought he was underscored on his 2 scoring waves (way more commitment and speed through the turns) at Trestles, therefore should have won the heat. A better show than the Hobgoods….just sayin!

  • Charles Scott

    Don’t count Occy out, any time, any where! Occy, you rule. Game on!

  • Bruce

    I definetely dont think that Occy still has the best backside in the world. Owen has the best, right now, follow by Buchan, Wilko and Tanner Gudang.

  • Stephan Davis

    Dudes a stud… Bring him back… Get a little variety back on the tour.

  • Pingback: May 27, 2012 — REEF CHECK ; Mike Prickett Con’t; Occy Qualifies for ASP WT Waaaattt?: - DOWN THE LINE Surf Talk Radio

  • gtjr

    charge it occ, your nasty!!!! that circus monkey comment is hilarious

  • dgb

    The first paragraph tells anyone who is concentrating what is truly wrong with the ASP.

    “Occy linked brawny backside hacks with fluid efficiency, blowing the top off of each right without a single unnecessary turn” I think we can all assume this to mean Occy linked turns to create a ‘whole’ ride.

    Then we get ‘Pat took the road less polished, but more technical.’ which translates as ‘went fishing for a flip opportunity and got lucky to various degrees and then the judges gave him a bigger score for the lesser surfing’.

    Even the writer is in tacit agreement as to which was the better surfing. Look at the two sentences.

    At the same time the writer is also in tacit agreement with the ASP status quo equation of complete flip > complete ride.

    Is there any sport in the world where you can do one trick and win? Even in skateboarding and snowboarding (sports that appreciate flipping out as much as any) you need to put the whole thing together to get a decent score.

    And another point, if a flip is such a technical advance, why can’t a lot of the flippist put together brawny backside hacks with fluid efficiency, blowing the top off of each right without a single unnecessary turn?

  • Stucco

    Very well said, dgb!

  • Jim

    That would be great to see Occy on tour again. He’s got a great attitude and skills to back it up. I’ve already grown bored of watching ‘flicky’ airs. Maybe it’s because I can’t relate as much. Can’t ever picture myself doing an air like Medina or Owen…but we can at least think I have a chance of laying down a nice carve…. Besides, if Occy becomes the oldest person to ever be on the WT…then maybe Kelly will have to stick around so he can break that record too. I love the continued involvement of these icons of our sport. It just seems good for everyone involved.

  • sultan of swing

    occy winning back in 99 was already a joke, if they bring him back is sad, pro surfing is a charade

  • Junior Surf Guardian

    We’re all already friends already because we surf huh?

  • dgb

    Why Dire Strait fans clearly have no idea what they are on about.

    Occy’s 99 run.

    Event #1 Gold Coast:17th
    Event #2 Bells: 3rd
    Event #3 Manly: 33rd
    Event #4 Teahupoo: 1st
    Event #5 Chiba: 9th
    Event #6 Tavarua: 1st
    Event #7 Jeffreys: 17th
    Event #8 Huntington: 33rd
    Event #9 Lacanua: 3rd
    Event #10 Hossegor: 17th
    Event #11 Anglet: 1st
    Event #12 Rio: 9th
    Event #13 Pipe: 3rd

  • stu

    why can’t people remember that Occy dropped off tour because he couldn’t compete? Sure it’s nice to see him throw in a result, but he couldn’t handle the tour before and he can’t handle it now.

  • Thom

    Go Occy!

  • pelagic

    He still rips! why cant he give it a go… Gun’ it bru!

  • http://no richa

    Mr. Occy, You say you don’t know what you are doing. I have a theory: Doing what you were born to do, with Power, Grace, Honor, and most important a smile. I not only wish you the best, but expect that there is more to this than meets the eye. I would submit that you are displaying the purest form and most pertinant point in surfing. FUN surfing.