“That’s it? It’s over?” grinned Mark Occhilupo while making his way off the beach at Pipe with his wife and kids in tow. “Can I do it again?”
And like that, with a loss to Troy Brooks in Round 3 of the 2007 Pipe Masters, after spending almost his entire life as a professional competitive surfer, Occy has officially made the transition from competitor to icon.
So in honor of Occ, lets take a brief stroll down memory lane: Born on June 16, 1966, at Occy first took to the water at Cronulla at the age of nine. In 1983, at only 16, he traded his schoolbooks for a career in the budding pro surfing scene, finishing in the top 16 his first year on tour, and thus solidifying his place among the world's best for years to come. We all know about his epic clashes with Tom Curren over the year, especially at the OP Pro in Huntington, which in turn led to Occy's groundbreaking performance in the 1987 epic, North Shore. In the early 1990s the Raging Bull might have been raging a little too hard as he somewhat lost his way, ballooning up to a 245-pound couch potato. But by 1995 it was time to pull it back together and get out on tour again. The hard work paid off as he finished second in the '97 rankings behind Kelly Slater, and then two years later went on to win his first and only world title. In 2003 Occy and then girlfriend Mae had their first child together. They were eventually married the following year, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"It's been an amazing journey," Occy said after being carried up the beach on the shoulders of his countrymen. "I've made so many good friends and had so many good experiences, it's hard to walk away, but I'm building a house right now and I can finally get down to the business of raising me family."
There you have it, I could have spent this whole story writing about the tricky conditions at Pipe today, or the fact that the WCT surfers found a bit of footing against some of the local boys, or all of the other baggage that's accompanying this year's Pipe Masters, but for now this is Occy's moment, and we should celebrate it as such.
Rumors of Kelly Slater stepping away from next year's tour swirled around the beach, as did rumors of Victor Ribas's retirement, but at the moment that's all hearsay and speculation. So put your hands together for a man that's given so much to the sport of surfing. And if you want more on the Raging Bull check out billabong.com.au/occy.
With the conditions going from bad to worse throughout the day, and a Billabong sponsored lifeguard party up in the Waimea Valley tonight, I can almost hear the beers cracking open already.
Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Kelly Slater (USA) 15.17 def. Mikey Bruneau (HAW) 6.10
Heat 2: Dayyan Neve (AUS) 17.43 def. Victor Ribas (BRA) 6.57
Heat 3: Taj Burrow (AUS) 15.60 def. Roy Powers (HAW) 13.50
Heat 4: Troy Brooks (AUS) 9.94 def. Mark Occhilupo (AUS) 8.93
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 8.50 def. David Wassell (HAW) 3.56
Heat 6: Bernardo Miranda (BRA) 7.16 def. Tim Reyes (USA) 7.10
Heat 7: Ian Walsh (HAW) 13.67 def. Bobby Martinez (USA)10.93
Heat 8: T.J. Barron (HAW) 13.34 def. Raoni Monteiro (BRA) 5.17
Heat 9: Kai Otton (AUS) 15.50 def. Myles Padaca (HAW) 4.90
Heat 10: Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 11.33 def. Jamie O'Brien (HAW) 10.10
Heat 11: C.J. Hobgood (USA) 12.34 def. Makuakai Rothman (HAW) 4.67
Heat 12: Chris Ward (USA) 12.50 def. Gavin Gillette (HAW) 8.90
Heat 13: Mikala Jones (HAW) 10.00 def. Michael Campbell (AUS) 5.47
Heat 14: Phillip MacDonald (AUS) 16.67 def. Flynn Novak (HAW) 15.33
Heat 15: Gavin Beschen (HAW) 13.33 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 8.33
Heat 16: Rodrigo Dornelles (BRA) def. Danny Fuller (HAW)