Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, the legacy of Mark Occhilupo has an added shine. The man who can seemingly do no wrong has found a niche as the most sincere, honest and entertaining lad to talk into a webcast microphone since, well, I don't think there has ever been anyone as good as Occ.
Now there were some epic moments in the actual event. From early round heroics of Aritz Aranburu and Dusty Payne to Parko's historic 20 point ride to Luke Stedman's wipeouts to Gerry Lopez and Rory Russell (alongside Bonga and Santa Claus) in the expression session. Oh, and that Wardo Vs. Slater final was pretty good too, at least better than last year's final. However, the greatest thing to come out of the Billabong Pipeline Masters was the professional, insightful and entertaining commentary by Billabong's webcast crew. Specifically, at least when we're talking about the entertaining portion, Occy.
First off let me say, I know Dave Stansfield isn't a 'Bong guy per se. Nevertheless, Dave Stansfield is the numero uno, top notch professional set-up man. Stansfield, the Al Michaels of professional surfing contest commentary, added another excellent event to his resume. Aussie scribe Adam Blakey was very solid as well. Blakey's 'everyman' humble approach is sincere and appreciated. Luke Egan is a Billabong ambassador, and like his even keeled powerful surfing approach, Egan is strong willed and smart behind the microphone. Mike Parsons, a staple of the Billabong webcasts, has 30+ years of competitive knowledge and tactics and he applies his wisdom with tact and clarity.
But as I mentioned, the man who stole the show behind the microphone was Occy. His vocal tone reeked of stoke. When asked about strategy or board choice he gave thoughtful, straightforward insights. But it wasn't so much what Occy said as how he said it. There was a genuine playfulness in his insight. He was down right giddy to be there and it came across. I got the feeling that what Occy was telling us, is exactly what he would have said if he were watching the event a few houses down at the Billabong compound. Alright, there weren't any expletives, I'll grant you that. Nevertheless, it was, quite simply Occy being Occy: sincere, stoked, real.
A few gems that found there way out of Occy's brain, through his mouth and into our world.
"Santa Claus is more of a legend than Gerry and Rory, isn't he?"
"That's a bit of a tongue twister isn't it, 'Rory Russell replica boards, hmmm yeah, don't try that with crackers in your mouth.'"
"Dave Rastovich, there he is off in the jungle, cutting down trees and making surfboards. Rasta doesn’t cut down lots of trees, mind you. He only cuts down the tree that'll make a good surfboard."
"What was that stingray thinking? I hope he's alright! That stingray had a bad wipeout."
To be fair, these quotes don't really do Occy justice. Some of his deliveries were dead panned. Some were thrown out as an inquisitive jest. Some were straight up legitimate questions. Either way, Billabong has found a way to keep me, and I imagine the rest of the viewing audience, entertained between waves.
Hats off to Billabong for a great webcast, and good job Occ!
ASP WILDCARDS FOR 2009 were announced:
1) Dean Morrison
2) Aritz Aranburu
3) Marlon Lipke