With deep historical bonds to people and places around the world, Occ has plenty of ‘second homes‘. Mundaka is one of them. Photo:Timo
THE RAGING COMEBACK
The re-invention of the fallen star remains one of the most intoxicating and inspiring tales in sport. And there is no better than the resurgence of Mark occhilupo. After setting the world alight as a teenage prodigy he fell into a drug and dietary state of disrepair. Fat, coked up and washed up, occy in the nineties was a portrait of squandered talent. At his peak, an explosive backhand bottom-turn-hook combo turned him into a cult hero. His performances at ruler-edge J-Bay showed, some say for the first time ever, how a creative back-to-the-wall approach could be turned into a strength. His frontside back foot power-gaffs, stylish roundhouse cutbacks and unknockable tube riding stance, meanwhile, turned him into a competitive and free surfing force. As a 17-year- old he contested a world title before going on to put out some of the most scintillating video sections going – many of which remain a tutorial in the art of power surfing (rifle through Jack Mccoy’s back catalogue and check the Billabong Super Challenge vids if you’re interested). But it all came crashing down. The helter-skelter travel commitments and party lifestyle of the tour in the early 90s was too much for the kid. He blew out on a diet of cheeseburgers, cocaine and cigarettes; his explosive under the lip hooks replaced by a stoic backside couch-surfing attack. The comeback began in 1995 when filmmaker and mentor Jack McCoy took Occy to the West Australian desert and put him through a sturdy regime of surfing and eating well. He performed well in the Pipe Masters that year and ranked 20th on the WQS the following year. He was runner up in 1997 to Kelly Slater in the title race before going one better in 1999, claiming the title in one of the most improbable comebacks in history. His days at the top continued, albeit without winning another title, until his retirement in 2007. With a career spanning 25 years he is the longest serving ‘pro’ in history. Even post-retirement he proved he’s still got it, using that classic backhand attack to make the semi-finals of the Margaret River Prime event last year, aged 45, and 27 years after he’d won the first ever event there.
The Divine Underbite. Photo: Frieden/A-Frame